What Is the Base Form of a Verb? (with Examples)

by Craig Shrives

Base Form of a Verb (with Examples)

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.

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 page 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 Appears 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 Appears 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. (Alfred Adler, 1870-1937)
  • A musicologist is a man who can read music but can't hear it. (Thomas Beecham, 1879-1961)

The Base Form Appears in the Imperative Mood (i.e., Commands)

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. (Napoleon Hill)

The Base Form Appears 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.

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

Why Should I Care about the Base Form?

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.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

What are verbs? What is the infinitive form? What is the present tense? What is the third person? What is the imperative mood? What is the subjunctive mood? Glossary of grammatical terms