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What is Verb Conjugation? Learn English Verb Tense

Action and being words are important because they explain what you do and think. Many of these words describe who you are as well. Learning verb conjugation expands your speaking ability by letting you describe yourself and others in new ways. In this lesson, you’ll learn the different verb conjugations. You’ll also discover how to tell in speech and writing when an action will take place and understand how to express yourself in different manners.

What is Verb Conjugation in English? Here’s a Definition:

There are multiple forms of each verb which express different meanings. Which one you use depends on the message you want to share. To conjugate a verb, you add unique suffixes to the base action word. The right suffix depends on the person in a sentence you refer to, who is also known as the subject of the sentence.

There are also different suffixes to select from depending on whether the subject is singular or plural, and based on the tense you’re discussing. Here are a few examples of how action word suffixes change and some examples.

Every action and being word has its base form, which you can also call its infinitive form. Conjugation of verbs means to change the action or being word from its base form so that it matches with the subject in a sentence. Some words have a standard pattern, while others follow their own unique pattern. Let’s look at the regular verb to work as an example.

The base form of this action word is work. It’ll change from the base form depending on the grammatical person. This means that you add different suffixes to the base word depending on who you’re referencing in a sentence. There are six different person point of views to learn, each with their own suffix.

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What are Grammatical Persons and Verb Conjugation Tenses?

The first grammatical person is the first person singular. You use the first person singular to make a statement about yourself. With the example to work, the first-person singular sentence is:

  • I work.

The first person singular form of an action or being word is often the same as the root word. However, that’s not always true with irregular action and being words.

Next, you have first person plural. You use this form to speak about yourself and someone else. In this case, instead of using the pronoun I, you use we.

  • We work.

Again, this action word is the same as the root form. Next you have the second person singular and the second person plural. You use these categories when you reference the individual or individuals that you are speaking or writing to. For both singular and plural forms, you use the word you.

  • You work. (Both singular and plural.)

Finally, you have third person singular and third person plural. You use the third person while discussing someone, or a group of people other than yourself and who you’re speaking directly to.

In the third person singular form you refer to one person using the words he, she, it, a noun, or a proper noun. With the plural form, when referencing a group of people other than yourself, you use the word they.

  • He/She/It works. (Singular)
  • They work. (Plural)

As you can see, in all person categories of regular action words, the only change occurs with the third person singular form. This is the standard pattern with regular action words like to work, making conjugation easy to remember.

In addition to the six different person categories, there are also twelve different tenses that each call for different conjugations. Let’s look at each tense and how it changes action words.

  1. Simple Present: Work
  2. Simple Past: Worked
  3. Simple Future: Will Work
  4. Present Continuous: Am Working
  5. Past Continuous: Was Working
  6. Future Continuous: Will Be Working
  7. Present Perfect: Have Worked
  8. Past Perfect: Had Worked
  9. Future Perfect: Will Have Worked
  10. Present Perfect Continuous: Have Been Working
  11. Past Perfect Continuous: Had Been Working
  12. Future Perfect Continuous: Will Have Been Working

Each of these different tenses describe an action taking place at different times. The present events occur right now, and many are ongoing. The past events occurred in the past, some of which are ongoing. You also have the future, which explains that actions will happen in the future, many of which will continue further into the future. You complete the verb conjugation of these tenses by adding an -ed, -ing, and often a linking word.

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Why is Conjugation of Verbs Necessary in Language?

Conjugation gives your reader or your listener important background information. In the examples above, you saw how to use words to describe the number of people or things someone’s talking about. You also saw examples of how you can tell when an action will occur. Additionally, verb conjugation also explains how much of an action has taken place, the gender of the people that receive an action, and the mood of an overall sentence.

English Verb Conjugation Examples

Now you know about regular action and being words. To form the different tenses, you add -ed, -d, or -ied to for the past tense and past participle forms. Examples include jumped, smiled, and cried.

There are also irregular action words that have their own unique conjugation pattern. Here are some common irregular action words and their different inflections:

Infinitive Simple Past Past Participle
To buy Bought Bought
To Eat Ate Eaten
To Go Went Gone
To Sleep Slept Slept
To Wear Wore Worn

As you can see, there’s no set pattern with irregular action words. To learn more about how inflections work, see it here.

What is Imperfect Verb Conjugation?

You already know quite a lot about how to get action words to agree with the other words in a sentence. If you’re learning English as a second language, you may wonder about imperfect action words. These words don’t exist in the English language, and instead you use the words used to or was. There’s no tense for imperfect words but used to and was have the closest meaning in English.