Verb Conjugation and Other Torture

Shrunken HeadGood morning, dear readers! Today, we’re going to dive into the wonderful world of verb conjugation. Now, now, please try to contain your excitement.

So what exactly is verb conjugation? Well, it’s what happens when we change a verb’s form to match the properties of voice, mood, tense, person, and number (which you may remember learning about in my earlier post on verbs). Right, so what does that mean?

First, let’s do a quick review of those five properties. Voice tells us who is performing the action and/or who is receiving it (active vs. passive). Mood tells us if something is being expressed as a fact (indicative), a command (imperative), or something hypothetical (subjunctive). Tense tells us whether the action occurred in the present, past, or future. Person tells us who is acting. Number tells us whether the verb is singular or plural.

When we conjugate a verb, all of these properties may be reflected in the results. And most verbs, except auxiliary verbs, will take one of the following five forms: 1) Infinitive, 2) Simple Present, 3) Simple Past, 4) Present Participle, 5) Past Participle.

Okay, so let’s look at some examples using the verbs terrify, curdle, and shrink.

Infinitive terrify curdle shrink
Simple Present terrify (terrifies) curdle (curdles) shrinks
Simple Past terrified curdled shrank
Present Participle terrifying curdling shrinking
Past Participle terrified curdled shrunk

She terrifies small children.
Voice: active (she is performing the action)
Mood: indicative (it is a fact that she does this)
Tense: present (simple)
Person: third person singular (indicated by the “s” at the end of the verb)
Number: singular (because person in singular)

We are curdling blood.
Voice: active (we are performing the action)
Mood: indicative (it is a fact that we are doing this)
Tense: present (continuous, because it’s happening right now)
Person: third person plural (indicated by the pronoun “we” and the auxiliary “are”)
Number: plural (because person in plural)

You will shrink 13 heads today!
Voice: active (you will perform the action)
Mood: imperative (it is a command)
Tense: future (simple)
Person: second person (indicated by the pronoun “you”)
Number: singular (because person in singular)

If only they had been terrifying the villagers last night.
Voice: active (they should have been performing the action)
Mood: subjunctive (this is expressing a hypothetical desire)
Tense: past (perfect continuous, because it would have been a continued action)
Person: third person plural (indicated by the pronoun “they”)
Number: plural (because person is plural)

And there you have it. Conjugating verbs in a nutshell.

If you would like to learn more, check out the following resources:

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Image credit:  uruslav / deviantART

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