Table 3.1 Main forms of the verb phrase

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Figuring Out the Meaning of a Table

On page 43, we have a table that we need to analyze and to think about carefully. First, we have to become expert readers of tables to get all the information from them that we can. Remember, they are not here for page decoration! The authors have taken the energy to create a table; the publishers have agreed to give the extra space required for a table; so, it must be important.

First, review the presentation of the information here.

What's the purpose of the table?

How many columns does the table have? What's the purpose of each column? What information is presented in each column?

How many rows does the table have? What information is presented in each row?

How do the columns and the rows interact?


Table 3.1 Main forms of the verb phrase



This table tells us something really important about verb phrases in English. First, remember that we're talking about the verb phrase that's used in clauses. So, how many sub-sets exist? What's the basis for the sub-sets of the verb phrase?

English verb phrases come in 3 types: (a) present tense verb phrases, (b) past tense verb phrases, and (c) verb phrases with modal auxiliary verbs. We'll study the concept of tense more in Chapter 6 to see how this meaning/form combination works in English.

NOTICE: the system does NOT include "future time" because the modals are used for meanings other than future time. Also, English has a wide variety of ways to communicate about future time, including the use of some of the forms that are in the present tense. We do not have a single set of forms dedicated to future time. So, we do not have anything to label "future tense."

The table tells us that the verb phrase system is a three-part system of forms. The forms are created by the use of inflection (for the endings of the simple present, simple past, and the past participles) along with multi-word combinations (for the perfect, progressive, passive, and other combinations). The modal auxiliary system combines any of the various modal auxiliaries in the patterns shown (can, could, shall, should, may, might, must, will, and would are all possibilities for those forms of the verb phrase).

This table give us all the forms that are possible for English verbs. Now we need to learn more about the meanings of the forms and how those forms are used in various registers.

I look forward to hearing from you, especially to help you with aspects of the Longman Student Grammar that you find confusing or puzzling.  Please send your questions to me at patbyrd@comcast.net.