Verbs : The Infinitive

The infinitive of a verb is the verb in its basic form. It is the part that you would find in the dictionary if you were to look up any given verb.

The infinitive of a verb is usually, but not always, preceded by the word ‘to’ (to shout, to climb, to cheat, to run, etc.). ‘To’ is not a preposition here, it merely indicates that the verb is being used in its infinitive form.

  • Mum asked me to run to the shops for some eggs.
  • My sister likes to help in the kitchen.
  • I was lucky to see a fox in my garden

In terms of grammar, the infinitive is regarded as the name of the verb. so for instance you might say that, “The verb ‘to be’ has the forms am, is and are in the present tense but uses was and were in the past tense.”

There is much more information online about the use of the infinitive as a noun, an adjective and an adverb, However, the information here is sufficient to fulfil the (non statutory) requirement for knowledge of technical grammatical terms used in the Glossary for the programmes of study for English.

Verbs : The Imperative Mood

Imperative verbs, to more correctly verbs used in the imperative mood,  are used to convey a command.  In everyday language this means that the imperative is used to give instructions.

An imperative sentence sounds like the speaker is being bossy and telling someone what to do. Even if an instruction is given politely, it is clearly a command and not up for discussion.

Look at these examples:

  • Give me those scissors!
  • Go to your bedroom!
  • Finish your tea and get to bed!
  • Leave the dog alone!
  • Stop it!
  • Come back here, now!
  • Pull!

Use the infinitive of the verb form of the verb to create the imperative.

This form of the verb is very useful when it comes to the writing of instructions. Most recipes are written using the imperative mood.

Verbs : Irregular Verbs

A verb is a word that conveys an action or a state of being. Verbs have tenses to tell us when the action takes place.

The three main verb tenses are the past tense, the present tense and the future tense.

Most verbs follow a regular pattern in the formation of their past tenses – to form the past tense we add a variety of suffixes -d. -ed, -ied

Most commonly verbs form the past tense by adding -ed

work – worked
jump – jumped
answer – answered

Verbs that end in a short vowel followed by a consonant usually double the consonant and add -ed

pat – patted
step – stepped
pop – popped

If a verb ends in e we just add a -d

chase – chased
praise – praised
share – shared

Verbs that end in a y drop the y and add -ied

hurry – hurried
marry – married
carry – carried

Irregular verbs do not follow this pattern. Some form the past tense by changing a vowel.  Sometimes the past participle is the same as the past tense (as it is in regular verbs) but sometimes it differs.

Follow the links below for lists of irregular verbs together with the way they form their past tenses and past participles.

The 50 most common irregular verbs in English
More irregular verbs in English

Verbs : Tenses

The verb in a sentence indicates what action is taking place.To inform the audience about when that action took place, is taking place or will take place, verbs have tenses. There are three main tenses: past, present and future. Each of these tenses can be sub-divided into three forms: simple, continuous and perfect.

The present tense:
The simple present tense – actions which happen regularly.
The present continuous tense – actions which are taking place now.
The present perfect tense – actions are at this moment just completed.

(Every day) I climb up the wall.
I am (currently) climbing up the wall.
I have (just) climbed up the wall.

The past tense.
The simple past tense – action which took place at a specific time and is completed.
The past continuous tense – actions that took place over a period of time.
The past perfect tense- actions that were completed by a specific time in the past.
Continue reading “Verbs : Tenses”

Verbs : 1st, 2nd and 3rd person…

We say that a verb has ‘persons’. The ‘person’ of the verb depends upon whom or what is its subject and whether the subject is singular or plural.

The issue of ‘person’ is also important when it comes to writing as it enables us to write from a particular point of view. There are three ‘persons’ and each ‘person’ has a singular and a plural option depending upon the subject of the verb…

1st person – this always includes the speaker/writer as the subject of the verb. If the speaker/writer is alone then this would be first person singular and the pronoun used would be ‘I’. If the speaker is included in a group then this would be first person plural and the pronoun would be ‘we’.

2nd Person – the speaker/writer is speaking to an individual or a group. In both cases the pronoun he would use is ‘you’. Continue reading “Verbs : 1st, 2nd and 3rd person…”

Verbs : Subject and Object

All verbs have a subject. The subject of a verb is generally the person or thing that is performing the action prescribed by the verb in question. Often, the subject is what the sentence is about and usually (but not always) comes at the beginning of the sentence.

The dog chased the cat.
She sang a song.

If a verb is used in the imperative in the form of a command, then the subject is usually implied:

Get down from that tree!
(You, get down from that tree!)


A verb may have an object as well as a subject. The object is the person or thing which is affected by the action of the verb. The object of a verb can be a noun, a pronoun or a phrase.

Continue reading “Verbs : Subject and Object”

Verbs : The Subjunctive Mood

If you are a student of Spanish, the subjunctive mood is something you will have to contend with on a grand scale. In English, however, most people will go through life blissfully aware of its existence. Even people who use the subjunctive without most likely do so without realising it…

A verb is in the subjunctive mood when it expresses a condition which is doubtful or not factual. It is most often found in a clause beginning with the word if.

It is also found in clauses following a verb that expresses a doubt, a wish, regret, request, demand, or proposal.These are verbs typically followed by clauses that take the subjunctive:

ask, demand, determine, insist, move, order, pray, prefer, recommend, regret, request, require, suggest, and wish.

In English there is no difference between the subjunctive and normal, or indicative, form of the verb except for the present tense third person singular and for the verb to be.

The subjunctive for the present tense third person singular drops the -s or -es so that it looks and sounds like the present tense for everything else.

The subjunctive mood of the verb to be is be in the present tense and were in the past tense, regardless of what the subject is.

Here are a few examples: Continue reading “Verbs : The Subjunctive Mood”

Verbs : definition and use…

A verb is a kind of word. Its job is to signal an action, an occurrence or a state of being in a sentence.

This tells the reader/listener who is doing what, what is happening or that somebody or thing… well, just ‘is’ or ‘was’. In fact, in order to actually be a sentence a group of words must contain a verb.

It is worth noting here that verbs have tenses. The tense of a verb informs the audience whether the action happened

  • in the past – ten minutes ago, yesterday, last week or any time gone by
  • the present – at this very moment
  • the future – in a few minutes, tomorrow, next week or any time yet to come.

Continue reading “Verbs : definition and use…”

How do I use semicolons?

The semicolon is a really powerful punctuation mark. If you get it right you will impress those reading your work as well as being able to express your ideas and opinions in a more subtle way.

The semicolon is pretty easy to figure out once it has been explained. Here are a couple of situations where the semicolon is used

In lists where the items themselves have commas.

The semicolon is used to clarify a complicated list containing many items, many of which contain commas themselves. Have a look at this example:

School dinner for today is a choice between fish, chips, peas, sausage, egg, beans, sauté potatoes, beef pie, mashed potatoes, mushy peas, gravy, pasta, garlic bread, salad.

You can probably work out what each individual option is if you sit down and think about it but using semicolons to separate the choices does the job really well: Continue reading “How do I use semicolons?”

Collective Nouns: Posters/Worksheet

Are your children able to match the animals, places and objects to their collective nouns?  This free set of twenty posters from shows the collective nouns for various groups of animals, places and things will help them on their way.

Use them posters on a classroom display board, as part of whole class teaching activities or for group discussions! As an activity, children make their own posters based on other collective nouns?

Download the poster from teaching

To accompany the posters there is a printable collective nouns activity. Simply download this printable resource, cut out the word labels, jumble them up and ask your children to match them together.

They could also try to find other collective nouns and add these to the collection.

Download the worksheet from teaching

Full Stops

A full stop is used to show that you have come to the end of a sentence. We use sentences all the time. It can be difficult, however, to define one exactly.

In its simplest form a sentence is a group of words that can stand on its own and make sense. A sentence must have a subject and a verb. A sentence always begins with a capital letter and always ends with a full stop. In its simplest form a sentence might look like these:

The dog barked.
The dog barked at the postman.

‘dog’ is the subject of the verb ‘barked’ and ‘postman’ is the object. Each of these starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop.

Full stops are also used to show that you have shortened or abbreviated words. There are two types of abbreviations that use full stops…

Continue reading “Full Stops”

Comparatives and Superlatives

Adjectives and adverbs ending in -er or modified by the word more compare two items and ate known as comparative.

Adjectives or adverbs ending in -est or modified by the word most compare three or more items and are known as superlative.

Normally, -er and -est are added to one-syllable words.
-er and -est are added to two-syllable words unless the new word sounds awkward.

Correct: Everest is taller than Annapurna.
Incorrect: Everest is the taller of the three peaks.
(Three or more requires superlative.)

Correct: Annapurna is the tallest of the three peaks.

Correct: fairer prettier handsomestAwkward: famousest readier
Correct: most famous more ready

Use the modifiers more or most with all root words longer than two syllables as well as with Continue reading “Comparatives and Superlatives”

Noun Explorer – interactive

This activity offers the opportunity to select a noun from a group of five different words. On screen a group of five fishes is each labelled with a different word. The cursor appears in the shape of a worm which can be fed to any of the fish. If the fish selected has a noun as its label then it dances a summersault and the score is increased by one. Wrong guesses are greeted with a silencing of the bubbles soundtrack, a cross next to the selected fish and an increase in the ‘wrong’ total.

An interesting way to use this game might be to have it on an interactive whiteboard in front of the whole class and to consider each of the words in turn. Pupils could be asked to identify which word is the noun and to indicate why they have rejected the alternatives.

This is a Flash based activity and as such may not work on some tablet computers and hand held devices.

Noun Explorer by Sheppard Software

Singular and plural nouns…

There are a number of different rules when it comes to making nouns plural…

A noun that refers to a SINGLE object or person is SINGULAR in number. A noun which refers to MORE THAN one object or person is said to be PLURAL in number. The The plurals of nouns can be formed in a number of different ways.

1. A plural is most often formed by simply adding an ‘s’ at the end of the singular form of the noun:

eg. boy: boys, dog: dogs, tree: trees, etc.

This also works for nouns ending in ‘y’ but only where the letter before the ‘y’ is a vowel.

eg: boy: boys, day: days, turkey: turkeys, tray: trays.

2. If a noun ends in ‘s’,’sh’,’ch’or ‘x’, the plural is formed by adding ‘es’.

Eg: boxes, churches, thrushespasses, etc.

3. If the noun ends in ‘y’ and the letter before the ‘y’ is a consonant then the plural is formed by changing the ‘y’ to an ‘i’ and adding’es’.

eg: berry: berries, cherry: cherries, bunny: bunnies, factory: factories, etc.

4. Sometimes, but not always, nouns that end in ‘f’ make their plurals by changing the ‘f’ to a ‘v’ then adding ‘-es’.

eg: leaf: leaves, loaf: loaves, half: halves, thief: thieves.

Continue reading “Singular and plural nouns…”

What’s the Correct Order for Multiple Adjectives?

When you list several adjectives in a row, there is a specific order in which they need to be written or spoken. Native speakers of English tend to put them in the correct order naturally so if it feels right it probably is right. In any case, it’s unlikely that this will hit a SPAG test any time soon.

I include this information for interest and because many, if not most, people will be unaware of the existence of any formal list of the order in which adjectives should appear when in a list before a noun. It doesn’t always ring true, either; the list says that observations/opinions should come before size but a native speaker might sometimes reverse this if it sounded better:

‘My dog has beautiful, big eyes,’


My dog has big, beautiful eyes,’

– you decide…

If you’re learning English, you’ll have to contend with memorising the order and it sometimes sounding awkward to a native speaker. For what it’s worth, here’s the list: Continue reading “What’s the Correct Order for Multiple Adjectives?”

Adjectives: definition and use…

An adjective is a kind of word, its job is to give us more information about a noun.

Adjectives describe nouns by giving information about its size, shape, age, colour, origin or material. In its simplest form an adjective can be found in a simple statement such as:

The soup is hot.
The glass was dirty

‘Soup’ and ‘glass’ are both nouns; ‘hot’ and ‘dirty’ are the adjectives which describe those nouns, increasing the information that we have about each of them. Within the context of a written passage an adjective will usually be found immediately before a noun.

In the sentence below  the nouns are ‘dog’ and ‘street’ The words that give us extra information about these nouns are ‘old and ‘dusty’ these words are adjectives.

The old dog walked down the dusty street.

We can, of course, use more than one adjective to describe a noun; when we do this, the adjectives are separated by commas. The commas go between the adjectives. Note there is no comma between the last adjective in the list and the following noun.

The old, brown dog walked down the dark, dusty street.

Why use adjectives?

Well, if you look at this cynically and clinically, using adjectives moves the standard of a pupil’s written work from Level 2 into the Level 3 camp. However, the use of adjectives also enables the writer to begin to affect the way the reader feels about the characters and events unfolding in the text.

The happy, smiling children watched as the warm sun rose over the green, rolling hills.

… can be  placed in apparent danger by simply substituting more evocative, ominous adjectives for the ones in the original sentence. This has the effect of creating tension – perhaps makes the reader wonder what might be about to happen…

The cold, shivering children watched as the feeble sun rose over the dark, ominous hills.

Pupils should be encouraged to use adjectives as the first step towards developing style…