San Jose City College

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   Learn to Avoid Verb Form Errors
Verb form errors occur when writers fail to use the finite (time-included) and nonfinite (timeless) forms of verbs in correct combination. The nonfinite forms are the verbals: the base form, the past participle, and the present participle. Errors include incorrect formation of simple present verbs (e.g., using an auxiliary where none is needed); incorrect formation of negative verbs, question forms, and verb phrases with modals; faulty formation of passive, conditional, and subjunctive forms; use of incorrectly formed verbals; use of incorrect verbals after causative verbs and verbs of perception; and incorrect choice of an infinitive or gerund.
While verb form errors are a separate category from verb tense errors, they reflect limited mastery of the verb tense system and of the various uses of verbals.
Verb form errors can be easily avoided by learning the rules that govern verb phrase formation and the special uses of the nonfinite forms. In all verb phrases, the most basic rule to follow is FINITE FORM +NONFINITE FORM.

      The auxiliary verb (AUX) is the finite form; it shows time (past, present, or future).
         The auxiliary verb is also called a helping verb
      The main verb is the nonfinite form. It shows aspect: completed or continuing action, or
          state of the verb (e.g., passive).
The information and activities on the pages that follow will help you learn to edit for
correct forms of verbs and form and use of verbals.
Select a verb form topic from the table below
or work your way through all of the pages.

Simple present, past, and future: AUX + BASE FORM
Practice writing simple present, past, and future forms
Verb forms with modal auxiliaries: MODAL AUX + BASE FORM
Past forms of modal verb phrases: PAST MODAL + BASE and MODAL + HAVE + PAST PARTICIPLE
Modal verb phrases with progressive aspect: MODAL + BE + PRESENT PARTICIPLE
Verb forms with perfect and progressive aspect: HAVE/HAS/HAD + PAST PARTICIPLE and HAVE/HAS/HAD BEEN + PRESENT PARTICIPLE
Passive verb forms: BE + PAST PARTICIPLE
Verb forms in conditional sentences
Practice conditional sentences
Hope vs. Wish
Subjunctive verb form with special verbs
Verbals after verbs of perception [see someone DO something] and progressive and passive forms of infinitives and gerunds
Verbals following causative verbs: MAKE/LET/HELP/HAVE somebody DO something vs. HAVE/GET something DONE
50 student samples of verb form errors classified by type

NOTE: Word Form or Verb Form Error?
When infinitives and gerunds are formed correctly but selected incorrectly, the error is classified as a word form error rather than a verb form error as both infinitives and gerunds function as subjects or objects in nominal sentence positions, thereby acting as nouns. When they are used correctly but formed incorrectly, this editing guide classifies the error as a verb form error as the form of the verbal itself is incorrect.