Basic Verb Patterns
This unit looks at the way the form of a verb changes depending on it is used with other elements in the sentence.
Click to listen to a short text about James. As you listen, fill in the missing verbs. Note the forms of the verbs.
Answers and verb pattern in brackets:
1 plays (verb+object); 2. to become (to+Verb); 3. paints (verb+no object); 4. earns (verb+object); 5. doing (verb+ing);
6. to use (to+verb); 7.hearing (verb+ing); 8. to enrol (to+verb); 9. enrolling (verb+ing); 10. learn (no 'to)
Problems with verb use:
The following examples represent some of the common problems with using verbs in writing:
In this unit, we will explore the following verb patterns:
1 Verb + object
This type of verb requires an object after it to make sense, e.g. plays the cello; earns a living; The technicians did not apply the guidelines correctly.
2 Verb + no object
This type of verb makes sense on its own, e.g. She paints.
Adverbials may be added to give information about the action, such as time of the action or its frequency,
e.g. She paints every morning.
3 Verb complements: This refers to the form of the verb following the main verb in a sentence.
a) with infinitive (to+verb), e.g would like to become; wants to use; advised (him) to enrol; forced to resign
b) without infinitive, e.g. will make (him) learn; made him leave
c) with verb+ing, e.g. He remembered learning about...; spent hours repairing...; succeeded in stopping...
Verb + Object
Verbs in this pattern are called transitive verbs. They do not make complete sense on their own. For example,
*Did you enjoy? is clearly unfinished. 'Enjoy' what?
V O V O
Correction: Did you enjoy it? Did you enjoy the concert? (The verb enjoy needs an object: it; the concert.)
A large group of verbs take this pattern:
| admit || believe || feel || hear || like ||notice|| protect || search |
|climb|| fear || invite || love || operate || question ||sell|
| admire ||deny|| guess ||keep||miss||prepare||report||want|
How do you know if a verb is a transitive verb or used transitively?
Only transitive verbs can be used in the passive:
The police caught the thief.
Passive ----> The thief was caught by the police.
Some verbs have two objects - a direct object (dirO - answers the question 'lent what?') and an indirect object (indO - to whom or for whom the action is done)
V indO dirO
His friend lent him some money. (Or, His friend lent some money to him.)
BUT NOT *His friend lent some money.
Another common error is in the word order.
Example: The Prime Minister handed to her deputy the case.
Better: The Prime Minister handed the case to her deputy. OR The prime Minister handed her deputy the case.
Example: She offered to the poor food.
Better: She offered food to the poor. OR She offered the poor food.
Example: The US president sent to Iraq a warning.
Better: The US president sent a warning to Iraq. OR The US president sent Irag a warning.
Verb not followed by an Object
These are called intransitive verbs. Their meaning is complete, e.g.
The roof collapsed; A lot of people were screaming; The prisoner escaped; He fell.
But we can complement the verbs with
- adverbs, e.g. The roof collapsed last night; He fell heavily.
- prepositional phrases, e.g. A lot of people were screaming at the president; The prisoner escaped through a hole in the floor.
Examples of intransitive verbs include:
| arrive || appear || happen || occur || fall || depart |
|rise||die||sleep||go|| walk || wait |
Intransitive verbs are not used in the passive.
Some verbs are used transitively and intransitively:
| Verbs used transitively (with an object) || Verbs used intransitively (without an object) |
| 1. She reads his letter.|| She reads quietly (+adverb)|
|2. She speaks English and French.||She speaks very well.|
|3. Mary painted her room purple.||Mary paints in the studio. (+prepositional phrase)|
| 4.He drove his father's car.|| He drove into a wall.|
Practice: HyperGrammar [University of Ottawa]
Example: The university has decided to increase student tuition fees by 5% from 2011.
Click to view a useful classification of verbs that take this pattern: Verb + to-infinitive
(Source: Frodesen, J. and Eyring, J. (2000). Grammar dimensions: Form, meaning, and use. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.)
Verb + object + to-infinitive
V O to-infinitive
Example: The lecturer told the students to attend the last class.
Use some of the following verbs to write sentences with this verb pattern:
|advise || convince || force || persuade || teach |
|allow|| encourage || invite ||remind||urge|
Exceptions: make, let, watch, hear, and see. These verbs have this pattern: Verb+object+infinitive without to.
Examples : The lecturer let the students to record his lecture.
The father made his son to pay for the damage to the family car.
She watched him to drive away.
Witnesses saw the robbers to enter the bank at 2 p.m.
They heard the boy to scream.
Verb + -ing pattern
This verb pattern is used as a noun in the following ways:
• as the subject of a sentence to express an action or state or a general idea or concept: e.g. Swimming is good exercise; Watching too much television can be harmful to young children.
• as the object of a preposition: e.g. She thought about applying for the job of project manager.
• as the object of the verb: e.g. She particularly enjoyed teaching five-year olds.
The following verbs are normally followed by the verb + -ing pattern. Click on the highlighted heading for a useful classification of verbs that take the Verb + -ing pattern.
V-ing versus to-infinitive
Some verbs are followed by either to-infinitive OR verb+ing, with little difference in meaning.
Examples: I started to work/working at McDonald last week.
I like to help/helping people.
The following verbs can take both forms, but the meaning is different. Study the pairs of sentences below and consider how they are different in meaning.
1a After the Olympic Games in Beijing, she went on to compete in the World Cycling Champs in Germany.
1b After the Olympic Games in Beijing, she went on competing in her speciality sport until her 60th birthday.
2a The children need to bath the dog.
2b The children need bathing because they are very dirty.
3a The tourist stopped to ask for directions.
3b The tourist stopped asking for directions when no one showed willingness to help.
4a I remember to lock the door every time I leave the house.
4b I remember locking the door last night, but found it unlocked this morning.
(a) sentences describe one action following another; she completed one task and started on another.
(b) sentences may describe a repeated action (or seen as something as happening at the time of recall, state or condition:
Website link for further practice: Click for to+infinitive and Verb+ing tutorials