Don’t be a Hater, Be a Conjugator!

I realize that this is an unfair comparison BUT I cannot help but love verbs more than nouns. I realize nouns are important — they give everything a name — and for that I am thankful. However… Verbs. Sigh. Love at first sight, I swear. They are so easy to understand, not like nouns. Nouns have a way of making everything SO difficult. With a verb what you see is what you get. Yes, some can be a bit irregular, & I will get into that. However, first I want to define what a verb is, and what it’s function is in the English language so that everyone else can love them just as much as I do!

A verb, as defined by the New Oxford American Dictionary, is: a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence, and forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence. Basically, a verb in a sentence is what the noun does. There are telltale signs that a word is a verb, typically words ending in the suffixes -ize, -ate, -ify, or -esce are verbs. But, as mentioned earlier, many verbs are irregular. Irregular verbs are any verbs that do NOT fall into the following patterns, for whatever reason. The English language is unfortunately littered with a fair amount of them, and as much as I would love to create some sort of blanket solution for knowing them…. I cannot. With these bad boys memorization is required. BUT, if you already have a pretty good handle on English, they should come fairly easily to mind when you start conjugating.

Verbs come in different forms. Usually when discussing verbs we refer to them in their Infinitive Form. This is very simple, basically to + the verb. So in the case of the verb “talk” the infinitive form would be “to talk.” Just the verb hanging out by itself is referred to as the Bare Infinite. There is also the Present Participle, which is the verb + -ing, as in “talking.” The Past Participle is another form that the verb presents itself in, and that consists of the verb + -ed (as in “talked”) or the verb + -en (as in “written”), the past participle is also usually preceded by “have” or “had.” (Keep that in mind for LATER.) The forms of verbs mentioned above are all grouped together as Nonfinite Verbs, which means that on their own they do not give any indication of time.

There are also Finite Verbs: a form of a verb that is marked for tense. Meaning, these guys let you know what time (past, present, or future) the action (or state!) is occurring in. Finite verb forms are referred to, rather simply, as the Past Tense and the Present Tense. These are the five FORMS of verbs, and once equipped with knowledge of them you are ready to   start conjugating! Or are you?

Before conjugation education is complete, you need to become aware of the different Aspects. There is Progressive, which describes ongoing actions in progress that happen in the background or concurrent with another action. UH, basically what you have to know is that progressive tense = to be + verb + -ing (to be + the present participle). In the case of our earlier example of “to talk”, the progressive tense would be “is talking,” “is” in this instance is one of many forms of the verb “to be.” There is also the Perfect aspect, this aspect associates and action with a later action. In other words, perfect aspect = to have + verb + -ed/-en (to have + the past participle). So to continue with our “to talk” example, the present-perfect form would be “has talked” (“has” being the present tense of the verb “to have.”) The last aspect is Perfect-Progressive, and this aspect combines the first two. Perfect-progressive = to be (always “been” in perfect-progressive) + to have + -ing (present participle). In the case of “to talk”, continuing with our example of present tense, the present perfect-progressive would be “has been talking.” There is also the Simple aspect, as an aside, and this is the verb in its bare infinite form, occurring in its past, present, or future tense. So, present: talk. Past: talked. Future: will talk. All in all, with the three different tenses and four different aspects, a single verb can occur in 12 different forms, depending on the criteria provided.

With that last information you are ALMOST ready to conjugate.

Conjugating a verb consists of making a list according to tense & person. So, we have the tense part of that locked down, now let’s take a look at what exactly that “& person.” bit means. Basically, in the English language, there is the First PersonSecond Person, and Third Person. And when conjugating verbs you have to not only put that verb into the appropriate tense, but also conjugate it in forms depending on what point of view it is being stated from, and using the appropriate pronoun for that POV. Plus, the singular and plural form of that point of view. It sounds like a lot, but it is really not so bad.

For First Person, the singular form is, well “I”. And the plural form is “We.” For the Second Person, the singular form is “You” and the plural form is “You.” That is the one I have the most trouble with, oddly enough… For the Third Person, the singular form is either “He”, “She” or “It”. The plural is “They.”

And now feel free to get conjugating! That is basically all you need to know to fall in love with verbs. And really, when you look at how hard they work and all the things they do, how could you NOT fall in love?

That’s all I have for now! Until next time, sarah.

Barry, Anita K. “Human Grammar: Language as Human Behavior”, New Jersey: Pearson, 2002. Print.

“New Oxford American Dictionary”  Oxford University Press. 2010. Web. September 30 2012


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