What Is a Verb Root (or "Root Form of a Verb")?
Verb RootA verb root (which is also known as the "root form of a verb" or the base form of a verb) is the version of the verb that is listed in the dictionary.
The verb root is the same as the infinitive form but without the "to." For example:
|Infinitive Form||Verb Root|
In other words, the verb root is the form of the verb without any endings (e.g., "-s," "-ing," and "ed").
The Other Verb FormsThe verb root is used to create the other forms of the verb. There are five forms of a verb:
Examples of Verb RootHere are some examples of verb roots:
- watch (The verb root "watch" is used to make these three forms: watches, watched, watching. Note that watched is both the past form and the past-participle form. This is common.)
- play (This is used to make these forms: plays, played, playing.)
- live (This is used to make these forms: lives, lived, living.)
- think (This is used to make these forms: thinks, thought, thinking.)
- drink (This is used to make these forms: drinks, drank, drinking, drunk. Note that the past form of the verb "to drink" is not the same as the past-participle form.)
The Verb Root Appears in Most of the Present TenseThe verb root appears in all versions of the present tense except the third person singular (shaded red). For example:
|Conjugation||Example 1||Example 2|
|1st person singular||I play||I concur|
|2nd person singular||You play||You concur|
|3rd person singular||He plays|
|1st person plural||We play||We concur|
|2nd person plural||You play||You concur|
|3rd person plural||They play||They concur|
The Verb Root Appears in the Imperative Mood (i.e., Commands)The verb root 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.
- Next time I see you, remind me not to talk to you. (Comedian Groucho Marx)
The Verb Root Appears in the Subjunctive MoodThe verb root of a verb appears in the subjunctive mood. For example:
- I propose he stay with us.
- Saddam Hussein systematically violated every UN resolution that demanded he disarm and destroy his chemical and biological weapons. (US politician Henry Waxman)
The Five Verb FormsThe table below shows the five verb forms in English.
The Verb Root
(aka "Base Form" or "Uninflected Form")
The -S Form
(aka "Third Person Singular Present Tense Form")
(aka "The Past Tense Form")
The -ING Form
(aka the Present Participle Form
The Past Participle Form
Why Should I Care about the Verb Roots?Understanding the verb forms (including the root form) is essential 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 root 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.