How to Conjugate Verbs

Learning how to conjugate verbs in English is not as difficult as many think. The key to learning how to conjugate verbs in English is to focus on how to conjugate the auxiliary verb. What are auxiliary verbs? Auxiliary verbs are also called helping verbs. They are verbs that 'help' the main verb. All tenses in English conjugate using an auxiliary verb. Only the present simple and the past simple in the positive form takes no auxiliary verb!

Follow these easy steps on how to conjugate verbs, and you'll conjugate verbs in English with ease.

  1. Learn how to identify the main verb in a sentence. Verbs express what someone or something does. Look for the verb that expresses the 'action' of the sentence.
  2. Decide on when the action takes place. Does it take place in the present, the past, or the future?
  3. Once you have discovered the general time, find out the specific time. Is the action happening at the moment? Does the action happen every day? Has the action happened up to a point in the past, present or future?
  4. If the action happens regularly or is a habit, use the present simple verb form: For example: He doesn't work on Saturdays. They play football after school. etc.
  5. If the action happens once in the past at a specific point in time, use the past simple. For example: They went to school when they were young. Did Mary visit you last week?
  1. If the action happens up to a point in time use a perfect form: present perfect, past perfect, or future perfect. For example: She has worked her for many years. They had finished lunch by the time he arrived. Mary will have finished the report by five pm.
  2. If the action is happening at a specific moment in time use a continuous form: present continuous, past continuous or future continuous. For example: She is working at the moment. They will be playing tennis at 5 pm. Tom was eating when she arrived.
  1. Now that you know WHEN the action happens, and in what time frame, learn your helping verbs. Present simple or past - do, perfect forms - have, continuous forms - be.
  2. Learn to conjugate the helping verbs: I, you, we, they do / she, he, it does | I am / you, we, they are | I, you, we have / he, she it has
  3. Learn which form the main verb takes for each form. Simple forms = verb without 'to' (i.e. play, walk, eat, work, etc.). Continuous forms = verb + ing (playing, walking, eating, working, etc.) Perfect forms = past participle (verb in the third form, i.e. bought, understood, played, etc.)
  4. Conjugate the verb. Here is the thinking process: 1) What's the general time? - past 2) What's the specific time? - at a specific moment 3) Aha! continuous in the past OR past continuous 4) conjugate the helping verb - She was 5) Use the continuous form of the main verb: doing 6) Conjugate the verb: She was doing
  5. Remember these simple steps: Time? Action Happening? Simple, Continuous or Perfect? Auxiliary verb? Main Verb? Conjugate

Example 1

  • Time? > Present
  • Action Happening? > Up to the present
  • Simple, Continuous or Perfect? > Perfect
  • Auxiliary verb? > have
  • Main Verb? > live
  • Verb Form? > lived
  • Conjugate > We have lived here for ten years.

    Example 2

    • Time? > Future
    • Action Happening? > happening at a specific moment
    • Simple, Continuous or Perfect? > continuous
    • Auxiliary verb? > be
    • Main Verb? watch
    • Verb Form? > watching
    • Conjugate > She will be watching TV at nine.

    Example 3

    • Time? Past
    • Action Happening? > one day in past
    • Simple, Continuous or Perfect? > simple
    • Auxiliary verb? > did
    • Main Verb? > play
    • Verb Form? > play
    • Conjugate > Did you play the piano yesterday?

    Tips

    • Be patient with yourself when learning how to conjugate verbs.
    • Remember that the present simple and past simple do NOT take auxiliary verbs in positive forms.
    • Changes occur in the auxiliary verb, not in the main verb EXCEPT for the present simple.
    Format
    mla apa chicago
    Your Citation
    Beare, Kenneth. "How to Conjugate Verbs." ThoughtCo, Jul. 5, 2017, thoughtco.com/how-to-conjugate-verbs-1212201. Beare, Kenneth. (2017, July 5). How to Conjugate Verbs. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-conjugate-verbs-1212201 Beare, Kenneth. "How to Conjugate Verbs." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-conjugate-verbs-1212201 (accessed December 13, 2017).