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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
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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