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Basic English Sentence Structures

Verbal Phrases

English sentences have generally only one verb, but they may have several verbal phrases. Verbal phrases are constructed from the infinitive, present participle, or past participle and their corresponding complements:
Infinitive and present participle verbal phrases may take the place of nouns. Present participle phrases used asnouns are also called gerund phrases. Infinitive verbal phrases are also used as adverbs. Present participle and past participle verbal phrases may act like adjectives. In this case, they are also called participial phrases. Verbal phrases that are not essential to the meaning of the sentence are separated by commas.


John agreed to run for president.
To write was his ambition.The man stopped to rest.
Reading books in the train gives me a headache.
Buildings constructed during the depression are substandard.
Students drinking on campus will be expelled.
Trembling with excitement, Mary waited for her friend.
The house, remodeled recently, is very attractive.

Verbs in English can be classified into two categories: stative verbs and dynamic verbs. Dynamic verbs(sometimes referred to as "action verbs") usually describe actions we can take, or things that happen; stative verbs usually refer to a state or condition which is not changing or likely to change. The difference is important, because stative verbs cannot normally be used in the continuous (BE + ING) forms. This will explain the differences between the two types of verb, and give lots of examples ofeach kind.


Dynamic verbs

There are many types of dynamic verbs, but most of them describe activities or events which can begin and finish. Here are some examples:

|Dynamic Verb |Type |Examples |
|play |activity |She plays tennis every Friday.|
| | |She's playing tennis right now. |
|melt |process |The snow melts every spring. |
| | |The snow is melting right now.|
|hit |momentary action |When one boxer hits another, brain damage can result. (This suggests only ONE punch.)|
| | |When one boxer is hitting another, brain damage can result. (This suggests MANY |
| | |repeated punches.)|

Dynamic verbs, as you can see from the table above, can be used in the simple and perfect forms (plays, played, has played, had played) as well as the continuous or progressive forms (is playing, was playing, has been playing, had been playing).

Stative verbs

Stative verbs usually refer to a state or condition which isquite static or unchanging. They can be divided into verbs of perception or cognition (which refer to things in the mind), or verbs of relation (which describe the relationships between things). Here are some examples:

|Stative Verb |Type |Examples |
|hate |perception |I hate chocolate.|
|believe |perception |She believes in UFOs. |
|contain |relation |The box contains 24 cans of soda. |
|own |relation |Yong owns three motorbikes. |

Note that we CANNOT use these verbs in the continuous (progressive) forms; you CAN'T say "*Yong is owning three cars."...
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