Learn the 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 its simplest form. It exists without a special ending or suffix. It's the form that appears in dictionary entries. lt is 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").

Said another way, 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"). Additional verbs can be created with prefixes added to the base verb, for example, overthrow or undo.

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

Here are some examples of a simple verb, in different contexts:

Present Tense

Present tense is for action happening now.

  • 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

An infinitive verb is used with "to" as part of a verb phrase. 

  • 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

    Using the subjunctive tense indicates that the outcome isn't definite.

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

    In the first example, although the teacher might insist, John might refuse to sing. In the second, some people could disregard the recommendation and go off on their own.

    Imperative

    The imperative is a command, with the subject implied as being "you" (second person).

    • 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)

    A Building Block Verb

    The simple regular verb is used to build other verb forms by using suffixes. (Irregular verbs are beyond the scope of this article.) For example:

    Simple Past Tense

    Simple past tense is for action that's completed. 

    • I walked to the store for some bread.

    Past Perfect

    Past perfect denotes action that took place before the most recent past action.

    • I had eaten there last year on vacation, but on this year's trip, we chose another place nearby.
    • I had walked home after practice yesterday.

    Continuous, or Progressive, Tenses, and Gerunds

    Present continuous action is happening now and hasn't finished yet. The simple verb form takes on an -ing and becomes a participle. 

    • I am walking home from school after practice.

    The participle can also be used for other tenses, such as future continuous. 

    • I will be walking home from school later. 

    Past continuous shows something continued happening in the past. Contrast it with an action that happened and was then completed:

    • We were walking home when a Stan drove by in his truck. 

      An -ing form used as a noun is a gerund.

      • Walking is good exercise.

       

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      Nordquist, Richard. "Learn the Base Form of a Verb in English Grammar." ThoughtCo, Apr. 19, 2018, thoughtco.com/base-form-of-a-verb-1689160. Nordquist, Richard. (2018, April 19). Learn the Base Form of a Verb in English Grammar. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/base-form-of-a-verb-1689160 Nordquist, Richard. "Learn the Base Form of a Verb in English Grammar." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/base-form-of-a-verb-1689160 (accessed April 21, 2018).