English Verb Phrases

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What is a verb phrase?

Quick Tips:

Verb phrase = main verb + auxiliary verbs (helping verbs)

Examples of verb phrases
(the verb phrases are underlined):

eating + are => are eating
"They are eating now."

come + will => will come
"I will come tomorrow."
wait + have been => have been waiting
"She has been waiting for more than an hour."

A verb phrase is a combination of a main verb and one or more auxiliary verbs (also known as helping verbs).

This group of words acts like a verb.

A word or group of words


For example, you could say, "I waited for you."

In this sentence the word waited is a verb.

You could replace waited with a group of words (a phrase) and say, "I have been waiting for you."

Have been waiting is a verb phrase, and it functions as a single verb in the sentence.

So we call it a verb phrase. It can also be called a compound verb.

Note that the verbs in the verb phrase can be separated. In other words, they don't have to follow each other!

For example, both "We will return!" and "Will we return?" contain verb phrases (in bold).

Note: Don't confuse verb phrases with phrasal verbs!

Additional examples of verb phrases 
(the verb phrase is in bold):

  • They are waiting for the rain to stop.

  • Why is she staying at home?

  • Jack is not taking any breaks.

  • Shanon will meet us there.

  • Will you help us?

  • He can speak more than ten languages.

  • Should I call you?

  • They have replaced all the locks.

  • My brother has been working there for over five years.

  • They have not seen it.

  • Was it baked?

  • His heart was broken.
A broken heart

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