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The Definitions of Verbs
- A verb is a word or a combination of words that indicates action or a state of being or condition.
- A verb is a doing word that shows an action, an event or a state.
- A verb is the part of speech that indicates what something does, or what it is.
- A verb is a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence, and forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence, such as hear, become, happen.
- A verb can be defined as a word that expresses an action or a state of being.
- Verbs are the action words in a sentence that describe what the subject is doing.
- A verb is a word or phrase that describes an action, condition, or experience: "Run," "keep," and "feel" are all verbs.
A verb is a word that we use to refer to actions (what things do) and states of being (how things are). For example, the words describe, eat, and rotate are verbs.
As you are about to see, verbs come in a lot of different types that don’t all behave the same way. When using proper grammar, it is important that you use verbs correctly.
So, we are going to explore the many different types of verbs that we use and how to successfully use them to create great, clear sentences.
Types of Verbs
We are going to explore 11 different types of verbs. Because every type deserves some attention, we won’t be going into too much detail on each type. If you want to learn more than what is covered here, you’re in luck. Listed below are each of the 11 types of verbs we are going to look at and a link to an article entirely focused on that specific type of verb.
- Action verbs
- Stative verbs
- Transitive verbs
- Intransitive verbs
- Linking verbs
- Helping verbs (also called auxiliary verbs)
- Modal verbs
- Regular verbs
- Irregular verbs
- Phrasal verbs
1. Action verbs
Action verbs, as their name says, are used to refer to actions. These can refer to physical actions that are performed with bodies or objects, such as jump, hit, or sing, or mental actions that we use our brains to perform, such as think, consider, or memorize. Most verbs you will find are action verbs.
List of action verbs
Examples of action verbs in a sentence
Each of these sentences uses action verbs. You’ll see that each verb is referring to a physical or mental action.
- I work at a factory.
- Cats chase mice.
- We listened to the woman’s amazing story.
2. Stative verbs
Unlike action verbs, stative verbs refer to conditions or states of being. Generally speaking, we use stative verbs to describe things like qualities, states of existence, opinions, beliefs, and emotions. When used in a sentence, stative verbs do not refer to actions. It is important to know that some verbs can be used as either action or stative verbs depending on their meaning in the sentence. We are less likely to use stative verbs in the continuous verb tenses.
List of stative verbs
Examples of stative verbs in a sentence
These sentences all use stative verbs. You’ll notice that none of these verbs refer to actions.
- The mansion has five bathrooms.
- Allie loves her younger sisters.
- My car needs an oil change.
3. Transitive verbs
A transitive verb is a verb that is accompanied by a direct object in a sentence. The direct object is the noun, pronoun, or noun phrase that is having something done to it by the subject of the sentence. Both action and stative verbs can have direct objects, which means they can both be used as transitive verbs.
Examples of transitive verbs in a sentence
The following sentences all contain examples of transitive verbs. As you read each one, consider what the direct object of the sentence is.
- Leonardo ate a delicious pepperoni pizza.
- The wealthy man bought three paintings.
- She really hates broccoli.
4. Intransitive verbs
The opposite of a transitive verb is an intransitive verb. A verb is an intransitive verb if it is not used with a direct object. Remember, only nouns, pronouns, and noun phrases can be direct objects. Prepositional phrases, adjectives, and adverbs cannot be used as direct objects. Once again, both action and stative verbs can be used as intransitive verbs.
Examples intransitive verbs in a sentence
Each of these sentences uses intransitive verbs. Look carefully and you will see that none of these sentences have direct objects.
- Airplanes fly.
- The children slept while the adults worked.
- The terrified monkeys hid in the trees after they saw the gigantic hungry snake.
5. Linking verbs
Linking verbs are a special type of stative verb whose name gives a big clue as to what they do. Linking verbs are used to link a subject with a subject complement. A subject complement describes or identifies the subject of the sentence or clause. Linking verbs can function as intransitive verbs, which do not take direct objects.
List of words used as linking verbs
Examples of linking verbs in a sentence
In each of the following sentences, linking verbs are used to link a subject with a subject complement.
- Mike is a great dancer.
- That gold watch looks expensive.
- Suddenly, the mall got really crowded.
6. Helping verbs (auxiliary verbs)
Helping verbs, also called auxiliary verbs, are helpful verbs that work with other verbs to change the meaning of a sentence. A helping verb combines with a main verb in order to accomplish different goals. These include changing the tense of the verb or altering the mood of a sentence.
List of words used as helping verbs
Examples of helping verbs in a sentence
Each of the following sentences uses a helping verb. Take a moment to consider what each sentence is saying and how a helping verb contributes to the meaning of the sentence.
- The musician has performed in concerts all over the world.
- My cat is getting slow in her old age.
- Cheetahs can run incredibly fast.
7. Modal verbs
Modal verbs are a subgroup of helping verbs that are used to give a sentence a specific mood. Each modal verb is used differently, and they can express concepts such as ability, necessity, possibility, or permission.
List of verbs used as modal verbs
Examples of modal verbs in a sentence
The following sentences all use modal verbs to express a certain tone. You’ll see that each sentence would have a different meaning (or wouldn’t make sense) without the modal verb.
- Once you finish your homework, you may play outside.
- We must carefully add two eggs to the mixing bowl.
- I would go to the movies if I wasn’t busy working.
8. Regular verbs
A verb is considered a regular verb if its past tense form and past participle ends in -ed, -d, or the verb is a -t variant verb. For example, the verb look is a regular verb because both its past tense form and past participle is looked. Sometimes, regular verbs may slightly change spelling. For example, the past tense and past participle of cry is cried.
List of regular verbs
- jump becomes jumped
- slip becomes slipped
- try becomes tried
- sleep becomes slept
- lend becomes lent
Examples of regular verbs in a sentence
Each of the following sentences use regular verbs in either their past tense form or as a past participle.
- He walked two miles to the post office.
- We purchased all of the supplies that we needed for the camping trip.
- Tiffany had noticed something strange about Marcus’s story.
9. Irregular verbs
An irregular verb is a verb whose past tense and past participle form doesn’t end in -ed, -d, and doesn’t use the –t variant. Often, the spelling of these verbs changes dramatically or may not even change at all.
List of irregular verbs
- be becomes am, is, are, was, were, be, being, and been
- eat becomes ate, eaten
- fly becomes flew, flown
- catch becomes caught, caught
- set becomes set, set
Examples of irregular verbs in a sentence
The following sentences use irregular verbs. Despite being used in the past tense or as a past participle, none of these verbs end in -ed, -d, or are a -t variant verb.
- Cindy knew all of the right answers.
- This junky computer has given me nothing but headaches since I bought it.
- The workers took the furniture out of the moving truck.
10. Phrasal verbs
Phrasal verbs are combinations of a verb with prepositions and/or adverbs that have a different meaning from the individual words used to form them. For example, the verb shut means “to close,” and the adverb down means “not up” or “in a descending direction.” However, the phrasal verb shut down means to stop the operation of something.
List of phrasal verbs
- ask for
- put up with
- talk down to
- lock up
- cut across
Examples of phrasal verbs in a sentence
The following sentences show how we can use phrasal verbs. Sometimes, we can separate out the words of a phrasal verb and the sentence is still grammatically correct.
- The frustrated business owner closed down his store.
- Dave loves to show off his baseball trophies.
- My mother always told me it is a good idea to put some money away in case of emergencies.
Our last type of verb isn’t actually a verb at all—sorry about that! However, infinitives look a lot like verbs because they are derived from them. An infinitive of a verb is identical to the base form of the verb. For example, the infinitive form of the verb open is open. Typically, we use infinitives with the word to in order to form infinitive phrases. Infinitive phrases can be used for a variety of reasons, such as to act like nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.
Examples of infinitive phrases in a sentence
All of the following sentences use infinitive phrases. In order, the infinitive phrases are acting as a noun (nominal infinitive), an adjective (adjectival infinitive), and an adverb (adverbial infinitive).
- To play guitar in a rock band is my goal.
- If you are looking for the best restaurants in town, Luis is the person to ask.
- The writing in the letter was too small to see.
What is a verb? Verbs are words that describe actions, whether physical or mental. Verbs also describe a “state of being,” like the verbs be, become, or exist.
Salah ran across the field, kicked the ball, and scored a goal.
“I am the State.” — King Louis XIV
Some verbs also act as “helper verbs” to change the tense of another verb. Likewise, these helper verbs can change a positive statement to a negative one with words like “not.”
She has been jogging for a month and already feels her stamina increasing.
“I don’t feel so good.” — Spider-Man
Types of verbs
Dynamic (action) verbs
Most verbs describe a physical action or activity, something external that can be seen or heard. These verbs are formally known as dynamic verbs, but can also be called action or event verbs.
Examples: walk, laugh, swim, play, eat, drink, sing, dance, talk, say
There are a lot of actions that take place in our minds and feelings, which are not external. Verbs that describe mental or internal actions are still dynamic verbs, but they’re not always so obvious. These include “process verbs,” which describe actions of transition.
Examples: consider, guess, change, grow, live, endure, succeed, fail
Stative (state-of-being) verbs
The opposite of dynamic verbs of action is stative verbs of being. Stative verbs describe a subject’s state or feeling, including things they like and don’t like.
Examples: want, need, prefer, love, hate, like, dislike, seem, understand, know, believe, involve, realize
One of the most important parts of stative verbs is that you can’t use them in the continuous tenses. Stative verbs stick to the simple tenses, or occasionally use the perfect.
The trouble is that some verbs can be dynamic or stative, depending on the specific meaning and how they’re used. This includes the most popular verb be. Let’s take a deeper look at these.
Verbs that can be dynamic or stative
A lot of verbs have more than one meaning, so they can be used as dynamic or stative. These include perception words: see, hear, taste, smell, feel.
When perception verbs are used as an involuntary action, such as passive or unintentional actions, they are stative. This applies when these verbs are used in the general sense, a state of being that’s always happening.
I can’t see without my glasses.
Cake still tastes great even if it’s not your birthday.
When those same verbs are used for a voluntary action—specific, deliberate, and/or temporary events—they are dynamic. Among other things, it means they can be used in the continuous tenses.
I haven’t been seeing well since I lost my glasses.
We were tasting cakes for the wedding all afternoon.
Likewise, some perception verbs have alternative meanings, especially if they’re part of expressions or phrasal verbs. Often, this means they act as dynamic verbs.
Romeo and Juliet had been seeing each other for just five days when they died.
Other verbs, like think, have, and, above all be, follow the same voluntary/involuntary rules as perception verbs. Depending on how they’re used, they can be either dynamic or stative.
I think toads are better than frogs.
(stative: expresses an opinion or feeling always there; involuntary)
All morning I was thinking about how toads are better than frogs.
(dynamic: expresses the temporary action of thinking; voluntary)
I have a ten-year-old dog.
(stative: expresses permanent ownership; involuntary)
I am having a party for my dog’s eleventh birthday.
(dynamic: used as part of phrase; voluntary)
He is nice to everyone.
(stative: expresses an ongoing state or personality trait; involuntary)
He was just being nice to everyone to get a promotion.
(dynamic: expresses a temporary/intentional state; voluntary)
Auxiliary (helping) verbs
Auxiliary verbs, or “helping verbs,” are used in English to change another verb’s tense, voice, or mood. When auxiliary verbs are used, there’s always a main verb that represents the main action. However, the auxiliary verb must still be conjugated correctly.
The main auxiliary verbs are be, have, and do. We explain how they’re used specifically for conjugating below, but here are a few quick examples:
I have eaten sushi many times before. (tense)
That piece of sushi was eaten by me. (voice)
Did you eat my sushi? (mood)
Modal auxiliary verbs
Some auxiliary verbs are added to another verb to show necessity, possibility, or capability. Like other auxiliary verbs, modal auxiliary verbs are not the main verb, but they do change its meaning slightly. Some common examples are can, may, could, should, would, must, ought, and might.
I could swim across the English Channel, but should I do it?
She must be the strongest person on the team, and might be the strongest person in the region.
Phrasal verbs are phrases that act as individual verbs, often combining two or more words and changing their meaning. The verb get, for example, becomes many different phrasal verbs when combined with different prepositions.
When the bus stops, passengers get out on the sidewalk.
After losing his job, he’s getting by on savings.
The important thing to remember about phrasal verbs is that they act as a single verb, so you can still use them with other verbs and prepositions. However, when you conjugate a phrasal verb, you only conjugate the part of the phrase that’s actually a verb, like get.
Aside from the different types, verbs also come in different categories. Dynamic, stative, and auxiliary verbs all make up the categories below.
Transitive, intransitive, and ditransitive
Transitive, intransitive, and ditransitive refer to how a verb acts with direct and indirect objects. A direct object is the person or thing that the action happens to, while an indirect object is the person or thing that receives the direct object.
Lindor threw the ball to deGram.
In this example, the subject is Lindor and the verb is threw. The direct object is the ball because that is what was thrown—Lindor did the action to the ball. The indirect object is deGram because he received the direct object, the ball.
Verbs that don’t use either a direct or indirect object are called intransitive. These verbs are complete actions by themselves.
Examples: go, walk, run, talk, sit, sleep, work
Verbs that use a direct object, but not an indirect object, are called transitive. They don’t always need a direct object, but they have the option.
Examples: clean, like, love, dislike, hate, want, learn, deserve, say
Verbs that use both direct and indirect objects are called ditransitive. They don’t always need an indirect object, but they have the option.
Examples: throw, make, buy, sell, read, give, lend, bring
Just as a verb can be either dynamic or stative depending on the meaning, a verb can sometimes act transitive while at other times act intransitive. These are known as ambitransitive. For example, if you ask someone if they’re hungry, they might respond:
No, I already ate. (intransitive)
No, I already ate a sandwich. (transitive)
Active vs. passive voice
In English, the standard format where the subject performs the action is known as the active voice. However, you can switch around your words to make the direct or indirect objects the subject of the sentence, known as the passive voice. You can make a verb passive by adding a conjugated form of be in front of its past participle.
Stricklen threw the ball to Williams. (active)
The ball was thrown to Williams by Stricklen. (passive)
Williams was thrown the ball by Stricklen. (passive)
Linking (copular) verbs
A linking verb is any verb, dynamic or stative, that directly connects or “links” the sentence’s subject to other words in the sentence. For example:
Garfield is a cat.
Here, “Garfield” and “a cat” are the same thing, so “is” acts as a linking verb.
A linking verb—also known as a copula or copular verb in formal linguistics—connects the subject not just to other nouns and adjectives, but also to prepositional phrases and other verbs in the infinitive form. Although the verb be is the most-used linking verb in English, other linking verbs like seem and become are also common.
Garfield is in the kitchen.
Garfield became fat by eating lasagnas.
Garfield seems to hate Mondays.
Likewise, perception verbs are often linking verbs as well, but only when they describe what is being perceived.
The mild sauce also tastes spicy.
Birds look happy when the sun comes out.
The student felt pride when they used perfect grammar.
Regular vs. irregular Verbs
Verbs have different forms to show different uses, such as an action that happened in the past, or an action that happens continuously. Normally, these forms follow the same patterns of conjugation, so that you can use the same rules on all verbs. Verbs that use the normal forms are regular verbs.
Unfortunately, some verbs don’t want to play by the rules. They have their own unique forms with no patterns, specifically for the simple past tense and past participle forms. These are the notorious irregular verbs, and there are quite a few of them—including the most common verb be.
To make matters worse, the only way to learn how to use irregular verbs is to study them and all their forms. But first, you’ll want to learn the standard verb forms of the majority regular verbs below.
Verbs can be said to have five forms in English: the base form, the present tense form (which may include the agreement ending -s), the past tense form, the present participle, and the past participle. Although the forms are predictable for most verbs in English, many common verbs have one or more unpredictable or irregular forms.
Forms of the Verb Study
- Base form: study
- Present tense form: studies
- Past tense form: studied
- Present participle: studying
- Past participle: studied
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