Five Verb Forms for TOEFL Speaking and Writing

Understanding the five verb forms in English grammar will help you to improve your speaking and writing proficiency.

Five verb forms

Five Verb Forms of the regular verb “talk”


1. Infinitive: to talk

  • Infinitives typically follow the main verb to express an action that has not been completed yet:   I need to talk to the manager of the restaurant.

2. Present tense: he/she/it talks

  • The present tense verb uses an -s ending and can express habitual actions: She talks to her mother every day before leaving for her job.

3. Past Tense: talked

  • Regular past tense verbs are affixed with -ed to indicate an event that has already occurred in the past:  Last week I talked to my father, who is living in Georgia.

4. Present participle: am/is/are talking

  • [be + ing] The present participle attaches to a main verb which occurs after the auxiliary “be” verb to indicate an action that is currently in progress: Tomas is talking to Professor Jones about the possibility of delaying the final project.

5.  Past participle: has/have talked

  • [Have + PP] The past participle attaches to the main verb which must follow “have”: Lana has talked to several of her friends.

Five Verb Forms of the irregular verb “eat”

Similar to the above examples, irregular verbs follows similar word orders and rules, except that the simple past form and the past past participle forms do not take the -ed ending.

  • Infinitive: to eat
  • Present tense: he/she/it eats
  • Past Tense: ate
  • Present participle: am/is/are eating
  • Past participle: has/have eaten

Five Verb Forms: Past tense or past participle inflectional endings?

Observe the words in Set A and Set B. Which group represent the past tense inflectional ending? The past participle inflectional ending? How do you know?


Susan wrote a letter. Susan has written a letter.
Tom read three books last month. Tom has read twelve books this year.
The students learned the necessary course material for Eng 420. By the end of the quarter last summer, the students had learned the course content for Eng 420.

Irregular Verbs Forms: Lists to help you get started

During the speaking and writing section of the TOEFL exam, you MUST use the correct forms of the verbs in your responses. The irregular verbs have hard-to-learn present and past participle endings. To help you, I have several verb form lists to help you get started:

  • Write each verb form in bold letters on one side of a 4″ x 6″ note card.  On the other side of the note-card, write the simple present, simple past, and past participle forms of the verb.
  • Create sample sentences for the three forms of the verb.
  • As you do your speaking and writing practice, use the verbs that you are learning.
  • Download the audio files to these regular and irregular verb form lists. Listen to them and practice repeating these forms while you travel or exercise.

Regular Verb Form List 1

Irregular Verb Form List 2

Irregular Verb Form List 3

Irregular Verb Form List 4

Good luck!

Michael Buckhoff,

Teaching Experience

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Speaking and Writing Feedback Service

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