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:


Image credit:  uruslav / deviantART

Pronoun Pandemonium: Part 1

Heloise, Demon Hunter

Today, dear readers, we’re going to look at pronouns, which is the only part of speech I have yet to cover in detail. (See the bottom of this post for links to the other seven.) As with nouns and verbs, I will break pronouns into two chunks, so as not to overwhelm you.

Okay, so pronouns are sort of like shorthand for nouns. We use them to stand in for nouns that have already been expressed. For example:

  • Buffy scraped vampire goo off her face.

We also use pronouns in situations where the noun is understood. So, if you were reading a story in which Heloise, the Demon Hunter, is talking to her sidekick Abelard, you would know who is who in the following sentence:

  • She tossed him the crossbow and said, “Make sure you aim right between the demon’s eyes.”

So, as with nouns, pronouns have the following four properties: case, number, gender, and person. Pronouns and their antecedents (the word the pronoun in standing in place of) must match when it comes to number, gender, and person, as in the following examples:

  • Number: The demons and their minions. vs. The demon and its minion.
  • Gender: Buffy fixed her hair. vs. Damian put down his copy of The Omen.
  • Person: We should test our new bullets before the rest of the werewolves arrive. vs. I want my mommy!

When it comes to the property of case, there are three subcategories, and they are: nominative, genitive, and objective. In the nominative case, the pronoun is the subject of a finite verb (I stubbed my toe). In the genitive case, the pronoun indicates possession on the part of its antecedent (Heloise used her axe). And in the objective case, the pronoun acts as the object of a verb or a preposition (Abelard staked him right in the heart).

Finally, there is one area of case that often causes confusion and that is whether to use you and I or you and me. The former is nominative, while the latter is typically objective (you and me is a compound object). Consider the following examples:

  • 1: Binding a demon with the spell would be easy for you and I.
  • 2: Binding a demon with the spell would be easy for you and me.

People often go with the first example, probably because of some well-intentioned indoctrination that took place in childhood. But the second example is actually correct because, in this sentence, you and me is the object, not the subject. An easy trick to deal with sentences like this is to try it with only the first person pronoun. Check it out:

  • 1: Binding a demon with the spell would be easy for I.
  • 2: Binding a demon with the spell would be easy for me.

The second example makes more sense when you look at it that way. (I hope you are all nodding in agreement…)

Okay, so that’s it for Pronouns: Part 1. Come on back next week to learn all about the six classes of pronouns. In the meantime, check out my posts on the Eight Parts of Speech:

Nouns: Part 1
Nouns: Part 2
Verbs: Part 1
Verbs: Part 2


Image credit: © Jesse-lee Lang /