Verb Phrases for intermediate learners

It's time to learn how to identify the verb phrase in a sentence. Learning about verb phrases is essential in speaking and writing without mistakes.

Verb Phrases in the English Grammar

What Are Verb Phrases?

A verb phrase is a group of words that includes the main verb and any auxiliary or modal verbs needed to express the action or state of being in a sentence.

Verb Phrases: Structure

A verb phrase can consist of just one verb, or it can follow one or more modal verbs or auxiliary verbs as modifiers of the main verb. Look at the following examples:

The kitten ate its meal.

Didn't I tell you that I can read an advanced level article?

Verb Phrases: Types

In English, there are two types of verb phrases:

  • Simple Verb Phrases
  • Complex Verb Phrases

Now, let us study each of them closely:

Simple Verb Phrases

As mentioned above, it is possible to have only one verb as the verb phrase. In that case, we have a simple verb phrase. Look below:

Sally watches TV every afternoon.

As you can see, the verb phrase consists of only a single verb.

I work in a restaurant.

Complex Verb Phrases

Complex verb phrases consist of the main verb along with one or more auxiliary or modal verbs before the main verb. Look at the following examples:

Hannah might come to the party tonight.

As you can see, we have a modal verb before the main verb.

They have gone to that café before, dad.

Modals in Verb Phrases

Complex verb phrases can have one or more modal verbs. The following list presents an overview of English modals:

Now, take a look at some examples:

Rick might join us, guys!

I hate it when people say it could have been worse.

Auxiliary Verbs in Verb Phrases

Verb phrases can also include one or more auxiliary verbs. The following list provides an overview of English auxiliary verbs:

Now, take a look at some examples:

I am watching a movie tonight.

You must accept that she doesn't care about you.

Verb Phrases: Uses

Verb phrases are mainly used to indicate tenses such as continuous and perfect tense. Look at the following examples:

She could have done something worse to you.

Sally is staying at her friend's tonight.


Keep in mind that imperative sentences have simple verb phrases, as they typically consist of only the main verb. For example:

Look at me, Anna!


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Phrases are comprised of one or more words that form a meaningful grammatical unit. They are one of the most important elements of English grammar.

Noun Phrases

When a group of nouns come together, they form a noun phrase. To know what is a noun phrase and how short or how long a noun phrase can be, start here!

Prepositional Phrases

What are prepositional phrases? Generally, as its name requires, prepositional phrases are phrases made of prepositions. To get to know them, read the article.

Adjective Phrases

Phrases are two or more words that can function as specific parts of speech. Adjective phrases are groups of words that function as adjectives.

Adverbial Phrases

Adverbial phrases are made of two or more words and are used as the adverb of the sentence. In this lesson, you will get to know phrasal verbs.

Infinitive Phrases

Infinitive phrases are phrases that look like infinitives but they are used in special positions.

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