Connect
To Top

    Common English Verbs

    Common English Verbs

    The English verb system is often considered the most complex system of the English language. The following sections list the five conjugations — base, simple present, simple past, present participle, past participle — of the three auxiliary and twenty most common verbs in English and list the nine full modal verbs and five quasi-modal verbs.

    Be, Have, and Do

    As a periphrastic language, English largely relies on auxiliary verbs to express most tenses and aspects of verbs. The three auxiliary verbs of English are be, have, and do. The five conjugations of the three English auxiliary verbs are as follows:

    BaseSimple PresentSimple PastPresent ParticiplePast Participle
    beam, are, iswas, werebeingbeen
    havehave, hashadhavinghad
    dodo, doesdiddoingdone

    As auxiliary verbs, the three verbs be, have, and do appear in many verb phrase constructions including the progressive aspect, perfect aspect, perfect-progressive aspect, passive voice, and interrogative sentences. For example:

    • My daughter is reading her favorite books. (progressive aspect)
    • The woman has finally finished filling out the paperwork. (perfect aspect)
    • Your uncle has been moping around the house all day. (perfect-progressive aspect)
    • The pumpkins were stolen by some neighborhood hooligans (passive voice)
    • Did you leave the pickle jar on the counter again? (interrogative construction)
    • Poppy does love her Elmo pajamas! (emphatic construction)

    The verbs be, have, and do also function as main verbs. For example:

    • My favorite pastime is learning more about English grammar
    • His grandfather had ten siblings.
    • Espen did the laundry last night.

    All conjugations of be, have, and do are irregular in all forms except in the present participle.

    Common English Verbs

    Some English verbs occur more commonly than others. The five conjugations of twenty of the most common English verbs aside from the auxiliaries be, have, and do are as follows:

    BaseSimple PresentSimple PastPresent ParticiplePast Participle
    askask, asksaskedaskingasked
    becomebecome, becomesbecamebecomingbecome
    beginbegin, beginsbeganbeginningbegun
    comecome, comescamecomingcome
    drinkdrinks, drinksdrankdrinkingdrunk
    eateat, eatsateeatingeaten
    feelfeel, feelsfeltfeelingfelt
    finishfinish, finishesfinishedfinishingfinished
    getget, getsgotgettinggot, gotten
    givegive, givesgavegivinggiven
    gogo, goeswentgoinggone
    knowknow, knowsknewknowingknown
    learnlearn, learnslearnedlearninglearned
    likelike, likeslikedlikingliked
    makemake, makesmademakingmade
    putput, putsputputtingput
    saysay, sayssaidsayingsaid
    seesee, seessawseeingseen
    taketake, takestooktakingtaken
    writewrite, writeswrotewritingwritten

    Modal Verbs

    Modal verbs are a distinct verb form unique to Germanic languages including English that express modality. Modality is the grammaticalized expression of the subjective attitudes and opinions of the speaker such as possibility, probability, necessity, obligation, permissibility, ability, desire, and contingency. Modal verbs differ from prototypical verbs in form and function. The nine full modal verbs of English are as follows:

    • can
    • could
    • may
    • might
    • must
    • shall
    • should
    • will
    • would

    In addition to the nine full modal verbs, English also has five quasi-modal verbs, which are a subset of modal verbs that possess some but not all grammatical properties of prototypical modals. The five quasi-modal verbs of English are as follows:

    • ought (to)
    • had better (had best)
    • used to
    • dare
    • need

    Unlike other verbs including the three prototypical auxiliary verbs, the nine full modal verbs and five quasi-modal verbs in English have only one form.

    Learning the conjugation patterns of the three auxiliary verbs, twenty most common verbs, and nine modal verbs of English is essential for understanding the language.

    More in English Verbs