January 1, 2015

How To Use More Than One Verb In A Sentence

2 minute read

When you’re starting to learn English, you’ll probably want to keep things fairly simple.

Using small, easy sentences – with a single subject, object and verb and a good way to build up your skills.

But as you get more confident, you’ll probably want to learn to say a little more, right? And having to break everything up into basic sentences can be a little boring!

So let’s look at how you can add a little more variety to your English – by using more than one verb in the same sentence. There are few things that you need to pay attention to:

What tense are you using?

First things first – you need to think about what tense you’ll be using. To do that, you will want to work out what it is you are saying.

Are you describing a present tense event? Is it something in the past, or will it be in the future?

Whatever tense you decide to use – all your verbs must be in the same tense. If they’re not – the result can be confusing and jarring.

For example:

“She ate her pie and then walks to the train station.”

There are two verbs in this example, “ate” and “walks”. While “ate” is in the past tense, “walks” is in the present tense and it is not clear what is actually happening here.

Instead you can say:

“She ate her pie and then walked to the train station” – to describe a past event.

Or you can say:

“She eats her pie and then walks to the train station” – to describe something in the present.

Either sentence is correct – but the most important part is making sure the tenses are the same!

What are conjunctions – and how do you use them?

Then next part of using multiple verbs in one sentence is learning how to join everything together. A sentence will usually be composed of a subject, object and a verb:

E.g. “I dropped my phone.”

To add detail and elaborate on an event, you can simply add more sentences:

E.g. “ I dropped my phone. The glass was cracked. The screen still worked. I was relieved.”

But what if you want to combine them all into one sentence? Easy – use coordinating conjunctions!

Conjuctions are words like “and”, “but”, “or”, “for” and “so”.  These can be used between clauses to combine them together. They all have slightly different meanings so make sure that you are using the one you want.

You can use as many as you like – and in written English, you will often have a comma before the conjunction:

“I dropped my phone and the glass was cracked, but the screen still worked, so I was relieved.”

By using conjunctions, you can give a much better sense of the story behind an event!

Your turn

Learning to balance multiple verbs in a sentence can be tricky – but by practicing, you’ll soon get the hang of it! Remember the basic tips in this post, and try coming up with your own