Verbs have four principal parts: present tense (or infinitive), present participle, past tense, and past participle. These parts are used to create all forms of verbs including verb tenses, often with the use of helping verbs or auxiliary verbs.

The four basic forms can be shown as follow:


Present tense

(Base form)

Present participle

Past tense

Past participle


I cook.

I am cooking

I cooked.

I have cooked.


He arrives.

He is arriving.

He arrived.

He has arrived.


She breaks (eggs into the bowl).

She is breaking (eggs into the bowl).

She broke (eggs into the bowl).

She has broken (eggs into the bowl).


They cut (down trees)

They are cutting (down trees)

They cut (down trees)

They have cut (down trees)


Present tense – The present tense of a verb is its base form (cook, arrive, break, cut) or sometimes called its infinitive. The present form is used to describe an action that is continuing or happening at the present moment or an event that is still in progress. The present tense verbs are also used for the future tense with helping verbs, such as will: will cook / will arrive / will break / will cut.

Present participle – The present participle of all the verbs ends in –ing: cooking / arriving / breaking / cutting. It combines with a helping verb to form the six continuous tenses to show continuous actions: present continuous, past continuous, future continuous, present perfect continuous, past perfect continuous, and future perfect continuous.

Past tense – The past tense is used to express a completed action, an activity, or a state of being in the past at the time of speaking or writing. The basic form of past tense is the simple past tense. The simple past tense of regular verbs is formed by adding to the end of the verbs the suffix –ed (kick/kicked; lick/licked; play/played) or –d (bake/baked; care/cared; promise/promised). Irregular verbs do not follow this pattern when forming their past tense (buy/bought; cut/cut; hold/held; say/said), and learners are required to memorize them. The same form of the simple past tense is used for the first, second, and third persons, as well as singular and plural verbs.

Past participle – The past participle is used to show a past action or an action that started in the past and continues to the present. The past participle of a regular verb typically ends in –ed or –d: cook/cooked; arrive/arrived, and of an irregular verb, the verb takes on a different spelling or the spelling remains the same: break/broke; cut/cut. The past participle is also used with a helping verb in forming perfect tenses: present perfect, past perfect, and future perfect, and the passive tense.

The base form is the simple form of the verb (the infinitive without to). It is the form that is found in a dictionary.