Uncategorized · Verb

How to Recognize the Basic Form of a Verb

by Jacqueline Schaalje


In another article we talked about Present Simple. Here is the link: https://englishwithasmile.org/2013/06/04/simpler-than-thou-english-tense-basics-present-simple/

I said then that Present Simple uses the basic form of the verb, or the infinitive. One bright reader then wrote to me asking how you can recognize the infinitive. He was right of course. Only when you can find the basic form of the verb will you be able to make tense forms with that verb. For instance if you have the verb talk, you can make talks when you’re using the third person in the Present Simple. Or you can make talking in the progressive tenses. And you can make talked in the past tenses.

Here are some examples of infinitives: write, read, study, walk, decide, listen.

These verbs are not infinitives: skiing, rested, lives, ate, calling, did, thought, answers, brushes.

As you can see, some of the verbs that are not infinitives have endings such as –ing, -ed, or –s or -es.

Now the million dollar question is: how can you know that the basic form is talk, and not talke for instance? Why do you write live, and not liv? How do you know that did is the past form and do is the present form? I don’t know the answer to that…… English wasn’t written by a computer. These forms have evolved through the centuries. You should know these verbs by heart, and if you keep reading a lot, you should soon be able to memorize the most common verbs. The first step is the hardest…. Once you know some verbs in English, you will develop a feeling for the correct form of other verbs, too.


Which of the following verbs are infinitives?

Run, does, painted, taught, catch, extend, made, sung, said, pays, thank, lit, breaks, translating, dance, glue, training, owned, found, applies, drink, checked, blow, enlarged, filming.

For the answers: scroll down.






The following verbs are infinitives:

run, catch, extend, thank, dance, glue, drink, and blow.

The other verbs on the list are not infinitives.

6 thoughts on “How to Recognize the Basic Form of a Verb

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