Complete sentences require a subject and a verb.  Verbs are used either to describe action or to link a subject to a description (e. g., “The subject is important”).  In English, verbs convey three important pieces of information: (1) the type of action, (2) the time of the action, and (3) whether the action is simple or progressive.

Type of Action or State-of-Being/Linking

Students/Handouts-Guides/Media-Complete-A-V-Library/Handouts-(Get-It-Written)/Video/Prepositions">The most obvious information a verb conveys is the type of action. Most English verbs express a specific act.

Ex. 2 The girl ran a mile
Ex. 3 The ball rolled down the hill.

Some verbs link the subject to a phrase that describes it. These verbs are called state-of-being or linking verbs because they describe the state in which the subject exists (its “being”) or link it to the category to which it belongs. The main state-of-being verbs in English are to be, to feelto become, and to seem. Verbs like taste can serve as either linking or action verbs.  State-of-being/linking verbs should be followed by a noun or adjective.

Ex. 1 He is a student.
Ex. 2 The play was delightful.
Ex. 3 She seems sad.
Ex. 4 I felt happy.
Ex. 5 Popcorn tastes better with butter.
Ex. 6 He became a professor.


Verbs convey when an action or state-of-being occurred. There are three time periods (past, present, and future), and each has a perfect form. The perfect forms indicate the point in time that an action is completed.

Present/Present Perfect

Ex. Present  Allison throws the ball.
Ex. Present Perfect Allison has thrown the ball.

In the present tense, the action (throw) takes place in the present time (e.g., Allison throws the ball right now). However, with the present perfect, the action happened or began in the recent past and is completed or not happening in the present.

Past/ Past Perfect

Ex. Past   Allison threw the ball.
Ex. Past Perfect Allison had thrown the ball.

In the past tense, the entire action took place in the past (e.g., Allison threw the ball last week). However, with the past perfect, the action began in the past and was completed at some point in the past. The past perfect is also used when describing a past action that took place prior to another past action (e.g., Allison had thrown the ball before Chase ran to second base).

Future/ Future Perfect

Ex. Future  Allison will throw the ball.
Ex. Future Perfect Allison will have thrown the ball.

With the future tense, the action takes place at some time in the future (e.g., Allison will throw the ball tomorrow). However, with the future perfect, the action will begin at a point in the future and end before a later point in the future (e.g., Allison will have thrown the ball by the time she runs the bases).

Simple or Progressive

A verb conveys whether the action is simple or progressive. Simple means the action is complete and occurred once.

Ex. Juan ate lunch.

In this example, Juan has finished eating.  It was a one-time action—he is not still eating.  However, progressive actions are indicated using the -ing ending to indicate that Juan is/was/will be in the process of eating.

Ex. Juan was eating lunch.

By combining the six time periods with a simple or progressive form, we create verb tense. Use the chart below to get a better grasp of this idea.

Simple Time of Action Progressive
I ran Past I was running
I had run Past Perfect I had been running
I run Present I am running
I have run Present Perfect I have been running
I will run Future I will be running
I will have run Future Perfect I will have been running

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