Usage Notes on Verbs – Part II – Verbal with Sujit

In continuation to our previous article, this session we look at the other aspects to verbs.

A) Conditional Clauses:

When you construct sentences with ‘if’ remember to follow one of these tense sequences of the verbs. These sequences are rigid and must not be broken.Error spotting sentences usually have one of these errors.

If Clause Main Clause
If you heat ice it melts (Present+ Present)
If it rains we will play football (Present+ Future)
If it rained we would play football (Past + Would)
If it had rained we would have played football (Past Perfect + would have)

Remember any other combination is wrong. Normally, if clauses will not contain will or would.However, in an exceptional sentence where If is used to express willingness or request the clause will contain will. But the meaning is different from the above.

For example:

Correct: If you will drop in tomorrow, I will give you the salary.

*With If clauses in the subjunctive use ‘would’ or ‘could’ in the main clause.

B) Active and Passive Voice.

In a sentence using active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action expressed in the verb. In a sentence using passive voice , the subject is acted upon, he or she receives the action expressed by the verb.

Active Voice- One of the players called an illegal time-out.

Passive Voice- An illegal time out was called by one of the players.

At times a grammatically correct passive sentence can be utterly awkward if it is not constructed for the above reasons.

For example:

Correct: She opened the door at the sight of her child.

Awkward: The door was opened by her at the sight of her child.

Another point to remember is not to mix active and passive voice in the same sentence.

Incorrect: She spoke to her principal and her leave application was approved.

Correct: She spoke to the Principal and got her leave application approved.

However, the passive voice is justified when the agent (do-er of the verb) is either obvious, or unimportant or just unknown . Another reason to use the passive voice is to avoid mentioning the agent at all, or to highlight the action instead of the agent. If these reasons are not present, construct the sentences in the active voice in the active voice in all your writing.


1) The North Star can be observed directly overhead at the Earth’s North Pole.

2) Bombs were placed at generally crowded locations.

3) The blast was averted.

Still another point to bear in mind is that only transitive verbs can be transformed. He loves her, though transitive cannot be transformed into She is loved by him. The same way there are certain verbs that forbid the passive. For eg. She has a new boyfriend, or The bottle contains medicine, cannot be transformed into A new boyfriend is had by her or Medicine is contained by the bottle.

A few such other verbs are: resemble,look, like, equal, agree, with, mean, contain, hold, comprise, lack, suit, fit, become etc.

C) Auxiliary Verbs.

Auxiliary Verbs: will, shall, may, might, can, could, must, ought to, should, would, used to, need.

Function: help express shades of time, mood, necessity, advice, ability, expectation, permission, possibilty etc.

Example: I will have been teaching for ten years.

Auxiliary: will have been.

Main Verb: teaching.

D) Shall AND Will

Shall and will are used to indicate the future.

When you use shall with the first person I and we, it indicates the simple future tense. When you use will with the first person I and We, it indicates the simple future tense. When you use will with the first person I and we, it indicates future tense that expresses determination, promise, etc.

Shall we meet tomorrow?- is a simple query.

Will we meet tomorrow? – expresses the speaker’s anxiety.

It is just the reverse for the second and the third persons.

Using shall in second and third persons (you, she, he, it, they) would indicate some kind of stipulation. For eg. You shall not steal.

The contraction ‘ll is used for both shall and will.

E) Shall AND Should.

The use of shall is rather infrequent, but it is used with I and we for offers and suggestions:

1) Shall I open the window ?

2) Shall we get out of here?

Should is the past tense of shall and also used to mean ‘ought to’- For eg. You should carry an umbrella.

Should is used:

  • to give advice- You should study regularly
  • in hypothetical situations- Should need my help, just give me a call.
  • to give tentative opinions- I should think that he keeps his promises.

This excerpt has been reproduced from the book “The Pearson Guide to Verbal Ability for the CAT and other MBA Entrance Examinations” by Sujit Kumar  published by Dorling Kindersley India Pvt Ltd, licensees of Pearson Education in South Asia. The content has been reproduced with permission from the author.

You can buy this book here.


The author has a vast experience in training students appearing for various competitive exams. He has been preparing candidates for Verbal Ability, Group Discussion and Personal Interview for more than a decade. Apart from holding a diploma in management and corporate experience of more than 10 years, the author holds a masters degree in English Literature. He is currently working with CPLC,Mumbai as a Faculty and a part of the senior management.

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