Verbs are a vital part of proper English, both written and spoken. In order to do well on the GMAT and in your business career, you must become familiar with the many English verbs and their possible forms. This includes learning how to spot verbs that violate grammar rules.

What is a verb?

Verbs convey actions, events, or states of being. Every complete sentence contains at least one verb:

Mary walked to the park.

The baseball game started at 10 pm

The three of us are all brunettes.

Go to the bank!

If there is no verb in the main clause, or if the verb is in the wrong form, the sentence is referred to as a sentence fragment or incomplete sentence. This type of sentence violates the rules of proper construction and is never the right answer in a Sentence Correction question.

Be on the lookout for sentence fragments. Check every sentence and make sure that it contains a main verb in the correct form.

Why do verbs change form?

Verbs are capable of conveying not only when an event occurred, but also how it relates to the noun(s) involved (is the man throwing the ball, or is it thrown to him? Is she driving the car, or is the car being driven?, etc). These two properties, tense and voice, dictate the proper formation of English verbs, along with one other property, mood.

  • Tense: indicates at what time an action is occurring (past, present, or future).
  • Mood: indicates the manner in which a thought is expressed or clarifies the purpose of a statement. For example, is the sentence an order, a question, or a statement?
  • Voice: indicates whether the subject is performing or receiving the action of the verb.

When you encounter a verb in a GMAT sentence, in addition to looking for subject-verb agreement, you must also check to make sure that it is in the correct tense, mood, and voice. This chapter will help you recognize when a verb is correctly formed with regard to these three properties.

How are verbs formed?

Every verb has a root form, called the infinitive. You use the infinitive to create most other forms of the verb:

to run → running, ran, will run, etc.
to eat → eating, ate, will eat, was eaten, etc.
to happen → happening, happened, will happen, etc.

The infinitive consists of the preposition “to” added to the base form of the verb: to run, to eat, to be, to happen, etc. An infinitive without “to” is called a “naked infinitive”: run, eat, be, happen, etc.

There are thousands of verbs in the English language. Although you will likely not be able to memorize all of the possible variations by test day, you can learn the basic rules governing their formation.

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