Learn about helping verbs in sentences. What they are, what they do and how they are used.

The Progressive Tense

 

Warm-Up Question

 

Complete both sentences below using the infinitive form of the verb

 

to open

 

robot-opening-box

 

present progressive form

 

Roberta _______ the present.

 

...

 

past progressive form

 

Roberta _______ the present.

 

 

 the answer

ANSWER

 

Complete both sentences below using the infinitive (answer)

 

to open

 

 

robot-opening-a-box

 

present progressive form

 

βœ… Roberta is opening the present.

 

...

 

past progressive form

 

βœ… Roberta was opening the present.

 

 

 

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The Progressive Tense

 

a sentence must have two key parts

 

 

detective-dog-and-cat

 

 

1. a sentence must have a subject

 

2. a sentence must also have a verb

 

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1. a sentence must have a subject

 

in sentences with an action verb the subject

will be who or what is doing the action

 

pirates-sailing-at-night

 

βœ… The ship sailed close to the lighthouse.

 

the subject of this sentence is the ship

because the ship is doing the action

 

 

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2. a sentence must also have a main verb

 

one type of main verb is an action verb

 

pirates-sailing-at-night

 

βœ… Some perilous rocks jutted out of the water.

 

the main verb is jutted because

that is the action the rocks are doing

 

 

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In sentences with an action verb

 

 

 

the subject will be who

or what is doing the action

 

pirates-sailing-at-night

 

βœ… A parrot perched on

the pirate’s shoulder.

 

the verb will be the action 

that the subject is doing

 

pirates-sailing-at-night

 

βœ… A parrot perched on

the pirate’s shoulder.

 

 

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action verbs can be used on their own

 

 

pirates-sailing-at-night

 

βœ… The lighthouse blinked on and off.

 

subject | action verb

 

 

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or they can used with a helping verb

 

 

pirates-sailing-at-night

 

βœ… The lighthouse was blinking on and off.

 

subject | helping verb | action verb

 

 

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action verbs that end in ing

 

will always need to be used with a helping verb

 

 

robot-painting

 

 

βœ… The robots are stopping for their lunch break.

 

βœ… makes sense

 

βœ… The robots stopping for their lunch break.

 

❌ does not make sense

 

 

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a helping verb + an action verb

 always act as one verb

 

football-game

 

 

βœ… The ball was + rolling down the hill.

 

acts as one verb

 

subject | helping verb + action verb

 

 

 

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these are the helping verbs that we use the most

  

am | is | are | was | were

 

 these helping verbs are called the be helping verbs

 

 

roller-coster

 

 

βœ… The children were screaming on the ride.

  

subject | helping verb | action verb

 

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the be helping verb we need to use will depend on

 how many we are talking about

 

 

singular

 

one person or thing

 

purple-alien

 

βœ… I am smiling.

 

βœ… He is smiling.

 

βœ… He was smiling.

 

plural

 

more than one person or thing

 

aliens

 

βœ… They are smiling.

 

βœ… They were smiling.

 

 

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helping verbs tell us the time that an action happened

 

β˜‘οΈ this is called the tense

 

 

halloween-costumes

 

 

present tense

 

βœ… The children are playing trick or treat.

 

past tense

 

βœ… The children were playing trick or treat.

 

 

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be helping verbs + an ing action verb

 

form a tense called the progressive tense

 

 

children-on-the-beach

 

βœ… The ball is flying over the net.

 

present progressive is used for actions in progress right now

 

βœ… The ball was flying over the net.

 

past progressive is used for actions that were progress in the past

 

 

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the present progressive is formed with

a present tense be helping verb am, is or are

 

+ an action verb ending in ing

  

 

 

βœ… He is rushing to work.

 

busy-robot

 

present progressive

 

one person or thing

 

 

βœ… They are standing in the lift.

 

robots-in-the-lift

 

present progressive

 

more than one person or thing

 

 

 

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to change to the past progressive

 

 only the helping verb needs to change

  

 

busy-robot

 

βœ… He is rushing to work.

...

βœ… He was rushing to work.

...

is changes to was

 

robots-in-the-lift

 

βœ… They are standing in the lift.

...

βœ… They were standing in the lift.

...

are changes to were

 

 

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to change the tense from present progressive to past progressive

 

only the helping verb needs to change

 

  

 

present progressive

 

children-swimming

 

βœ… Ravi is swimming.

...

βœ… Ravi was swimming.

...

present progressive

 

 

present progressive

 

children-swimming

 

βœ… They are swimming.

...

βœ… They were swimming.

...

past progressive

 

 

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how to form the present progressive

 

 

football-game

 

 

present tense be helping verb βž• an ing action verb

 

 

βœ… is βž• playing

 

βœ… am βž• playing

 

βœ… are βž• playing

 

 

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present progressive

 

 football-game

 

 

is playing am playing | are playing

 

one person | more than one person

 

 

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how to form the past progressive

 

  

football-game

 

past tense be helping verb βž• an ing action verb

  

βœ… was βž• playing

 

βœ… were βž• playing

 

 

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past progressive

 

football-game

 

 

was playing | were playing

 

 one person | more than one person

 

 

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there is also a future progressive tense

 

 

the future progressive is used to show

actions that will be in progress in the future

 

 

video-game

 

 

βœ… They will be playing video games next.

 

 

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when you join a helping verb to a main verb

 

you create a verb phrase

 

 

robot-lifting

 

helping verb | main verb

 

βœ… Titch is lifting the parcel up over his head.

...

βœ… The robots were delivering all their parcels.

...

βœ… The robots will be finishing their deliveries early.

 

verb phrase

 

 

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we often use the present progressive tense with a contracted form

 

long form | contracted form

 

I am watching | I’m watching

 

she is/he is/it is watching | she’s/he’s/it’s watching

 

we are watching | we’re watching

 

you are watching | you’re watching

 

they are | they’re watching

 

 

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a helping verb is always used

 

immediately in front of the main verb

 

 

digging a hole

 

but there are a few exceptions such as negative sentences

 

 

βœ… The pirate is not stopping till he finds the treasure.

 

 

helping verb | adverb | main verb

 

 

βœ… The pirate isn’t stopping till he finds the treasure.

 

 

adverbs between a helping and a main verb are not part of a verb phrase

 

 

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in sentences with an action verb + a helping verb

 

 the helping verb and the subject have to agree

 

 

 

βœ… The pirate is looking at the map.

 

pirate-reading-map

 

❌ The pirate are looking at the map.

 

❌ The aliens was staring at the astronaut.

 

astronaut-with-aliens

βœ… The aliens were staring at the astronaut.

 

 

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the progressive tense always

uses an ing action verb

 

this is how ing action verbs are formed

 

children-in-the-woods

 

 infinitive form of the verb walk 

 

βœ… to walk

 

 base form of the verb walk 

 

βœ… walk

 

 progressive form of the verb walk 

 

βœ… walking

 

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learn club remember

 

clues to identify the progressive tense

 

look for a be helping verb in front of an ing action verb

 

  

 

❌ not the progressive

 

superhero

 

βœ… Ironing his costume was a pain.

 

there is no be helping verb

in front of ironing

 

βœ… is the progressive

 

superhero

 

βœ… He is ironing his costume.

 

there is a be helping verb

in front of ironing

 

 

 

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this is how the progressive tense is formed

 

sail | to sail | sailing

 

base form verb | infinitive form | progressive form

 

 

sailing-pirate-ship

 

sailing is used for both the

past and the present progressive

 

be helping verbs form the tense in the progressive

 

 

is sailing | was sailing

 

present progressive | past progressive

 

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learn club remember

 

the progressive tense

 

uses a be helping verb in front of an ing action verb

 

is sailing | was sailing | are sailing | were sailing

 

sailing-pirate-ship

 

βœ… The pirate ship is sailing to the island.

 

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learn club remember

 

there are three types of verb

 

action verbs

 

robot_walking

 

βœ… The robot rushes.

 

action

 

helping verbs

 

robot_walking

 

βœ… The robot is rushing.

 

action

linking verbs

 

robot_walking

 

βœ… The robot is late.

 

no action

 

 

 

the difference between the three types of verb

 

 

action verbs

 

children_on_the_beach

 

They played

on the sand.

 

β˜‘οΈ there is an action

 

helping verbs

 

children_on_the_beach

 

They are playing

on the sand.

 

β˜‘οΈ there is an action

linking verbs

 

children_on_the_beach

 

They are

on the beach.

 

β˜‘οΈ there is no action

 

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the difference between the three types of verb

 

 

action verb

 

pink-alien

 

The alien smiled.

 

describes the action

 

helping verb

 

pink-alien

 

The alien is smiling.

 

describes the action

linking verb

 

pink-alien

 

The alien is pink.

 

 

describes the subject

 

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all the sentences in this unit were simple sentences

 

all the sentences in this unit were simple sentences because they had only one subject and one verb

 

alien_space_craft

 

there are two other types of sentence that both have two subjects and two verbs

 

alien_space_craft

 

these two other types of sentence are

compound sentences and complex sentences

 

these are covered in later units

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Now take the Progressive Tense Quiz to find out what you have learned...

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