Do To: A Very Busy Verb (Part Two)

In Part One of our series on “to do”, we looked at the simple forms of the verb as well as some of the ways these forms are used in everyday English. Now we will go over some additional forms of “to do” and provide some example sentences.

Negative forms of “to do”

We use the negative forms of “to do” when we are talking/writing about an action that is not (or was not) taken. These can be a little tricky because in spoken English and in informal writing, people tend to use contractions rather than the full form. You will see both forms in the table below.

In the examples, you will notice that the negative form of “to do” is usually followed by another verb. In these sentences, “to do” is serving as an auxiliary verb, which is also known as a helping verb. The second verb is always written in its root, or infinitive, form.

In the example sentences below, both the form of “to do” and the second verb are written in boldface type. The reason for this is because a lot of writers make the mistake of using other forms of second verb instead of the root form, especially in past tense sentences. So although this article is focused on “to do”, it is equally important to pay attention to that second verb!

SubjectPresent Tense NegativePast Tense NegativeExamples
II do not
I don’t
I did not
I didn’t
I do not know how to speak Mandarin.
I didn’t know how to speak Mandarin until I took a class last year.
YouYou do not
You don’t
You did not
You didn’t
You don’t drive at night anymore.
You did not drive at night until you had your cataracts removed.
He/She/ItHe does not
She doesn’t
It doesn’t
He did not
She didn’t
It didn’t
Hamid doesn’t eat pork.
Lia didn’t eat meat as a child, but she does now.
WeWe do not
We don’t
We did not
We didn’t
We do not have time to go shopping today.
When we went to California, we did not have time to visit Disneyland.
TheyThey do not
They don’t
They did not
They didn’t
The children don’t like scary movies.
Terry and Jill didn’t like scary movies when they were kids, but they like them now.

Present and past continuous tenses

The present and past continuous tenses are used when we want to show some type of ongoing action or situation. Since the verb “to do” is used with the verb “to be”, you may want to review our previous article about “to be” before you proceed any further.

Subject + Simple form of “to be” (either past or present) + doing

If that sounds a little confusing, here are some example sentences to make things clearer for you:

They are doing the dishes right now.

Jeff was doing his homework when all of a sudden the electricity went out.

I cannot go to the movies because I am doing my taxes.

You were doing very well at university last term. I wish you hadn’t dropped out.

Future tense

We use the future tense to indicate an action that will happen in the future.

Subject + “will” + “do”

I will do the laundry when I get home.

We will do some yard work tomorrow unless it rains.

Mariska will do her Ph.D. dissertation next year.

Present and past perfect tenses

The perfect tenses of verbs are the ones we use with different forms of “to have”. The present perfect tense is used when you are writing about an action that was completed recently and is still affecting the situation right now. The past perfect tense is used for situations that took place earlier in the past, before other events which also took place in the past.

The form of “to do” that we use for both the present and past perfect tense is “done”. As you can see in the table below, the form of “to have” changes depending on the subject, but “done” is used across the board.

SubjectPresent Perfect TensePast Perfect Tense
II have doneI had done
YouYou have doneYou had done
He/She/ItHe has done
She has done
It has done
He had done
She had done
It had done
WeWe have doneWe had done
TheyThey have doneThey had done

You have done a wonderful job decorating for the party!

I wish I had done more to help my sister after her divorce.

That chemical has done too much harm to the environment.

Takeshi thought he had done enough work on the PowerPoint presentation, but then his team members told him they needed more slides.

Ravi and Sanya have done a lot of gardening this weekend.

When the headmaster called us into his office, we were afraid we had done something wrong.

“Done” as an adjective

In addition to being a form of the verb “to do”, “done” is also sometimes used as an adjective. When we see “done” used in this way, it means the same as “completed” or “finished”. Most of the time, it is used with some form of the verb “to be”.

The cake is done. Let’s eat some!

Gordon told me that the evaluations won’t be done until next week.

Are you done with the printer yet? (In this sentence, “done” means “finished using”.)

If you still aren’t sure if you are using “to do” correctly, click the blue box below. Our TextRanch editors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Helping our customers with their English writing is what we like to do!

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