Base Form of a Verb

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Senior couple outdoors together
They walk. Alistair Berg / Getty Images

In English grammar, the base form of a verb is the simplest form of a verb, without a special ending (or suffix). It's the form that appears in dictionary entries. Also known as the plain form, simple form, or stem.

The base form of a verb functions as the present-tense form for the first- and second-person singular (e.g., "I walk," "You walk"), and the first-, second-, and third-person plural ("We walk," "You walk," "They walk").

In other words, the base form serves as the present-tense form for all persons and numbers except the third-person singular, which has the -s ending ("He walks," She walks," "It walks"). 

The base form also functions as the infinitive (with or without to) and as the present subjunctive for all persons including the third-person singular. In addition, the base form is used for the imperative mood.

Examples

Present Tense

  • When I ring the bell, you leave the room.
  • "Men live in a fantasy world. I know this because I am one, and I actually receive my mail there." (Scott Adams

Infinitive

  • I want to see the stars.
  • "It's always easier to learn something than to use what you've learned." (Chaim Potok, The Promise, 1967)​

Present Subjunctive​

  • The music teacher insists that John sing.
  • The tour guide recommends that we travel in pairs

Imperative

  • Take my car and drive yourself home.
  • "Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your own wings on the way down." (Ray Bradbury)