Verb phrases

Verb Phrases

Verb phrases are made up of more than one verb.

I have known my friend for 10 years.

In the above sentence, the verb have known is a verb phrase because it contains two verbs – have and known.

Verb Phrases – Main verb

In a verb phrase, there will always be a main verb. It expresses the complete action, existence or condition of the subject. It is always placed at the end of the verb phrase. In the above example, known is the main verb and tells us the state the subject is in.

Verb Phrases – Helping or Auxiliary verbs

Helping verbs, also called auxiliary verbs, indicate the verb tense or mood in a verb phrase. There can be up to four auxiliary verbs in a verb phrase! They cannot stand alone as a complete verb, but rather give characteristics to the main verb. The verbs be, have, do, can, will, shall, may, and must are often used as auxiliary verbs.

Examples of verb phrases sentences:

  • Sue doesn’t have a car.
  • I have finished my work for the day – now I can go home.
  • He can run very fast.
  • She must have found her keys yesterday because her car is gone.

In the first example, doesn’t (does not) is the auxiliary verb including the adverb not, and have is the main verb. Doesn’t indicates a present tense and shows a general truth about Sue – that she currently does not own a car.

In the second example, have is the auxiliary verb and finished is the main verb. Have indicates the tense is in the present perfect. It shows that the action has a connection to the present – the work is complete.

The third sentence uses can as the auxiliary verb and creates a verb form which expresses ability. Run is the main verb and expresses the action which the subject is able to do.

In the last example, must have are the auxiliary verbs and found is the main verb. The auxiliary verbs indicate a strong possibility or certainty in the past (yesterday) that the keys were found.

Verb tenses are another topic for another post, but now you can hopefully distinguish between the helping verbs and main verb in a verb phrase!