English Grammar Made Easy: How to Use Verb Patterns

by Chad on June 7, 2013

grammar made easyWhen learning a language everybody goes through many highs and lows (positive and negative situations).

At some stages of the process, generally when you’ve just learned something new, you feel on top of the world and very confident.

Other times, often when you get surprised by some unexpected grammar rule, you feel like it’s impossible and want to give up.

Most of the time when you feel like throwing in the towel (giving up – boxing term) it’s because you are confronted with something that you don’t understand. All of these things you don’t understand can be easily cleared up (clarified) if you can calm down, take a deep breath and try to open your mind to a new way of understanding the problem.

In this article I’m going to simplify one of these common “lows” that make all of my students feel very overwhelmed, and lose motivation to learn when I approach this subject.

It’s time to pick up that towel and start boxing the shit out of English!

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What the hell are verb patterns?

In English we have many rules when it comes to using two verbs together in the same phrase. Verb patterns are the way you are going to use the second verb when it is dependent on the first verb. For example:

I like drinking green tea after dinner or I like to drink green tea after dinner

In this example you’ll see that in one of them I am using the “ing form” and in the other I’m using the “to infinitive.” In this example both forms are correct and both forms mean the exact same thing.

What’s so difficult about that???

Sure, it seems quite easy so far, but the verb “like” is an example of a verb that can be used with either form and the meaning doesn’t change. If I was to change the first verb from “like” and use the verb “stop,” this same rule, or pattern,  would not be the same and the meaning would change. For example:

I stopped drinking water when exercising or I stopped to drink water when exercising

In this example, both phrases are correct but they have different meanings. In the first, I have stopped the activity of “drinking water,” and in the second, I have stopped what I was doing (exercising) to drink water.

So, now you can see that depending on the first verb that I use, I have to know what form I will use with the verb that follows.

Now let’s take a look at all the possibilities.

Verbs that are always followed by the ING (gerund)

Now that we know that these rules exist, let’s categorize them and explore all of our options when making verb patterns.

The first category is we are going to look at are all the verbs that are followed by the second verb being in the “ing form.” The first verb can be conjugated however you like, as long as the second verb is in the ing form.

Miss- I miss playing guitar on the weekend
I appreciated playing the guitar on the weekend
I’m going to practice playing the guitar on the weekend
I have considered playing the guitar on the weekend
I admitted playing the guitar on the weekend
I can’t stand playing the guitar on the weekend

As you can see, all of these verbs when followed by another verb, independent of how you conjugate them, will always have the “ing” conjugation in the second verb.

Verbs that are always followed by the (to) infinitive

As you saw above, verbs always followed with the ing form, we also have verbs that are always followed by the (to) infinitive.

Exaclty the same as above, these verbs can be conjugated however you like as long as the second verb is in the (to ) infinitive form. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.bill

Demand- I demanded to pay the bill
I’m going to offer to pay the bill
I was waiting to pay the bill
I have decided to pay the bill
I hope to pay the bill (I have never said this)
I didn’t plan to pay the bill

As you can see, these verbs will always be followed by a verb in the (to) infinitive form. Just like the verbs followed by ing, it doesn’t matter how we conjugate the first verb as long as you follow the pattern of that first verb, whether it’s the “ing form” or the “(to) infinitive.”

Other Patterns

Some verbs can be used with both form and it doesn’t change meaning. Some of these verbs include:

Like- I like to eat / I like eating
I continued to eat / I continued eating
I started to eat / I started eating

And like I showed you with the verb “stop,” some verbs can use both pattern but the meaning changes. For example:

Remember- I remembered to lock the door (I didn’t forget)
- I remember locking the door (I have that memory in my mind)

Forget- I forgot to lock the door (I didn’t remember)
- I forget telling you to lock the door (I don’t have that memory)

Try- I tried to tell you what happened (a failed attempt at something)
- Have you tried telling her (a suggested way fix a problem)

These ones tend to be the most difficult to understand, but it’s very important not to get too stressed out about memorizing all of them because this is something that tends to happen naturally with the more exposure to English you have.

To see a more extensive list of these verb patterns with examples, click here.

Call to Action

Are you practicing English every day? Have you developed an English speaking habit?

Whether you are a beginner or an advanced English speaker, it’s important to have some kind of daily English habit. Listen to a podcast, read a Real Life English article, talk to someone on the Real Life English facebook community.

Whatever it is, having a daily English habit is the most effective way to learn the language. With just 10 to 20 minutes a day, you could be improving your English immensely and naturally, in a fun and interesting way.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

William Martins June 7, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Awsome article!
Thanks for the tips, pal ;).

Chad Fishwick June 7, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Cheers William!

Manuel Mbavu June 7, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Thanks for the tips.

Manuel Carvalho June 7, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Thank you very much Teacher,do,u know me? No,u dont,l,was 1,of your Student,thank u and Good bye

Max Ahumada June 8, 2013 at 12:38 am

2 years ago or so I was at this stage in which I would stop to try to recall what the appropriate form was. I just moved passed this phase really quickly without having to study or learn them by heart. Maybe if learners just stick watching movies, listening to music, reading and so forth, you'll get to a point where they will start "feeling" the language rather than just having to subordinate to its grammar. Needless to say, go over these rules never hurt anybody :)

Nico Prinzio June 8, 2013 at 1:02 am

I've just had tests on ptterns following the book Guide to Patterns And Usage In English, by Hornby. your version is very much simpler than the book I had o study (Y).

Max Ahumada June 8, 2013 at 5:16 am

Then again I edited this like 10 times lol

Margarita Rosa Eduards June 9, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Thanks a lot!

Julia Robert June 11, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Thanks for sharing this nice post. Recognize the verb in a few sentence is necessary to understand what that statement stands for.


Heinz Claudius Grützmacher September 20, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Great tips! I'm going to publish them. Tks

Alvaro Jose Puerta Gomez February 10, 2014 at 12:08 am

Thanks for Your time

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