Compound Verbs in English: Definition & Examples

compound verbs

In the intricate web of English grammar, compound verbs play a crucial role in adding depth and clarity to our sentences. For non-native speakers and even many native speakers, understanding compound verbs can seem a bit daunting. However, with a deeper look, it’s easy to appreciate their function and use them effectively. In this article, we’ll dive into the definition of compound verbs and provide examples to clear up any doubt.

What are Compound Verbs?

A compound verb is formed when two or more verbs are combined to express a single predicate or action.

Types of Compound Verb

Here are some common types of compound verbs:

  • Verb + Infinitive Constructions: These combine a verb with an infinitive form of another verb.

Example: I want to eat ice cream.

Example: He seems to understand the situation.

  • Causative Verbs: These indicate that one person causes another person to do something for the first person. Common causative verbs include “let,” “make,” “have,” “get,” and “help.”

Example: I let him go early.

Example: She made me laugh.

  • Auxiliary Verbs: These are verbs that “help” the main verb convey tense, mood, or voice. Common auxiliaries in English include “be,” “have,” and “do.”

Example: She has been studying for three hours.

  • Prepositional Verbs: These are similar to phrasal verbs but have a more fixed preposition that cannot be separated from the main verb. The preposition is necessary for the verb’s meaning.

Example: believe in (to have faith in), look after (to care for).

  • Modal Verbs: These are a subset of auxiliary verbs that express necessity, probability, permission, or possibility. Some examples include “can,” “could,” “may,” “might,” “shall,” “should,” “will,” “would,” “must,” and “ought to.”

Example: You should see a doctor.

  • Verb + Gerund Constructions: These combine a verb with the “-ing” form of another verb.

Example: I enjoy reading books.

Example: She keeps talking about her trip.

  • Phrasal Verbs: These are combinations of a verb and one or more particles (usually prepositions or adverbs). The meaning of the phrasal verb is often different from the meanings of its individual parts.

Example: give up (to quit), run into (to unexpectedly encounter), come across (to find by chance).

Understanding these different types of compound verbs is crucial for mastering English grammar and for comprehending nuances in meaning.

Examples of Compound Verbs in Sentences

Here are some examples of compound verbs in sentences:

Might have forgotten

  • I might have forgotten to lock the door.

Should have gone

  • You should have gone to the doctor sooner.

Was Dancing

  • She was dancing when the music stopped.

Has been waiting

  • She has been waiting for the bus for over an hour.

Will be attending

  • They will be attending the conference in Tokyo.

Will have been working

  • By next year, I will have been working at the company for five years.

Had Been Living

  • They had been living in New York before they moved to Boston.

Is running

  • He is running a marathon next month.

Were singing

  • The children were singing in the choir last night.

Are going

  • We are going to the beach this weekend.

Can swim

  • Dolphins can swim at high speeds.

Has been playing

  • John has been playing the guitar for two hours.

Has slept

  • He has slept for only three hours.

Could have been avoided

  • The accident could have been avoided if he had been more careful.

Would have told

  • She would have told you if she had known the truth.

Had known

  • If I had known about the party, I would have come.

Will have finished

  • By the end of the day, she will have finished her assignment.

Is being renovated

  • The museum is being renovated this year.

Has been taken

  • The book has been taken from the library.

May be raining

  • It may be raining later today, so bring an umbrella.

Were being watched

  • They felt like they were being watched during their hike.

Must go

  • We must go to the store before it closes.

Should be doing

  • You should be doing your homework instead of watching TV.

Was written

  • The letter was written by her last night.

Might be considering

  • She might be considering a job offer from another company.

Will be driving

  • My sister will be driving us to the airport tomorrow.

Could be lying

  • I think he could be lying about his whereabouts.

Have seen

  • I have seen that movie three times.

Is reading

  • My brother is reading a thrilling novel.

Should have listened

  • He should have listened to the weather forecast before hiking.

 Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

The use of compound verbs can sometimes lead to errors in grammar, structure, or clarity. Here are some common mistakes when using compound verbs and tips on how to avoid them:

Confusion between gerunds and infinitives:

  • Mistake: She enjoys to read.
  • Correction: She enjoys reading.
  • Tip: Know which verbs are followed by gerunds (the “-ing” form) and which are followed by infinitives (the “to” form). For example, “enjoy” is typically followed by a gerund.

Split infinitives in compound verbs:

  • Mistake: She wanted to quickly go to the store.
  • Correction: She wanted to go to the store quickly.
  • Tip: Avoid placing adverbs between “to” and the verb. While split infinitives aren’t always incorrect and have become more accepted, it’s still a good idea to be cautious, especially in formal writing.

Unnecessary repetition:

  • Mistake: He went and traveled to Spain for the summer.
  • Correction: He traveled to Spain for the summer.
  • Tip: Be concise. Avoid using two verbs that convey the same action when one is sufficient.

Double negatives:

  • Mistake: I didn’t need no help.
  • Correction: I didn’t need any help.
  • Tip: Avoid using two negatives in a sentence as it can be confusing and is grammatically incorrect in standard English.

Incorrect verb tense combination:

  • Mistake: I had went to the store and bought some groceries.
  • Correction: I had gone to the store and bought some groceries.
  • Tip: Ensure that you’re using the correct form of the verb for each part of the compound verb.

Mismatched verb forms:

  • Mistake: She likes dancing and to sing.
  • Correction: She likes dancing and singing. OR She likes to dance and to sing.
  • Tip: Maintain consistency in verb forms when they are in the same category or list.

Misuse of “being”:

  • Mistake: The book is being written and published by her.
  • Correction: She is writing and publishing the book.
  • Tip: The use of “being” can sometimes make sentences more passive and wordy. Consider rephrasing for clarity.

Using “and” without parallel structure:

  • Mistake: She was reading a book and watched a movie.
  • Correction: She read a book and watched a movie.
  • Tip: Ensure that the actions are in the same tense when listed together.

Incorrect compound verb formation:

  • Mistake: He should has done it.
  • Correction: He should have done it.
  • Tip: Understand the correct formations of compound verbs, especially when using modals like “should,” “could,” “would,” etc.

Misplaced modifiers:

  • Mistake: She quickly ran to the store and the bank.
  • Ambiguity: Did she run quickly to both places or just the store?
  • Correction: She ran to the store and the bank quickly. OR She quickly ran to the store and quickly ran to the bank.
  • Tip: Ensure that adverbs or modifiers are placed clearly to avoid ambiguity.

List of Compound Verbs

  • Find out
  • Find out
  • Point out
  • Call up
  • Come out
  • Hand over
  • Overbook
  • Pick up
  • Catch up
  • Eat out
  • Come up with
  • Fall off
  • Look into
  • Follow up
  • Get away
  • Roll over
  • Ask for
  • Let in
  • Turn off
  • Catch on
  • Drive away
  • Cheer up
  • Lay down
  • Take out
  • Cut down
  • Get off
  • Go on
  • Check out
  • End up
  • Get back
  • Get over
  • Hang out
  • Knock about
  • Take off
  • Turn on
  • Knock out
  • Put down
  • Take care of
  • Come back
  • Give back
  • Clear up
  • Give away
  • Come in
  • Give up
  • Aim at
  • Let down
  • Try on
  • Get along
  • Hand out
  • Make up
  • Break down
  • Dry up
  • Break in
  • Look at
  • Write down
  • Drop out
  • Keep out
  • Break off
  • Bring up
  • Call down
  • Count on
  • Break up
  • Hand in
  • Look up
  • Drop in
  • Jump in
  • Blow up
  • Lock out
  • Watch out
  • Call in
  • Pick out
  • Kick out
  • Take back
  • Keep off
  • Take after
  • Carry on
  • Make for
  • Come on
  • Call back
  • Close down
  • Pay off
  • Check up on
  • Move in
  • Kick off
  • Kidnap
  • Do over
  • Get on
  • Kick-start
  • Break out
  • Call off
  • Look over
  • Back down
  • Lighten up
  • Turn up
  • Believe in
  • Get in
  • Get up
  • Cut out
  • Head over
  • Fall over
  • Make out
  • Get down
  • Get together
  • Stand by
  • Get ahead
  • Get back
  • Carry out
  • Dress up
  • Drop by
  • Figure on
  • Drop off
  • Fill in
  • Move out
  • Figure out
  • Check in
  • Fall apart
  • Hang on
  • Lay off
  • Talk over
  • Go out
  • Look for
  • Put away
  • Throw out
  • Force-feed
  • Go for
  • Grow up
  • Look forward to
  • Fly by
  • Give in
  • Keep up with
  • Lock up
  • Work out
  • Fill out
  • Fill up
  • Plug in
  • Heat up
  • Put off
  • Leave behind
  • Rely on
  • Think over
  • Break away
  • Go back
  • Look after
  • Brainwash
  • Clean out
  • Hold on
  • Hold off
  • Play down
  • Put on
  • Run into
  • Throw up
  • Hold out
  • Run out of
  • Keep at
  • Proofread
  • Show up
  • Hurry up
  • Set up
  • Live with
  • Use up
  • Keep on
  • Take apart
  • Leave out
  • Throw away
  • Waterproof
  • Come over
  • Fall down
  • Look back on
  • Count down
  • Get out
  • Eat up
  • Babysit
  • Bring over
  • Deal with
  • Hold back
  • Come down
  • Carry for
  • Cross out
  • Hang up
  • Stand in
  • Cut back
  • Fall out
  • Look out
  • Ask out
  • Let out
  • Build in
  • Clean up
  • Pay back
  • Blow out
  • Come off
  • Dry off
  • Go ahead
  • Take down


examples of compound verbs Compound Verb Examples Sentences

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