Verbs are the foundation of every sentence, and there are thousands of verbs you can use. Verbs express actions, connect ideas and create movement. Without verbs, there would be no communication. Verbs can be used to describe physical actions, such as walking or running, or mental actions, such as thinking or feeling.
What Is a Verb? Our Verb Meaning
A verb is a word used to describe the subject’s action, state or occurrence within a sentence.
Verbs are the heart of every language and are used to describe the action or state of someone or something. A verb can express actions or a state of being. In English, verbs are the only word that changes to show whether they are used in the present, past or future tense.
- Paula walked (past) to school every day.
- Paula walks (present) to school every day.
- Paula will walk (future) to school every day.
Types of Verbs and Verb Examples
- Action or Dynamic
- Auxiliary or Helping
- Modal auxiliary
Action or Dynamic Verb Examples
An action verb is a verb that explains what action someone or something is performing, has performed or will perform. They are either transitive or intransitive. To determine whether a verb is transitive or intransitive, ask the question “Whom?” or “What?” after the verb.
Action Verbs in a Sentence Examples
- Mia danced joyfully under the sparkling disco lights. (intransitive)
- He swiftly solved the tricky puzzle, impressing everyone. (transitive)
Transitive Verb Examples
A transitive verb requires an object to receive the action. The object is almost always a noun or pronoun in the sentence and can answer the question “Whom?” or “What?”.
Transitive Verb Sentences
- I sang for her while we put away laundry.
- He ran a race yesterday.
- She plays the piano at home each evening.
Intransitive Verb Examples
An intransitive verb does not have an object and is not directed toward any noun or pronoun in a sentence. You cannot answer the question “Whom?” or “What?” when an intransitive verb is used.
Intransitive Verbs in a Sentence
- I sang.
- He ran.
- She plays.
Ditransitive Verb Examples
Ditransitive verbs, also known as bitransitive verbs, have two objects within the sentence that receive the action. The first object is the indirect object since it is indirectly affected by the action. The second object is called the direct object.
Ditransitive Verb Examples Sentences
- I gave (ditransitive) her (indirect object) my study notes (indirect object).
- The teacher bought (ditransitive) the students (indirect object) new textbooks (direct object) for the upcoming semester.
- My friend sent (ditransitive) me (indirect object) a thoughtful gift (direct object) for my birthday.
Physical Verb Examples
A physical verb is a type of action verb that describes a specific motion with your body (such as with your senses) or an action completed with the use of a tool.
Physical Verb Sentence Examples
- I hear you need help studying.
- She sat in the corner and sulked.
- Bobby tasted the soup.
Linking Verb Examples
A linking verb explains the state of a subject to provide details or a description. You must always use a linking verb with a noun, a noun phrase or an adjective. All of the following are linking verbs, but they are not physical verbs.
- Has been
- Any other form of the verb “be”
Linking Verb in a Sentence
- He seems happy to be at school today.
- I am disappointed with the test results.
Linking verbs that are also physical verbs include any verb that describes the senses, such as sight, smell or taste.
- I’m feeling extremely tired.
- The yard looks like a mess.
Auxiliary or Helping Verb Examples
Auxiliary verbs are also called helping verbs and are usually used in a functional manner alongside the main verb of a clause. They perform in several different ways, including the expression of tense, time, modality, emphasis, and use of voice to determine the relationship between action and subject.
There are three main helping verbs and all their associated tenses, including the negative form.
- Be, being, been, am, is, are, was, were
- Do, did, does, done
- Have, has, had
Modal auxiliary verbs never change form. These include the following:
- May, might, must
- Shall, should
- Can, could
- Will, would
- Ought to
Examples of Helping and Auxiliary Verbs in Sentences
- She had found the solution to the locked safe; unfortunately, we couldn’t get past the alarms. (helping verb)
- I have been watching the weather closely as we get closer to our vacation. (helping verb)
- The team is watching the replay of the last game to see where they can improve. (helping verb)
- The kindergarten class did not like the magician, and three kids cried during the puppet play. (helping verb)
- The hockey team should compete in the U.S. Classic Open tournament, but they are short of teammates due to illness. (modal auxiliary verb)
- We ought to pay more attention to traffic while driving through the city. (modal auxiliary verb)
Stative Verb Meaning and Examples
Stative verbs express a state or condition, such as an opinion, rather than an action. They are used in a sentence to provide abstract concepts such as:
- Beliefs or opinions: to think, disagree, support, know, etc.
- Emotions: to like, hate, need, wish, desire, etc.
- The senses: to see, hear, look, appear, etc.
- Possession: To possess, control, own, have, etc.
- Condition: To include, involve, weight, etc.
Stative Verb Example Sentences
- Clare hated her hair cut short and couldn’t wait until it grew back.
- Benjamin disagreed with his professor and told him why.
- Jaime supports his wife’s decision to open her own clinic.
Each of the above examples uses stative verbs to express an opinion or belief in reference to the subject.
Passive Verb Examples
Passive voice verbs allow the subject to be the recipient of the action rather than the one who performs it. They are usually composed of one form of the verb “to be” plus a verb ending in “-ed” or “-en.”
Passive Verb Example Sentences
- Many questions were asked during the job interview.
- She was denied entrance to the concert.
- Dogs were forbidden on the beach.
Phrasal Verb Examples
Phrasal verbs number in the thousands and are among the most difficult since they are made of two or more words and act as a completely new verb with a separate meaning from the original words. Sometimes there is more than one meaning depending on the context of the verb’s usage.
For example, the phrasal verb pick up can mean to grab something or to lift something. Separately, pick and up mean two very different things.
Phrasal Verb Example Sentences
- Could you please pick up the pencil I dropped?
- Could you pick up a gallon of milk on your way home from the office?
- The kids quickly cleaned up their toys after playing in the living room.
- Sarah ran into her old friend at the grocery store yesterday.
Reporting Verb Examples
When you use materials that you did not create in your writing, you need to provide credit to your sources. Reporting verbs, also called referring verbs, are action words that indicate your use of another’s materials. You use them to connect in-text quotes, paraphrases and information to their original source.
Reporting Verb Example Sentences
- Jennifer’s study indicates that financial changes can be influenced by a deeper political understanding and consequential voting patterns.
- Watson concluded that further research on the topic was needed.
Finite Verb Examples
A finite verb is a verb that is conjugated to show agreement with the subject and tense of a sentence.
In English, almost every verb can be used as a finite verb as long as there is a subject, the verb agrees with the subject, and there is a present or past tense. Every sentence has a finite verb; when there is more than one verb, it is almost always defined as the one closest (in order) to the subject.
Finite Verb Example Sentences
- Martin works hard for his family. (Present tense, third-person singular)
- Ryan had a dentist appointment last Thursday. (Past tense, third-person singular)
Infinitive Verb Examples
An infinitive verb allows a word or group of words to work as a noun, adjective, or adverb and serve to describe an action in general rather than a specific use of action. All verbs can be used in the infinitive form, usually through the addition of the word to before the base form of the verb.
- I need to read chapters six through ten for class tonight.
In this sentence, to read creates a discussion of the idea of reading rather than working as an actionable verb.
- Tonight, I’ll read chapters six through ten for class.
In this sentence, read describes the action of reading and is not an infinitive form.
There are two types of infinitive verbs: full infinitives and bare infinitives.
Full infinitive examples
Full infinitives are the infinitives that place the word to before the base form of the verb. They are the most common form of infinitive verbs. You do this to:
- Show purpose: I’m contacting you to let you know your extended car warranty has expired.
- Modify a noun: Do you need something to drink or eat?
- Make the action the subject of the sentence: To love another requires a respectful and honest relationship.
- Add context after adjectives: She was incredibly happy to have passed the exam.
- Explain why with the words too or enough: We stacked enough wood to last all winter.
- Introduce a phrase that starts with a relative pronoun: She doesn’t know how to beat the seventh level of her video game.
- Introduce certain verbs: In order to afford the tuition, she will need to receive a scholarship.
Bare infinitive examples
Bare infinitive verbs are also called zero infinitives and are formed without the use of to. These are less common than full infinitives.
Use bare infinitives:
- After modal auxiliary verbs: We might be late to class.
- After a physical verb: She made him run five laps around the track.
- With verbs let, make, and do: You can’t make him behave in class.
- With the relative pronoun why: Why wear a jacket on such a hot day?
Expert Tips on Verb Words
As a writer, using verbs to create action and movement in your writing is important. However, there are a few things to avoid when using verbs in your writing.
Use Strong Verbs
First, don’t overuse common verbs such as “to be” or “to have.” These verbs can make your writing sound dull and lifeless.
Second, don’t rely on passive or weak verbs such as “could,” “might” or “should.” These verbs can make your writing sound timid and hesitant.
Third, be careful of using too many -ing verbs. While these verbs can create a sense of forward momentum, they can also make your writing sound choppy and difficult to read.
Finally, don’t forget to use strong verbs that convey emotion and action. Verbs like “scream,” “laugh” and “cry” can add power and impact to your writing.
Use the Active Voice
As a general rule, verbs should be in the active voice. That is, the subject of the sentence should be the one doing the verb. For example, “The cashier counted the money” is in the active voice. “The money was counted by the cashier” is in the passive voice.
But the passive voice can be useful in certain situations. For example, if you want to put emphasis on the person or thing affected by an action, you can use the passive voice.
Also, being in the active voice, verbs should also agree with their subjects in number. For example, “He writes stories” is correct because the subject “he” is singular. “They write stories” is also correct because the subject “they” is plural.
Use Specific Verbs
Many people struggle with writing and don’t know how to improve their skills.
If you’re one of those people, don’t worry — you can do plenty of things to improve your writing skills. My honest advice is to read as much as possible. This will give you a better grasp of the concepts and make spotting them easier.
You’ll learn how to structure sentences and use language effectively by reading. You can also try writing in a variety of different genres so that you can learn to adapt your style to various audiences. Finally, it’s also essential to get feedback on your writing so that you can identify areas that need improvement.
What Are Verbs? Let’s Review
Verbs are an essential part of writing. They can express action, describe a state of being or link words between sentences. Without verbs, writing would be dull and uninteresting.
In addition to adding interest, verbs also help readers understand what is happening in a piece of writing. They can be used to show the order of events, highlight cause-and-effect relationships, and indicate whether something is happening now or in the past.
FAQs on Verb Grammar
Is “on” a verb?
The word on is not a verb. Instead, it can serve as a preposition, an adverb or an adjective.
As a preposition, it serves to state a location or a date. When it serves as an adjective, it modifies a noun. When it works as an adverb, it modifies a verb.
Is “in” a verb?
The word in is not a verb. Instead, it can serve as a noun, a preposition, an adverb or an adjective.
As a noun, the word in is used to mean leverage or an influential ability. When used as a preposition, it expresses a period of time, shows an object within something, indicates a location or instrumentality, or specifies a particular ratio. When it serves as an adverb, it modifies a verb or adjective; as an adjective, it describes a noun or pronoun.
Is “with” a verb?
The word with is not a verb. Instead, the only part of speech it serves is as a preposition.
It is a preposition because it indicates associations and connections between things and people. It also serves to explain where objects are.
What are the three types of verbs?
The three most important verbs to understand are action, linking and phrasal verbs. Almost all verbs fall into these categories in one way or another.
What are the four types of verbs?
Action, linking, auxiliary and passive verbs are important to understand. Almost all verbs are either action or linking verbs. Auxiliary verbs are helping verbs and work alongside other verbs to help determine the relationship between the action and the subject. Passive verbs allow the subject to be the recipient of the action rather than the one who performs it.
What are the two kinds of verbs?
Almost all verbs are linking or action verbs and are important to understand. A linking verb explains the state of a subject to provide details or a description. An action verb is a verb that explains what action someone or something is performing, has performed or will perform.