English Grammar

This course is designed by B. Bala Nagendra Prasad

Types of verbs and their Uses

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Verbs are the most important component of any sentence. These words talk about the action or the state of any noun or subject. This means that verbs show what the subject is doing or what is the state or situation of the subject.

For example:

He ran to the store. – Here the verb ran describes the action of the subject ‘he’

She is a creative person. – Here there is no action being done. Instead the auxiliary verb ‘is’ shows the state of the subject ‘she’ as being ‘creative’.

There are different types and classifications of Verbs; some of the most important ones are listed below:

Action Verbs

These verbs talk about what the subject is doing in the sentence. Action Verbs are one of the most easily identifiable types of verbs. To recognize them, you simply have to look for the word in the sentence that answers the question ‘What is the subject doing?’ e.g. –

Rose is painting the kitchen walls.

The subject here is Rose, and what is Rose doing? Rose is painting. Hence painting is our action verb.

My dog is sleeping on the sofa.

The subject here is dog, and what is the dog doing? The dog is sleeping. So sleeping is our action verb.

There are two types of Action Verbs which describe the Verb and the Subject doing the action and the Object on which the action is done, they are –

Transitive Verbs

These Action Verbs have a definite object on which, or for which the action is being performed. That means that the action has a definite recipient or object. To identify them you can ask the question what is the/did the subject -verb-?

Rose is painting the kitchen walls.

Here the verb is painting and the subject is Rose.

If we form the question – what is Rose painting?

The answer is- The kitchen walls.

Thus, we see that there was a specific object on which the action of painting was being done.

Hannah gave him a big hug.

Here we see that the action ‘gave’ is being performed by the subject Hannah. So the question is what did Hannah give? And the answer is – A big hug.

Here, we also have an indirect object as ‘him’. This indirect object would be the answer to the question-

Who did the subject (Hannah) – verb – (give) the object (hug) to?

Intransitive Verbs

These verbs also show an action but here there is no specific object on which the action is being done. To recognize these verbs, we ask the question what is the/did the subject -verb- ? If there is no answer present, then the verb in the sentence is an Intransitive Verb.

Rose is painting right now.

Here, if we ask the question what is Rose painting? There is no answer which means that in this sentence painting is an Intransitive Verb.

It is telling us about the action of the subject but there is no specific object for the action.

Hannah sneezed repeatedly.

Here, the verb is sneezed. If we ask the question what did Hannah sneeze? There is no answer present for it making sneezed a intransitive verb.

Decide whether the following verbs are transitive, intransitive or both

The workmen have been painting for hours. 

Before you send the proposal, make sure you edit it carefully.

  • Transitive
  • Intransitive

That perfume smells nice.

  • Intransitive
  • Transitive

Are you sure you want to paint the ceiling too?

  • Transitive
  • Intransitive

Regular and Irregular Verbs

Regular Verbs

Those verbs that form their past participle with ‘d’ or ‘ed’ are regular verbs. These verbs do not undergo substantial changes while changing forms between tenses.

If the verb ends with a vowel, only ‘d’ is added. For example:

PRESENT TENSE         PAST TENSE

Share                           Shared

Scare                           Scared

Dare                             Dared

If the verb ends with a consonant, ‘ed’ is added. For example:

PRESENT TENSE         PAST TENSE

Want                            Wanted

Shout                           Shouted

Kill                               Killed

Irregular Verbs

Those verbs that undergo substantial changes when changing forms between tenses are irregular verbs. The changed forms of these verbs are often unrecognisably different from the originals. For example:

PRESENT TENSE         PAST TENSE

Go                                Went

Run                              Ran

Think                           Thought

There is no way to tell what form an irregular verb is going to take in a changed tense; the only option for an English speaker is to commit the changes to memory. With practice, it will become a matter of habit.

Finite and Non-finite Verbs

Finite Verbs

Finite Verbs are those verbs that have a definite relation with the subject or noun. These verbs are usually the main verb of a clause or sentence and can be changed according to the noun. They are used only in present and past tense. They can be indicative of passive or active voice and also of number (singular or plural).

She walks home. – Here we see that the finite verb is walks and the pronoun is ‘she’.

She walked home. – Here we can see how the verb changed/modified to change the tense of the sentence.

Non-Finite Verbs

These verbs cannot be the main verb of a clause or sentence as they do not talk about the action that is being performed by the subject or noun. They do not indicate any tense, mood or gender. They are used as nouns, adverbs and adjectives. They are also used to form non-finite clauses which are simply dependent clauses that use non-finite verbs.

He loves camping in the woods. – Here the non-finite verb is camping and it is used as a noun. These kind of non-finite verbs are called Gerunds.

I need to go to sleep. – Here the non- finite verb phrase is to sleep, it is acting as a noun. Non-finite verbs that use ‘to’ before them are called Infinitives.

The sleeping dog caused a delay. – The nonfinite verbs that have ‘-ing’ or ‘-ed’ as suffixes and cause the verb to come an adjective are called Participles.

Participles, Gerunds and Infinitives are called verbals. Verbals are words which are formed from a verb but which function as a different part of speech.

PARTICIPLE

A participle is usually formed by adding –ing or –ed to a verb.It functions as an adjective. Examples:

The singing bird was the main attraction at the event.

The injured man was waiting for the doctor.

GERUND

A gerund is formed by adding –ing to a verb.It functions as a noun. Examples:

Swimming is very good for the body.

Smoking is prohibited in the hospital.

INFINITIVE

An infinitive is formed by using the word ‘to’ before the verb in its stem word.It functions as a noun, adjective or adverb. Examples:

He was made to clean his room.

Shalini loves to talk.

Alan can’t stand _________ on trains

Harris enjoys _________ people out to dinner.

Eva is having trouble _________ on the exam.

As the famous saying goes, there’s no use ______ over spilt milk.

  • to cry
  • crying

Auxiliary Verbs and Modal Verbs

Auxiliary Verbs

Auxiliary (or Helping) verbs are used together with a main verb to show the verb’s tense or to form a negative or question. The most common auxiliary verbs are have, be, and do.

There are just three common auxiliary verbs:

Have

Do

Be

In this section, we’ll take a closer look at how these common verbs work, plus you’ll see some examples.

Have

“Have” is a very important verb that can stand alone in all its tenses, including has, have, having, had, and hadn’t or had not. It is usually used to denote ownership, and it can also be used to discuss ability or describe appearance. “Have” is also a very popular substitute for the verbs “eat” and “drink.” For example: “Let’s have dinner.”

When used as an auxiliary verb, have is always teamed up with another verb to create a complete verb phrase, making it easy to differentiate between uses. You can see the difference in the sentences below:

Jerry has a large coffee stain on his shirt. → Has = action verb

Jerry has bought a new shirt to replace the one that was ruined earlier. → Has = auxiliary verb; bought is a past participle that competes the verb phrase.

Jerry should have been more careful! → Have = auxiliary verb; phrase “should have been” expresses time and evaluates Jerry’s actions.

Do

“Do” can be used as an action verb that stands alone in all its tenses, including to do, do, does, done, did and didn’t, doesn’t or did not .

When used as an auxiliary verb, do is always paired up with another verb to create a complete verb phrase. In some cases, it is used to add emphasis: “I did put the garbage out!” Do is often used to form questions and negated clauses. It is also used in elliptical sentences, where the main verb is understood and is omitted as a result. For example: “He plays piano well, doesn’t he?” or “They all had dinner, but I didn’t.”

Because he spills things so often, Jerry does more laundry than most people. Does = action verb

Jerry didn’t put his coffee in a cup with a lid. Didn’t = auxiliary verb

Jerry doesn’t always spill things, but it happens a lot. Doesn’t = auxiliary verb

Be

“Be” or “to be” is an important verb that has a multitude of uses in English. It can be used as an action verb that stands alone in all its tenses including be, to be, been, am, are, is, was, were, wasn’t, was not aren’t, are not, weren’t and were not.

When used as an auxiliary verb, be is always paired with another verb to create a complete verb phrase. It can be singular or plural, present or past. Negative sentences are formed by adding the word “not”.

Jerry is messy.  Is = action verb

Although he is always complaining about his accidents, Jerry fails to pay attention. is = auxiliary verb

Jerry is going to be doing extra laundry for the rest of his life. to be = auxiliary verb

Modal Verbs

There are 10 modal verbs in the English language:

Can

Could

May

Might

Will

Would

Must

Shall

Should

Ought to

Uses of Modal Verbs:

To indicate that something is probable or possible, or not so. For example:

It is sunny today; it must be warm outside. = It is sunny today; it is probably warm outside.

His mobile is not reachable; he may/might/could be travelling by metro. = His mobile is not reachable; it is possible that he is travelling by metro.

This can’t be our bill. = It is not possible that this is our bill.

‘Can’ and ‘could’ are used to refer to skills and abilities. For example:

He can cover a hundred metres in under ten seconds.

My father could see perfectly before the age of fifty.

I can’t ride a horse.

‘Must’ is used to indicate that something is necessary or of extreme importance, and ‘should’ is used to suggest that something is advisable. For example:

You must do your homework.

You mustn’t skip school.

You should say sorry.

You shouldn’t smoke.

‘Can’, ‘could’ and ‘may’ are used to ask for, give and withhold permission. For example:

Can I try my hand at it?

Could we disperse early today?

You may not enter the premises.

‘Will’ and ‘would’ are used to refer to habits and inclinations.

When I was a child, I would often climb trees.

I will never refuse you anything.

He would never do such a thing.

These verbs differ from ordinary verbs in 3 respects.

When used with the third person singular (he, she), they don’t require the addition of an ‘s’.

They can be used to form questions by inverting the structure of the sentence.

They can be followed directly by the verb, without the use of ‘to’.

What ________________ the kids doing when you last saw them?

  • was
  • were
  • been

I _________________ appreciate his jokes. They weren’t funny.

  • Did
  • didn't
  • have

She________________ always wanted to try skydiving.

  • was
  • has
  • is

Ramya _____________ going to be upset when she hears what happened. (will, don’t, is, didn’t, has)

  • has
  • is

Stative Verbs

Stative Verbs

Stative verbs are verbs that describe a state rather than an action. They usually relate to thoughts, emotions, relationships, senses, states of being and measurements.

When describing states, they never take the continuous (‘-ing’) form. Here are some examples of stative verbs and instances of their correct and incorrect usage.

adore

agree

appear (seem)

appreciate

be (exist)

believe

belong to

concern

consist of

contain

cost

deny

depend on

deserve

detest

disagree

dislike

doubt

equal

feel

hate

have (possession)

hear

imagine

include

involve

know

lack

like

loathe

look (seem)

love

matter

mean

measure

mind

need

owe

own

possess

promise

realize

recognize

remember

resemble

satisfy

see

seem

smell

sound

suppose

surprise

taste

think (opinion)

understand

want

weigh

wish

Do you _________ the answer? (depend on, know, include)

My friend _________ dessert every day. (has, eats, possesses)

I think the teacher was _________ with my speech. (involved, measured, satisfied)

  • involved
  • measured
  • satisfied

She _________ her mother. (imagines, resembles, walks with)

  • imagines
  • resembles
  • walks

Subject-Verb Agreement

Subject-verb Agreement

Basic Rule. A singular subject (she, Bill, car) takes a singular verb (is, goes, shines), whereas a plural subject takes a plural verb.

Example: The list of items is/are on the desk.If you know that list is the subject, then you will choose is for the verb.

Rule 1. A subject will come before a phrase beginning with of. This is a key rule for understanding subjects. The word of is the culprit in many, perhaps most, subject-verb mistakes.

Incorrect: A bouquet of yellow roses lend color and fragrance to the room.

Correct: A bouquet of yellow roses lends . . . (bouquet lends, not roses lend)

Rule 2. Two singular subjects connected by or, either/or, or neither/nor require a singular verb.

Examples:My aunt or my uncle is arriving by train today.Neither Juan nor Carmen is available.Either Kiana or Casey is helping today with stage decorations.

Jessica or Christian is to blame for the accident.

Rule 3. The verb in an or, either/or, or neither/nor sentence (If one subject is singular and one plural) you use the verb form of the subject that is nearest the verb. agrees with the noun or pronoun closest to it.

Examples:Neither the plates nor the serving bowl goes on that shelf.Neither the serving bowl nor the plates go on that shelf.

Rule 4. As a general rule, use a plural verb with two or more subjects when they are connected by and.

Example: A car and a bike are my means of transportation.

But note these exceptions:

Exceptions:Breaking and entering is against the law.The bed and breakfast was charming.

In the above sentences, breaking and entering and bed and breakfast are compound nouns.

Note: If two infinitives are separated by and they take the plural form of the verb.

To walk and to chew gum require great skill

Rule 5. Sometimes the subject is separated from the verb by such words as along with, as well as, besides, not, etc. These words and phrases are not part of the subject. Ignore them and use a singular verb when the subject is singular.

Examples:The politician, along with the newsmen, is expected shortly.Excitement, as well as nervousness, is the cause of her shaking.

Rule 6. With words that indicate portions—a lot, a majority, some, all, etc.—Rule 1 given earlier is reversed, and we are guided by the noun after of. If the noun after of is singular, use a singular verb. If it is plural, use a plural verb.

Examples:A lot of the pie has disappeared.A lot of the pies have disappeared.A third of the city is unemployed.A third of the people are unemployed.All of the pie is gone.All of the pies are gone.Some of the pie is missing.Some of the pies are missing.

Rule 7. In sentences beginning with here or there, the true subject follows the verb.

Examples:There are four hurdles to jump.There is a high hurdle to jump.Here are the keys.

Rule 8. Use a singular verb with distances, periods of time, sums of money, etc., when considered as a unit.

Examples:Three miles is too far to walk.Five years is the maximum sentence for that offense.Ten dollars is a high price to pay.BUTTen dollars (i.e., dollar bills) were scattered on the floor.

Rule 9. Some collective nouns, such as family, couple, staff, audience, herd, senate, class, crowd etc., may take either a singular or a plural verb, depending on their use in the sentence.

Examples:The staff is in a meeting.Staff is acting as a unit.The couple disagree about disciplining their child.The couple refers to two people who are acting as individuals.

Rule 10. Don’t get confused by the words that come between the subject and verb; they do not affect agreement.

The dog, who is chewing on my jeans, is usually very good.

Rule 11. Prepositional phrases between the subject and verb usually do not affect agreement.

The colors of the rainbow are beautiful.

Rule 12. Indefinite pronouns typically take singular verbs.

Everybody wants to be loved.

Note: Except for the plural indefinite pronouns (few, many, several, both, all, some) that always take the plural form.

Few were left alive after the flood.

Rule 13. Titles of books, movies, novels, etc. are treated as singular and take a singular verb.

The Burbs is a movie starring Tom Hanks.

Rule 14. Final Rule – Remember, only the subject affects the verb!

Mydog always .......................at the postal carrier.

  • growls
  • growl

These clothes ........ too small for me

Basketballs ....... across the floor.

  • roll
  • rolls

Subject- Verb Agreement - Some more rules

Compound Subjects

Compound subjects (two subjects in the same sentence) usually take a plural verb, unless the combination is treated as singular in popular usage or the two subjects refer to the same thing or person. Here are some examples of subject verb agreement with compound subjects:

  • Sugar and flourare needed for the recipe.
  • Neither my dad nor my brothersknow how to ski.
  • Pepperoni and cheeseare great on a pizza.
  • Corned beef and cabbageis a traditional meal in Ireland. (popular usage)
  • The creator and produceris arriving soon. (both refer to same person)

When using “or” or “nor” in a compound subject containing a singular and plural subject, the verb agrees with the closest subject. Examples of compound subjects using or, neither-nor, or either-or include:

  • My mom or dadis coming to the play. (singular)
  • Neithergray nor white is my favorite color. (singular)
  • EitherGrandpa or my sisters are going to the park. (closest subject is plural)
  • Eithermy sisters or Grandpa is going to the park. (closest subject is singular)
  • Neithershe nor I am going to college. (closest subject is singular)

Singular Indefinite Pronouns

Here are some examples of subject verb agreement with singular indefinite pronouns:

  • Eachgets a trophy for playing.
  • Somebodywill pay for this.
  • Anybodyis more fun than you.
  • Somethingis very wrong here.
  • Everybodyenjoys a good book.
  • Nothinghas been determined as of yet.

Plural Indefinite Pronouns

Here are some examples of subject verb agreement with plural indefinite pronouns:

  • Bothare qualified for the job.
  • Manywent to the beach and got sunburned.
  • Fewknow what it really takes to get ahead.
  • Severalare already on location.
  • Somesugar is required for taste. (sugar is uncountable so singular verb used)
  • Mostof the cookies were  (cookies are countable so plural verb used)

Midsentence Phrase or Clause

Here are some examples of subject verb agreement with a phrase or clause between the subject and verb:

  • Atheory of physics ascertains that a body in motion stays in motion.
  • Avirus in all the company’s computers is a real threat to security.
  • Thecauses of this prevalent disease are bad diet and lack of exercise.
  • Thecouch and chair I got at the store look really nice in here.
  • Themembers of the choir are very happy with the performance.

Collective Nouns

Collective nouns can be singular or plural depending on meaning. Here are some examples of subject verb agreement with collective nouns:

  • Thecommittee meets here every Thursday. (singular)
  • Thecrowd is getting angry. (singular)
  • Thejury has finally reached a decision. (singular)
  • Themajority rules most of the time. (plural)
  • Thestaff have gone their separate ways for the holidays. (plural)

Inverted Subjects

Here are some examples of subject verb agreement with inverted subjects where the subject follows the verb:

  • Thereare seven clean plates in the dining room.
  • Thereis a hair in my lasagna.
  • Over the rainbowflies a bird.
  • Howare the employees enjoying the new building?
  • A good giftis a gift card.

My mom or dad ...... coming to the play

Sugar and flour ............. needed for the recipe

  • are
  • is

Everybody ................... a good book

  • enjoys
  • enjoy

Each ......... a trophy for playing.

The committee ................. here every Thursday

  • meets
  • meet

Over the rainbow ........ a bird.

Types of Sentences

Simple, Complex and Compound Sentences

A Simple Sentence has only one subject and one predicate.

A compound sentence must have two or more co-ordinate clauses, each with its own subject and predicate. Examples are given below.

  • Climbing up the tree, he plucked some mangoes. (Simple Sentence)
  • He climbed up the tree and plucked some mangoes. (Compound Sentence)

Here we changed the participial phrase ‘Climbing up the tree’ into the clause ‘He climbed up the tree’ and connected it to the original clause with the coordinating conjunction and.

Thus a simple sentence can be converted into a compound sentence by expanding a word or a phrase into a clause and by using the coordinating conjunction to connect the clauses. More examples are given below.

  • Driven by rain, he took shelter under a tree. (Simple sentence)
  • He was driven by rain and took shelter under a tree. (Compound Sentence)

  • Besides being beautiful, she is intelligent. (Simple Sentence)
  • She is not only beautiful but also intelligent. (Compound Sentence)

  • In spite of his poverty he is happy. (Simple Sentence)
  • He is poor but he is happy. (Compound Sentence


We can convert a compound sentence into a simple sentence by reducing the number of clauses into one.

He got up and walked away. (Compound sentence) Getting up, he walked away. (Simple Sentence)

Here we reduced the clause ‘He got up’ into the participial phrase ‘getting up’.

More examples are given below.

He gave them not only a house but some land also. (Simple Sentence) Besides a house, he gave them some land also. (Compound sentence)

Here we reduced the clause ‘he gave them some land also’ into the prepositional phrase ‘besides a house’.

He ran away and thus escaped arrest. (Simple Sentence) He ran away in order to escape arrest. (Compound Sentence)

Here the clause ‘thus escaped arrest’ is replaced by the infinitive phrase ‘in order to escape arrest’.

Now we have seen that to convert compound sentences into simple sentences, clauses have to be reduced to participial, prepositional or infinitive phrases.


A simple sentence can be converted into a complex sentence by expanding a word or phrase into a subordinate clause – which can be a noun clause, an adjective clause or an adverb clause.

Noun clause

He liked my suggestion. (Simple sentence) He liked what I suggested. (Complex sentence) His advice did not prove successful. (Simple sentence) What he advised did not prove successful. (Complex sentence)

Note that it is usually a noun or a noun equivalent that can be changed into a noun clause.

Adjective clause

There I saw a beautiful girl. (Simple sentence) There I saw a girl who was beautiful. (Complex sentence) A wounded tiger is very fierce. (Simple sentence) A tiger that is wounded is very fierce. (Complex sentence)

You can notice that it is adjectives or adjective equivalents or appositional words or phrases that are generally converted into adjective clauses.

Adverb clauses

She was too poor to educate her children. (Simple sentence) She was so poor that she could not educate her children. (Compound sentence) On being challenged they ran away. (Simple sentence) When they were challenged they ran away. (Complex sentence)

You will have noticed that it is adverb phrases and adverbs that are converted to adverb clauses.

Being innocent, he never thought of running away. (Convert to Compound sentence)

By his pleasant manner, the boy became popular. (Convert to Compound)

You must take your medicine, otherwise you cannot get well. (Convert to simple sentence)

He is rich, yet he is not happy

He admitted his guilt. (Convert to complex sentence)

His looks proclaim his innocence. (Convert to Complex sentence)

The principal is likely to punish him