Verb Form Errors

Verbs are parts of speech that express action (studied, frets) or a state of being (are, was).

Verbs are the heart of a sentence because they show what a subject is doing or express the relationship between a subject and an object. Ask your instructor for advice on improving your use of verbs, especially if you don't understand the highlighted verb errors in your essay.

Helping Verbs

Helping verbs or auxiliary verbs precede the main verb. All of these are helping verbs:

be, am, is, are, was, were, being, been, has, have, had, do, does, did, can, will, shall, should, could, would, may, might, and must.

Overlooking helping verbs will make your sentences ungrammatical:

Many students don't know what they going to do over their summer vacations.

After I have finished track practice, I study for tomorrow's big biology test.

In the first sentence, "they going" should be "they are going." In the second, "I study" should be "I will study." When you are using helping verbs, you also need to make sure that you use the correct form of the main verb. How would you improve these sentences?

I don't know whether I should got a summer job or take summer classes.

Graduating seniors are face with many important decisions.

In these sentences, the main verb form should be "get" in the first example and "faced" in the second example.

Make sure you do not use of after a helping verb.

In some verb phrases, two or more verbs will be used together (should have auditioned, might have been selected, could have changed). When you are using verb phrases, you might be tempted to use the word "of" because it sounds similar to "have," but this is incorrect. Here are some examples:

I should of auditioned for the musical, but I was afraid I couldn't memorize the songs.

I might of been selected for the debate team, but I didn't spend enough time preparing my argument.

"Of" is a preposition, not a verb, and in each of these sentences "of" should be replaced with the helping verb "have."

Make sure you use helping verbs correctly.

Verbs such as might, must, can, would, and should are helping verbs that express conditions that restrict an action or being. Here are two examples:

I might have made the varsity basketball team if I had attended basketball camp this summer.

If I were running the cafeteria, I would offer a delicious vegetarian meal every day.

Helping verbs can be used to express a wish that is contrary to the facts, as in this example:

I wish I could have read the instructor's mind and learned that she was going to give us a pop quiz on cell division.

Helping verbs can also indicate an action completed or occurring at a specific time. Helping verbs such as "had" and "have" show the relationships between two actions, describing when they happened in relation to each other. For example, in this sentence, the "baking" occurred before the "realizing" happened:

Susan had baked two batches of cookies before she realized that she had not put sugar in them.

Here the action is currently happening and will probably happen for some time:

I am doing on-line research on colleges and talking to my older sister's friends to try to decide where I want to apply.

When you use the helping verb "will" plus the infinitive form of the verb, you are indicating that the action will be completed at some future time:

I will apply to colleges on the West Coast because I don't want to move too far from home.

Make sure you use the infinitive form of the verb correctly.

The infinitive is the basic form of every verb, and it is from the infinitive that all other verb tenses are derived. Using the word "to" plus the present tense form of the verb form the infinitive. The following sentences contain examples of incorrectly formed infinitives:

He will learn to drove when he turns sixteen.

The sophomores plan to holds their talent show before the holidays.

The infinitive should be "to drive" in the first sentence and "to hold" in the second sentence.

Use infinitives to show action that is occurring at the same time as, or later than, the action of the main verb.

I want to join the chorus, but I don't know whether my voice is high enough.

This sentence means that the "wanting" is happening at the same time as the "joining."