Base Form of a Verb in English Grammar

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 of a Simple Verb

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)
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    Nordquist, Richard. "Base Form of a Verb in English Grammar." ThoughtCo, Dec. 27, 2017, thoughtco.com/base-form-of-a-verb-1689160. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, December 27). Base Form of a Verb in English Grammar. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/base-form-of-a-verb-1689160 Nordquist, Richard. "Base Form of a Verb in English Grammar." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/base-form-of-a-verb-1689160 (accessed February 25, 2018).