The number of verbs is limited. The language is intended for quick learning and immediate practical use in commerce and as a step into full English. The subject of verbs in Basic English is often asked. Here is a brief summary of what Ogden said on the subject and the list of verbs organized as the Universal Language Dictionary project saw them.

Ogden states his logic on verbs: "Too much attention is given to fixed forms of words, certainly the dead weight of unnecessary words, chiefly 'verbs' whose behavior is not regular." "But the chief reason why it is possible to do so much with the limited word-list is because Basic has been able so completely to do without 'verbs'."

"... some months ago I persuaded the Ministers to study and report upon Basic English. Here you have a plan. There are others but here you have a very carefully wrought plan for an international language capable of a very wide transaction for practical business and interchange of ideas. The whole of it is composed of about 650 nouns and 200 verbs or other parts of speech no more indeed than can be written on one side of a single sheet of paper." -- 5 September 1943 Winston Churchill

7. Operators and pronouns conjugate in full.

be become cause make do have

The ABC's, lists 15 operators:

be , have , come - go , put - take , give - get , make , keep , let , do , say , see , send , cause and because are occasionally used as operators;
seem was later added.

And 60 other verb forms are, strictly speaking, used only as nouns: instead of "I attempted to come", say, "I made an attempt to come."

act , attack , attempt , awake , base , be a sign of , bite , blow , burn , burst , control , cook , cry out , crush , cry , damage , desire , doubt , drink , fly , fold , give , go , go into , guide , hate , have sex , hear , hope , jump , kick , kiss , laugh , lead , let , love , look for , measure , pull , push , regret , reward , roll , run , see, shake , sleep , slip , smile , sneeze , start , station , stop , support , swim , talk about , taste , touch , walk , wash , whistle.
What Ogden did was this : he selected a minimal set of verbs, come, get, give, go, keep, let, make, put, seem, take; be, do, have; say, see, send; may, will, which could -- in conjunction with other words in Basic -- take the place of all the other verbs in the language.

English Through Pictures, Book II

Every statement or questions in this book has one or more of these sixteen words in it:

be have do seem come go put take give get keep let make send see say

The first of these words, "be", comes into more statements than any other. It goes like this:

Past Present Future
I was am will be
He She | It was is will be
We You | They were are will be

Here are the sixteen words. They go like this :

Past Present Future
I We You They
had have will have
did do will do
seemed seem will seem
came come will come
went go will go
put put will put
took take will take
gave give will give
got get will get
kept keep will keep
let let will let
made make will make
sent send will send
saw see will see
said say will say
I was am will be
We,You,They were are will be
He She It
had has will have
did does will do
seemed seems will seem
came comes will come
went goes will go
put puts will put
took takes will take
gave gives will give
got gets will get
kept keeps will keep
let lets will let
made makes will make
sent sends will send
saw sees will see
said says will say
was is will be

The Universal Language Dictionary project had a useful arrangement of the rest of the verbs. These add color and complexity, if desired, that allow Basic English seem what we consider normal English with a limited number of words.


 be  become
 cause  make
 do  have
 is/are able to ... [aux v pres]


 sleep*  awake [aj]
 bite* have sex (with)
 cry out*  cry*
 drink*  jump*
 kick*  kiss*
 laugh*  run*
 smile*  sneeze*
 swim*  taste*
 touch*  walk*


control*  let


give  reward*

Religion, Mind

doubt*  guide, lead*
hate*  hope*
love* act*
regret*  look for*


talk about* be a sign of

Quantity, Degree



come  come across
go  go into
slip*  fly (move thru air)*

Time, Sequence

start*  stop*

Matter-related actions

blow*  burn*
burst*  crush*
pull push
shake*  wash*




hear*  whistle*



Assorted abstract

attack* make
damage*  attempt*

Starred (*) verb forms are, strictly speaking, used only as nouns : instead of "I attempted to come", say, "I made an attempt to come." The Jingulu language (Aborigine) is said to have only three verbs and all other actions are made from a verb and a noun. To sleep is "do a sleep." The Basic person will recognize this technique. What are the three verbs? Two sources have been found which differ a bit: Wiki says do, make, run. While "The Story of Human Language" says : do, go, come. Because do and make are similar, and go and come are opposites with the idea of move, which is similar to run, one may suspect the minimum number of verbs could be reduced to two -- with senses of create and move.