A good technique to use when shutting down the “monkey mind” internal monologue is to conjugate the irregular verb “to be”. The uniqueness of that verb blows the mind of grammarians. I climbed down that rabbit-hole yesterday afternoon on a whim.
First of all, it’s helpful to remember that English language verbs fall into two categories based upon how their past and past participles appear.
Regular verbs follow a “regular” pattern. Their past tense forms use -ed at the end of the verb. For example, the past tense of like is liked. (Grammarians classify some regular verbs as “weak verbs”–verbs formed by adding -ed, -d, or -t to the past participle.)
Meantime, irregular verbs require us to use more memory skills in order to conjugate them correctly. Irregular verbs or “strong verbs” have different spellings in their various tenses. For instance, take the verb fly. The past tense is flew and the past participle is flown. Some strong verbs’ past tense and past participle have the same spelling as in swim, swam, swam.
In my opinion, irregular English verbs are the most interesting verbs because of their nuances, and because they have different forms, and that they are derived from Old English. This brings us to the most irregular of the irregular verbs–to be.
To be serves in more roles than most of the other verbs. It can serve as a main verb and as a primary auxiliary verb. In its auxiliary form we get statements such as: The truck was driven by Jorge. Jorge was driving the truck to Chicago.
One interesting aspect of to be is that unlike other irregular verbs like fly, flew, flown, it uses three words to the present tense form and two words in the past tense. In the present tense we have: am, is, and are. In the past tense we have: was and were. We have the past participle–been and the present participle–being.
The present tense uses the word “am” in first person singular, and the word “are” in first person plural; second person singular and plural; and third person plural. In third person singular, we use “is”.
Meanwhile, the future tense of to be is easy. We use “will be” in all of the future forms such as I will be; You will be; It will be; etcetera.
In past-perfect we have “had been” filling all the roles. In future-perfect we find “will have been” in all the roles. There is present-perfect that uses “have been” everywhere except in third person singular which uses “has been”.
So, there you have it. The next time you feel scatter-brained, you might try conjugating “to be”. If you’re only mildly distracted, you can classify and conjugate some of your own favorite verbs. This is a good exercise to center the mind.