GMAT SC – Verbs And Verb Tenses

It is very important to be able to recognize the verb in a sentence, because doing so is often the most important way to understand what the sentence is trying to convey. Thus, the verb is the most important part of the sentence. A verb or compound verb states something about the subject of the sentence and depicts actions, events, or states of being. Unlike most other parts of speech, verbs change their form.

Most verbs are action words (called action verbs), but a few verbs indicate state of being or existence and are called stative or linking verbs. Action verbs are the most common verbs. 

Some verbs like “appear”, “seem”, and “show” can be either action or linking verbs. It depends on whether an action is exhibited by the word or not. 

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Sometimes, a verb can be more than one word. When a verb is more than one word, it is called a verb phrase.Verb phrases use auxiliary or helping verbs and can comprise of two, three or four words. 

Verb Tenses are a temporal linguistic quality expressing the time at, during, or over which a state or action denoted by a verb occurs. 

All verbs (and only verbs) have tenses. Unless a word can be used in the present, past and future tense, it is not a verb – no exceptions. Verbs come in two flavours: regular and irregular. Regular verbs form their past tenses in a regular way by adding -ed or -d if it already ends in an e. Irregular verbs form their past tense in an irregular way, often completely changing the look of the verb.

The present, past and future tenses are pretty easy to understand. It is the perfect tenses that are relatively difficult to comprehend.

Present perfect tense: Used when an action in the past is described in relation to the present, or when an action in the past still occurs in the present. E.g., I have chopped wood every Tuesday for three years.

Past perfect tense: Used to describe an action in the past that preceded another past action. E.g., I had chopped wood every Tuesday until I bought a chain saw.

The wood chopping preceded the buying of the chain saw, and thus “I had chopped” is used.

Future perfect tense: Used when an action in the future is described in relation to the present, or when an action in the present continues to occur in the future. E.g., “By 2020, I will have chopped enough wood to heat six houses.”

Almost all verb tense errors on the exam occur in sentences with more than a single verb. When examining the tenses of the verbs, it is important to observe if the time scheme makes sense, and if it is consistent and logical. To spot errors in verb tense, you must look carefully at the verbs and the other words (particularly adverbs of time and prepositional phrases like “in the future”) in the sentence that establish the time scheme.

Exception: “A handful of ancient astronomers realized that the earth revolves about the sun and the moon circles the earth.” – Though the main verb is in the past tense, the verbs in the subordinate clauses are in the present tense. This is because the action or state of being that the clauses are describing continues to be true forever (general fact), meaning that it is an act of the present that is still going on. 

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