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Posts Tagged ‘participles’

Compound Verbs

A compound verb is a combination of two verbs: 1) A so-called “auxiliary” verb – meaning, basically, an “additional” verb, and 2) a participle – past or present – that is essentially the “main” verb and that follows the auxiliary verb. For example:

  • Sarah was walking to the store when it started to rain.

“Walking” is the present participle (of “to walk”), and “was” is the auxiliary verb used in addition to “walking” (which is the main activity), to indicate that the walking Sarah did was ongoing.

The past participle of “to walk” can also be used in compound verbs, as in:

  • By the time Sarah had walked to the store, it had started to rain.

In this example, “had” is the auxiliary verb, and “walked” and “started” are the past participles (of “to walk” and “to start”).

Here are some other examples of compound verbs:

  • The point that Joan was trying to make was lost on her audience.
  • The meeting will reconvene in ten minutes.
  • Our professor has been talking for a very long time.
  • Our professor had been talking for a very long time when the bell rang.

Note that the auxiliary verb always orients the action in time – indicating whether the action is occurring, has already occurred, or will occur at some point in the future. Also, consider that:

“Had” (as in “had been talking”) is generally used to indicate that an action “had already occurred” (the “already” is implicit) – usually by the time that some other action took place.

“Has” (as in “has been talking”) is typically used to indicate that an action has already occurred and imply continuity (implied in “our professor has been talking for a very long time” is the thought “and may continue to keep talking”).