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A Verb Group

Recognize parts that together form the predicate

X structure diagram
walking
We are walking.
‹ diagram ›
► What is a verb group?▼ Explanation of term

A verb group:

  • serves as the predicate of the clause and expresses an action or activity and one or more of the following:
    • aspect—how the activity  relates to time (ongoing, continuous, repetitive, habitual) is walking, has walked, had been walking.
    • mood—opinion, prediction, or inference about the action in the clause we may walk, we should walk, we will walk. (modals)
    • voice—whether the focus or interest is the agent (active verb) or the patient (passive verb) in regard to the action taken. She walked her dog.  The dog was walked twice a day.
  • A verb group takes form as a verb and one or more auxiliaries: a modal, have or be.  We may have been walking.

A verb phrase:

  • In linguistic description, includes the verb group and its dependents:
    • complements—elements required by the verb to make sense—a direct object, an indirect object, a predicate complement such as a locational prepositional phrase or a predicate adjective, an infinitive or gerund (non-finite clause).  We have been walking the dog.
    • adjuncts—elements that modify (are closely related to) the verb but are not essential— adverbs (manner, frequency, degree and so on).  We have been walking routinely.
 

The predicate:

  • In traditional description, the predicate includes the subject, the verb or verb group and its dependents—adverbs, objects and phrases related to the action of the verb.
  • In linguistic description, the predicate is a function that takes form as a verb or verb group. Only!

A Verb Group

Express timing with tense or auxiliary verb groups

 

 

 

Inflected Tense vs. Auxiliary Verb Tense

INFLECTED TENSE (SUFFIXED)

In many languages, verb tenses are formed by inflection (adding a suffix or some other kind of marking). English has only two tenses formed this way—present and past tense.

PRESENT

We walk to work every morning.  (plain form)

He walks to work every morning. (plain form + 3rd per sing.)

PAST

We walked to work every morning.  (past form)

 

These tenses express "factual" information without reference to the flow of time or opinion about the activity.

 
 
AUXILIARY—TENSE, ASPECT, MOOD

The other "tenses" are formed with auxiliary verbs and a secondary verb form  (bare, -ing or -ed)  The auxiliaries combine to express tense, mood and aspect. See Tense, Mood & Aspect below.

PROGRESSIVE  (ASPECT)

We are walking to work.

We have been walking to work

PERFECT  (ASPECT)

We have finished our walk.

We will have finished walking.

FUTURE / PREDICTION (MOOD)

We will finish in an hour.

She may have finished her walk already.

CONDITIONAL (MOOD)

If I could, I would walk you.

We wouldn't be walking now, if we had put gas in the car earlier.

 

 

 

 

 

Verb Group

Auxiliary Combinations with Lexical Verb

 

 

 

Auxiliaries combine with lexical verbs to express tense.

AUXILIARY–MODAL AUXILIARY–PERFECT AUXILIARY–BE AUXILIARY–BE LEXICAL VERB FORM

MODAL — will, would, may, might,can, could, shall, should, ought

PERFECT — has, have, had  

PROGRESSIVE— is / are, was / were, been 

PASSIVE — is / are, was / were, been 

A verb takes plain form, past, and participle form, 3rd person plural suffix.

 

 

 

 

walk(s) (present, imperative, subjunctive)

 

 

 

 

walked  (past form)

 

 

 

was

walked  (past. participle)

 

 

was

 

walking (pres. participle)

 

 

was

being

walked 

 

has 

 

 

walked 

   

had

 

 

walked

   

has

been

 

walking

   

had

been

 

walking

   

has

been

being

walked

will 

 

 

 

walk  (plain form)

will 

 

be

 

walking (pres. participle)

will

have

 

 

walked

will

have

 

been

walked

Also see  Be Copula and "Be"–Lexical or Auxiliary?

lexical (Adj) — having meaning (one that could be found in a dictionary)

(Huddleson 3 §2.3) (Swan 85)

(Huddleston "catenative auxiliaries" 14 §4.2.2)  The auxiliary is the main verb which takes a nonfinite complement.  He [V. is  [nonfinite working]].

 

 

 

 

 

 

Verb Group

Auxiliary and Next Verb Form

 

 

 

Auxiliary Determines Next Verb Form

AUXILIARY + NEXT FORM TYPE PRES / (FUTURE) PAST PERFECT

MODAL PLAIN FORM
— will, would, may, might,can, could, shall, should, ought

Charlie willraise his hand.

Charlie wouldraise his hand.

Charlie willhave raised his hand by then. (future perfect)

Charlie wouldhave raised his hand. (conditional perfect)

PERFECT PAST PARTICIPLE
has, have, had  

Charlie hasraised his hand.

Charlie had raised his hand.

Charlie hadraised his hand.

PROGRESSIVE  GERUND-PARTICIPLE
is / are, was / were, been 

Charlie israising his hand.

Charlie wasraising his hand.

Charlie had beenraising his hand.

PASSIVE PAST PARTICIPLE
is / are, was / were, been 
     

His hand Israised.

His hand  was ⇒raised.

Charlie's hand has beenraised.

Charlie's hand had beenraised.

Related page Primary and Secondary Verbs.

(Huddleston 3 §3.3 [44])

 

 

 

 

 

Tense, Mood & Aspect

How do tense, aspect and mood affect the meaning of a verb?

 

 

 

Auxiliaries in verb groups express tense, aspect, mood and voice

SYSTEM APPROXIMATE FUNCTION EXAMPLE

Not marked. 

It rains.  (fact, always, whenever)

MARKED BY INFLECTION (SUFFIXES) OR VERB COMBINATIONS

TENSE

temporal location

 

Locates the action or event in a period of time.

It rains. (fact, general truth)

It rained. (fact, past, done)

ASPECT

temporal flow

Takes an internal experience view of how an activity  relates to time —ongoing, continuous, repetitive, habitual. It is not limited to or relative to a single point in time.

It was raining. (progressive aspect) ongoing experience

It has rained. (perfect aspect) has continuing relevance

It used to rain (habitual aspect) was repetitive

MOOD

non-factual assertions

 

Adds opinion, prediction, or inference to the clause.

It may stop raining in a few minutes.  (prediction, opinion)

MARKED BY STRUCTURAL CHANGE AND VERB COMBINATIONS

VOICE

focus on agent or patient

Allows placing either the "patient" (w/ passive verb) in the subject position or the "agent" (w/active verb) in the subject position.

Her prediction was proved wrong by the rain. (passive)

The rain proved her prediction wrong. (active)

agent—the person or thing that takes action to do something. (He sang a song for them.. The wind blew the leaves.)

patient ("theme")—the person or thing that is affected by the action denoted by the predicate. The thing acted upon. (He sang a song for them..)

(Aarts 9, 10) (Biber 4) (Huddleston 3 §3) (Payne 12)

aspect is a grammatical category that expresses how an action, event or state, denoted by a verb, relates to the flow of time.

mood is a grammatical category that expresses how an action, event or state, denoted by a verb, relates to the flow of time.

(Biber 4) (Huddleston 3 §3) .

 

 

 

 

 

Verb Groups (Advanced)

Related Content

 

 

See Grammar Notes on relevant pages:

 

Works Cited

  • Aarts, Bas. Oxford Modern English Grammar. Oxford UP, 2011.
  • Azar, Betty Schrampfer, and Stacy A. Hagen. Understanding and Using English Grammar. 4th ed., Pearson Education, 2009.
  • Biber, Douglas, and Stig Johansson, et al. Longman Grammar Of Spoken And Written English. Pearson Education, 1999.
  • Huddleston, Rodney D., and Geoffrey K. Pullum. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge UP, 2002.
  • Payne, Thomas Edward. Understanding English Grammar: A Linguistic Introduction. Cambridge UP, 2011.
  • Swan, Michael. Practical English Usage. 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2005.