If you’ve ever taken a second language class, you’ve heard a lot about conjugated verbs and verb conjugations. In short, a conjugated verb is a verb that has been altered from its base form; but, as with all things grammar-related, it’s a little more complicated than that. Let’s take a look at how verbs are conjugated and the different things they communicate when they are.
Conjugated verbs are verbs which have been changed to communicate one or more of the following: person, number, gender, tense, aspect, mood, or voice. Those will be explained in detail in just a moment: but first, here’s an example of the verb “break” conjugated in several different ways.
I, You, We, They: break
He, She, It: breaks
I: am breaking
You, We, They: are breaking
He, She, It: is breaking
I, You, We, They: have broken
He, She, It: has broken
I, You, We, They, He, She, It: broke
I, He, She, It: was breaking
You, We, They: were breaking
I, You, We, They, He, She, It: had broken
As you can see, each different conjugation changes “break” from its base form to tell us when and by whom the action takes place.
A verb conjugation can communicate a lot of detail about a verb such as:
It’s a bit redundant in English because we almost always state a subject explicitly in our sentences, but still, our conjugated verbs often go with specific subjects. For example, “am” is a present tense conjugation of the verb “be,” and it is the form that goes with the subject “I.” Using “I” (or “we”) also indicates that the speaker is speaking in first person as opposed to second person (“you”) or third person (“he,” “she,” “it,” “they”).
It is perhaps clearer in other languages, but conjugated verbs in English can also sometimes tell us something about how many people are participating in the action of the verb. For example, singular subjects (he, she, it) in the present simple tense have an “s” added to them when conjugated:
Plural subjects (you, we, they) do not have an “s” on the end:
English is a little tricky here because “you” can be singular or plural, but in other languages, the differentiation between singular and plural subjects is very clear in the conjugated verb endings.
In some languages, though not English, conjugated verbs can indicate the gender of the subject.
The verb tense indicates the time at which the action of the verb takes place. Past tense verbs, for example, tell us that the action took place in the past. Present tense indicates the action is happening at this very moment, or that it happens regularly in the present state of things, or that it is true up to the present moment.
The aspect of a verb tells us the degree to which it is completed. There are continuous (or progressive) aspects that tell us the action is in progress, there are perfect aspects that tell us the action is complete up to a certain point in time, and there are simple aspects that are just that – simple.
The mood is like the purpose of the sentence in which a verb is used. The stative mood, for example, is used to make a statement. The interrogative mood is for questions. And the conditional mood is for sentences that pose hypothetical scenarios and the outcomes that depend on them.
You’ve probably heard people talk about active and passive voice. In active voice, the verb indicates that the subject of the sentence is the one doing the action. In passive voice, the subject is the recipient of the action done by someone/something else.
A conjugated verb is a well-explained verb.