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Writing Style

Verbs (V or VT)

Verbs show the action in your ideas. All actions take place in time – present, past, or future – and this is referred to as “tense.” The way actions take place in time can require a change in the form of the verb so that how the action happens (unfolds, plays out) is clear. The most common forms are base form and past tense. Other forms such as past and present participle require other verbs as “auxiliaries” or “helpers.” The most frequently used verb forms and tenses are discussed below.

Watch this introductory lesson or this extended lesson on verb tenses in our LC elearning modules class in D2L.

Simple Present 
Use for facts, habits, and actions set by a schedule.
Use definitions and established knowledge or theories.
Use the simple present to introduce your literature discuss that are accepted as true.
Example: Some of the literature relates to general well-being as a positive outcome. 
Form: base form of the verb with “s” added (I write, she writes, they write)
Simple Past 
Use for actions, events, or facts that took place or finished in the past.
Use when referring to a study that has already taken place, in the methods* section, and for results or findings.
Past simple in passive form is commonly used in the methods section.
Example: The intervention required inter-professional collaboration between healthcare providers and local organizations.
Form: base form of the verb + ed (except for irregular verbs)
Present Perfect
Use for an action that has taken place at an unknown time in the past and a past action that still has meaning or influence on the present.
Can be used when giving background information (abstract, introduction).
Example: The health improvements for patients involved in the program have been numerous.
Example: Although the intervention study has ended, several of the support groups have continued to meet.
Form: has or have + past participle form of
**The present perfect and past simple tenses are often confused; this video will help explain the difference between these two verb forms.
Past Perfect
Use for one past action that occurred before another action that is also in the past. This shows which action happened first. Use the perfect verb for the first action and simple past for the action that occurs after.
Example: The researchers had referred several participants to the intervention, but a minimum requirement for some for periods of up to six weeks.
Form: had + past participle form of verb
Future (Simple)
 Use for a future action that is expected or hoped to occur in the future (e.g., in action plans).
Example: A coordinator responsive to all stakeholders is necessary, or the intervention will likely fail. 
Form: will + verb (base form)
Passive Verb Form
Use when who performs the action is not known or not important.
Use when you would like to focus on the direct object, not the subject.
Example (Present tense): Medications are administered by nurses.
Example: (Past tense): Most participants were referred to the program. 
Example (Past tense): The patient was assessed before being admitted.
Form: Use the verb “be” (am, is, are, was, were) as a helper + past participle form of  the verb
Modal Auxiliaries (helpers) – can, cannot, could, may, might, will, would, should
Example: Studies have shown that nature-based interventions can result in mental health benefits.
Example: It should be noted that the benefits of the intervention can develop over time.
Form: modal auxiliary + verb (base form)
Negative Verb Forms (do + not)

Use when an action does not occur (negation of the action)

Example: The doctor did not record the correct dose in the patient’s chart.

Form: do or did + not + base form 

Watch this 5-minute introduction to verb tenses.
TED-Ed. (2017, November 6). How many verb tenses are there in English? - Anna Ananichuk [Video]. YouTube.
Watch this 25-minute extended lesson on verb tenses.
Worldwide Speak. (2019, September 17). 12 verb tenses [Video]. YouTube.
Watch this 9-minute video about the difference between present perfect and past simple verb tenses.
oomongzu. (2016, August 4). Present perfect tense vs. past simple: Tom's story (a comical story of Tom, the ESL student -- video) [Video]. YouTube.
A printable handout that outlines the main verb tenses and forms can be found below.
More Information

"Using verbs", University of Ottawa.

"Auxiliary Verbs", Robin L. Simmons.

"Intransitive Verbs", Robin L. Simmons.

"Irregular Verbs," British Council

"Stative Verbs", British Council.

"Verb Tenses", English Oxford Living Dictionaries.

See your APA manual, pp. 117-119, (4.12 "Verb Tense," 4.13 "Active and Passive Voice," 4.14 "Mood")


American Psychological Association. (2019). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.).