Before you start reading this, please note in this post you will find a large MS Excel spreadsheet with Verb Patterns free to download and closer to the bottom a link to a website with plenty of practice questions.
So, the first thing to understand is what the word “pattern” means. Well, here is a dictionary explanation: pattern. Better? Maybe not. Here are some images to help:
A pattern usually refers to some visual image or design that repeats itself, most often on clothing, house linen, curtains, wall paper and so on. But, patterns can also be seen elsewhere, e.g.:
Furthermore, patterns are also found in ‘behaviour’, i.e. the way we act or conduct ourselves, especially towards others.
In grammar, we use patterns to talk about structures that continuously repeat themselves, in a similar way to the patterns above.
At the start of this post, there are 3 Verb patterns: to think about + -ing, to decide + inf, to get round to + ing. These patterns always repeat themselves. This means that if you use any of these patterns, you should make sure that the verb form following corresponds (gerund/inf). So, if you use ‘To think about’ and another verb, this other verb should be in the -ing for. Likewise for ‘To get round to’. If, instead, you use the verb ‘To Decide’ and another verb, the other verb should be in the -inf form!
You should note that there are even some verbs that allow different patterns with no change in meaning, e.g. ‘To Start’ “It has started raining / It has started to rain”.
I have created a spreadsheet with most of what you will need. It is in alphabetical order by ‘lead verb’, or the main verb that you will be using in your sentence, and then each verb is followed by a pattern or two and some examples. There are filters so you can view verbs by pattern and, for one or two particular verbs, there is a separate note on sheet two. The excel sheet can be downloaded here: Verb Patterns
Most of the time it is simply a question of memory. You must remember the structure and then apply it. However, there are a couple of patterns that make things difficult. Patterns where two possibilities exist, as with ‘start’, except this time each pattern has a different meaning from the other.
The most important of these are: Remember, Forget, Regret, Stop, Try, Need, Go on, Mean
When you use the above verbs with another verb, the following verb can be either the infinitive or the gerund. However, the meanings are very different. A typical example I always use is this;
- John stopped to have a coffee. (the reason he stopped was to have a coffee)
- John stopped driving. (the activity he stopped was ‘driving’)
Put together, it would look like this; ‘John stopped driving to have a coffee’.
With the verbs ‘Forget’, ‘Regret’ and ‘Remember’ when they are the ‘main verbs’ andfollowed a gerund, the gerund usually refers to something that happened before the ‘main verb’, e.g.
- “Yes, of course I remember meeting you! It was at the Geneva Car Show last year, wasn’t it? How are you?” (I remember now, meeting you in the past).
Contrarily, when the same verbs are followed by the infinitive, the infinitive usually refers to something that happened (or must happen) after the main verb, e.g.
- “Please remember to send the report to Frank before you go home” (first you must remember that you have to do something (send the report), then you must actually do it!).
‘To Try’ is a little different. If try is followed by an infinitive, it is usually describes an attempt to do something, e.g.
- “Sarah tried to move the piano on her own, but it was too heavy”
On the other hand, when it is followed by the gerund, it is a way of introducing a possible solution to a problem, e.g.
- “If you can’t get to sleep, try counting sheep! That always works for me.”
‘To Go on’ is similar to ‘To Stop’ in that when it is followed by a gerund, the gerund is an activity, e.g.
- “He went on talking about his holiday all night long, it was so boring!”
When followed by the infinitive, instead, it is more similar to ‘Forget’, ‘Regret’ and ‘Remember’. The infinitive refers to something that happened after, e.g.
- “After four years in journalism, Mary went on to write a book about the history or politics in her hometown.” (she completed 4 years of work as a journalist, and then after that, wrote a book).
Need and Mean are a little less complicated and I believe that the example in the spreadsheet that I have prepared will be more than sufficient. However, there are some more examples below
- If you take that job in London it will mean travelling for two hours every day.
- Did you mean to dial this number?
- My car needs cleaning. (My car is dirty and it would be good to clean in)
- She needs to ask for permission to stay out late. (It is necessary)
- I need you to help me with verb patterns! (I have difficulty with verb patterns, your help is a necessity for me)
In fact, I have used their site as one of my main points of reference for this post. They have a lot of information already available which meant that I could create this post in half a day, rather than a full day. Well done Englishpage.com, keep up the great work.