Verb properties: voice, mood, tense, person, and number

In English grammar, a verb has five properties: voice, mood, tense, person, and number.

Properties of a Verb


Active Voice: the subject performs the action (I saw the car)
Passive Voice: the subject receives the action (The car was seen by me)


Indicative Mood: shows an assertion (I am there), denial (I am not there), or question (Am I there?)
Imperative Mood: shows a command (Go there), prohibition (Do not go there), entreaty (Please go there), or advice (You should go there)
Subjunctive Mood: shows doubt (If I were you, I would sell those stocks) or something contrary to fact (May you never die!)
Infinitive Mood: shows an action or state without reference to any subject. Verbs in the infinitive mood are not used as verbs, but as other parts of speech. (To err is human, but to forgive is divine. Here, to err and to forgive are used as nouns)


Past Tense: shows a state, condition, or event that has already happened. (I went)
Present Tense: shows a state, condition, or event that is happening right now. (I go)
Future Tense: shows a state, condition, or event that will happen. (I will go)

Each of these three tenses have four aspectssimple, continuous, perfect, and perfect continuous, resulting in twelve tenses.

Past Tenses

Past Simple OR Simple Past (I went)
Past Continuous (I was going)
Past Perfect (I had gone)
Past Perfect Continuous (I had been going)

Present Tenses

Present Simple OR Simple Present (I go)
Present Continuous (I am going)
Present Perfect (I have gone)
Present Perfect Continuous (I have been going)

*Note that the present perfect and present perfect continuous are not past tenses—the speaker is, at the moment of speaking, in the condition of having gone or having been going.

Future Tenses

Future Simple OR Simple Future (I will go)
Future Continuous (I will be going)
Future Perfect (I will have gone)
Future Perfect Continuous (I will have been going)


First Person: is the speaker or the group that includes the speaker (I, me, my, mine, we, us, our, ours)
Second Person: is the person to whom the speaker is speaking, i.e. the speaker’s audience (you, you, your, yours)
Third Person: signifies everybody else (he/she/it, him/her/it, his/her/its, his/hers/its, they, them, their, theirs)

For example, “I am telling you about her.” Here, ‘I’ is first person, ‘you’ is second person, and ‘her’ is third person.

With respect to number, each person has two aspects – singular and plural. Therefore, there are a total of six persons as follows:

First Person Singular (I, me, my, mine)
First Person Plural (we, us, our, ours)

Second Person Singular (you, you, your, yours)
Second Person Plural (you, you, your, yours)

Third Person Singular (he/she/it, him/her/it, his/her/its, his/hers/its)
Third Person Plural (they, them, their, theirs)


Singular (is): This is a single piece.
Plural (are): These are multiple pieces.

*Note: The number of the verb has to agree with the number of the subject (noun or pronoun). If the subject is singular then the verb should also be singular.  Likewise, if the subject is plural then the verb should also be plural. This is known as subject-verb agreement. Subject-Verb agreement results in a grammatically correct sentence.

Verbs ending with -s are generally singular, while verbs ending without -s are generally plural.

The dancer dances on the stage.
singular noun = dancer, singular verb = dances

Nouns ending with -s are generally plural, while nouns ending without -s are generally singular.

The dancers dance on the stage.
plural noun = dancers, plural verb = dance

Therefore, in a sentence, usually if a noun has –s, then the verb does not have –s; and generally, if the noun does not have –s, then the verb has –s.

1. Morenberg, Max (2010). Doing Grammar (Third ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-1997-3288-3.
2. Jackendoff, R. (2002). Foundations of Language. Oxford University Press.
3. Palmer, F. R., Mood and Modality, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001.
4. Klaiman, M. H., Grammatical Voice (Cambridge Studies in Linguistics), Cambridge Univ. Press, 1991.

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