Base Form of a Verb

What Is the Base Form of a Verb?

The base form (or root) of a verb is the form listed in the dictionary.

It is the version of the verb without any endings (endings such as -s, -ing, and ed). The base form is the same as the infinitive (e.g., to walk, to paint, to think) but without the to.

Table of Contents

  • All Five Verb Forms
  • Examples of Base Forms of Verbs
  • The Base Form in the Present Tense
  • The Base Form in the Infinitive Form
  • The Base Form in the Imperative Mood
  • The Base Form in the Subjunctive Mood
  • More about the Five Verb Forms
  • Why the Base Form of a Verb Is Important
  • Test Time!

All Five Verb Forms

The base form is one of five verb forms in English.
base form of a verb
Let's look at all five forms of the verb "to take":
1Base Formtake
2The -S Form
(also called the Third Person Singular Present Tense Form)
takes
3Past Formtook
4The -ING Form
(also called the Present Participle Form)
taking
5The Past Participle Formtaken
This lesson is about No. 1, the base form.

Examples of Base Forms of Verbs

Here are some examples of the base forms of verbs:
  • see
  • (These are not the base form: sees, seen, seeing.)
  • sing
  • (These are not the base form: sings, singing.)
  • play
  • (These are not the base form: plays, played, playing.)
  • concur
  • (These are not the base form: concurs, concurred, concurring.)
base form of a verb

The Base Form in the Present Tense

The base form of a verb appears in all versions of the present tense except the third person singular. For example:
ConjugationExample 1Example 2
1st person singularI playI concur
2nd person singularYou playYou concur
3rd person singularHe plays
She plays
It plays
He concurs
She concurs
It concurs
1st person pluralWe playWe concur
2nd person pluralYou playYou concur
3rd person pluralThey playThey concur

The Base Form in the Infinitive Form

The base form of a verb appears in the infinitive form (including the zero infinitive form, i.e., without the word to). For example:
  • It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them. (Austrian medical doctor Alfred Adler)
  • A musicologist is a man who can read music but can't hear it. (English conductor Thomas Beecham)

The Base Form in the Imperative Mood

The base form is used for commands (i.e., the imperative mood. For example:
  • Eat a live toad the first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.
  • Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you are ready or not. (American self-help author Napoleon Hill)

The Base Form in the Subjunctive Mood

The base form of a verb appears in the subjunctive mood. For example:
  • He demands that you be silent.
  • I propose he stay with us.

More about the Five Verb Forms

The table below shows the five verb forms in English.
Verb Type 1
The Base Form
(aka "Simple Form" or "Uninflected Form")
2
The -S Form
(aka "Third Person Singular Present Tense Form")
3
Past Form
(aka "The Past Tense Form")
4
The -ING Form
(aka the Present Participle Form
5
The Past Participle Form
Regular play plays played playing played
Regular use uses used using used
Regular marry marries married marrying married
Irregular bring brings brought bringing brought
Irregular run runs ran running run
Irregular fall falls fell falling fallen
Irregular drink drinks drank drinking drunk
Understanding the verb forms (including the base form) is useful when learning English because it allows teachers and pupils to talk about the components that form the various tenses.

For example, with some verbs, the base form, past form, and past participle form are the same (e.g., let, I let, I had let). However, with others, they are all different (e.g., take, I took, I had taken).

Knowing the various verb forms is a great starting point for learning these complex rules and exceptions.
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.