Verbs with Helpers
This handout explains and describes the sequence of verb tenses in English.
Contributors:Chris Berry, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli, Maryam Ghafoor
Last Edited: 2010-11-09 12:37:21
1. Recent Past (Present Perfect)
A conjugation of Have + [VERB+ed] describes an action that began in the past and continues into the present or that occurred in the recent past.
- The child has finished the candy.
- I have gone to college for one year.
- He has worked hard all day.
2. Distant Past (Past Perfect)
Had + [VERB+ed] describes actions that began and ended in the past.
- Mike had promised to repair Joe's bike.
- I had eaten dinner before he came.
3. Present Continuous Action (Present Progressive)
Is + [VERB+ing] shows action that is in progress now or is going to happen in the future.
- I am taking Spanish this semester.
- He is getting ready for the party this evening.
- Next week they are going to Florida.
4. Past Continuous Action (Past Progressive)
Was + [VERB+ing] shows action that was in progress at a certain time in the past.
- Yesterday I was working in the garden.
- He was smoking a pack a day before he quit.
- The dogs were barking all night.
5. Other helping verbs (Modals)
[HELPER] + [VERB], such as CAN, WILL, SHALL, MAY, COULD, WOULD, SHOULD, MIGHT, MUST keep the same form. They do not change to agree with the subject.
he | can do that assignment easily.
There are also modal phrases (some of which don't change form), such as:
- COULD HAVE + Verb
- WOULD HAVE + Verb
- MUST HAVE + Verb
(Not could "of" or would "of")
- I could have won the prize if I had entered the contest.
- He must have bought the ticket already.
- USED TO + Verb
- HAVE TO + Verb
- HAVE GOT TO + Verb
- BE ABLE TO + Verb
- OUGHT TO + Verb
- BE SUPPOSED TO + Verb
- I used to think that all dogs have fleas.
- I am supposed to come back next week.