What Is a Verb? – Usage & Examples (With Worksheet)

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Verbs are a very important part of speech in the English language. Well, in any language, actually. They indicate actions, states, and occurrences and can be conjugated to indicate different tenses, creating subject-verb agreements. Verbs are also used to agree with subjects and objects in a sentence.

Without verbs, it would be very difficult to communicate properly. What is a verb, how do you use it, and why it’s important; all that and much more, covered in this helpful guide I created for you.

What Is a Verb?

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Verbs are the foundation of every sentence, and there are thousands of verbs you can use. They express actions, connect ideas, and create movement. Without verbs, there would be no communication. They can be used to describe physical actions, such as walking or running, or mental actions, such as thinking or feeling.

Verbs are the heart of every language and are used to describe the action or the 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 tense.

They also change to show whether they are used in the present, past, or future tense. For example, the verb “walks” is present tense, while the verb “walked” is past tense, and the verb “will walk” is future tense.

When Do You Use a Verb?

In my opinion, verbs are one of the most important parts of a sentence. But it depends on what forms of verbs you’re going to use. There are three main types of verbs: action, linking, and helping. Don’t worry; I’ll explain each one.

Action verbs express physical or mental actions. Examples of action verbs include run, jump, think, and feel. Linking verbs are words that connect the subject of a sentence to a noun or adjective that describes the subject.

The most used linking verb is the verb to be, which can be used as both an action verb and a linking verb. Helping verbs are words that come before the main verb in a sentence and help to express the verb tense or make it negative. Some examples of helping verbs include am, is, are, was, were, do, does, did, have, has, had.

What Are Some Main Verbs?

The English language has various types of verbs, each with its own function and purpose. The main family of verb types is action verbs, linking verbs, and helping verbs. All can be used to create a common sentence structure.

So, action verbs explain the physical or even mental actions that are happening and can be either transitive or intransitive.

Linking verbs serve to join subjects to nouns or adjectives that describe the subject. The way I remember this is linking = connecting.

Helping verbs aid the main verb by adding extra meaning or tense. Just remember: Helping = assisting.

The most common verb in English is the verb “to be.” which is actually an example of a two-word verb.

Other common verbs include: “to have,” “to do,” “to say,” “to go,” “to get,” “to make,” “to know,” “to take,” “to see,” “to come,” “to think,” “to give,” and “to find.”

These are just a few of the many different types of verbs that exist in the English language.

What Are the 4 Types of Verbs?

Four different verb types are to consider: intransitive, transitive, linking, and passive. No matter which one you’re using, they’re the heart of sentences, giving them movement and life.

Intransitive

This verb category describes an active verb that depicts actions without an object. A sentence can be formed using the subject and the verb alone.

There could be an adverb or a modifier after the verb, but none are required to form a complete sentence.

Examples:

  • I sang.
  • I sang on stage.
  • I sang my favorite song.

Transitive

Transitive verbs describe an action that requires a recipient, usually an object. The sentence containing a transitive verb is incomplete with the subject and verb alone; it also requires a noun, a pronoun, or a noun clause.

Examples:

  • I opened the door.
  • I found her.
  • I think you might be into something.

Linking

A linking verb usually describes one of the senses (like the taste, smell, or look) and a limited number of other verbs (such as remain, become, seem, and be). You must always use a linking verb with a noun, a noun phrase, or an adjective. The sentence needs a complement to be correct.

Examples:

  • I feel healthy.
  • I was an engineering student.
  • It seems that we need to study more.

Passive

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.”

Examples:

  • Rocks were thrown to break the windows.
  • A lot of questions were asked during the interview.
  • Entrance is denied if you’re not dressed accordingly.

What Are the 50 Action Verbs?

Action verbs are exactly what they sound like; words to indicate actions are happening.

The 50 action verbs used in English are:

  • Write
  • Give
  • Jump
  • Eat
  • Drink
  • Cook
  • Wash
  • Wait
  • Climb
  • Talk
  • Crawl
  • Dream
  • Dig
  • Clap
  • Knit
  • Sew
  • Smell
  • Kiss
  • Hug
  • Snore
  • Bathe
  • Ride
  • Sit down
  • Stand up
  • Fight
  • Laugh
  • Read
  • Play
  • Listen
  • Cry
  • Think
  • Sing
  • Watch TV
  • Dance
  • Turn on
  • Turn off
  • Win
  • Fly
  • Cut
  • Throw away
  • Sleep
  • Close
  • Open
  • Bow
  • Paint
  • Dive
  • Ski
  • Stack
  • Buy
  • Shake

Verbs That Can Be Dynamic or Stative

Two distinct types of verbs can be used in the English language: stative and dynamic verbs.

Dynamic verbs describe actions and activities, be they long-term processes or momentary actions.

Many verbs can be either dynamic or stative, depending on how they are used. For example, the verb “to be” can be either dynamic or stative. When used as a copula, it is static, but when used as an auxiliary verb, it is dynamic.

Similarly, the verb “to have” can also be either dynamic or stative, depending on how it is used. It is dynamic when used as a main verb, but it is static when used as an auxiliary verb. Many other verbs can be either dynamic or stative, depending on context and usage.

Physical Verb Examples

Physical verbs are action verbs. They are commonly used to describe body motions or the use of certain tools.

Some examples include:

  • Cry
  • Laugh
  • Dance
  • Play
  • Tackle
  • Catch
  • Knock

Auxiliary (Helping) Verbs

Auxiliary verbs, often called helping verbs, are secondary verbs that work in tandem with the sentence’s primary verb to convey more nuanced grammatical ideas, such as time and mode. The auxiliary verb serves to strengthen the main verb in a statement.

They have a supportive sentence role and are used with a main verb. The primary role of these helping verbs is to create grammatical tenses.

Let’s take a look at some examples of how this works:

  • No auxiliary verb: I go to the university.
  • Present continuous: I am going to the university.
  • Future perfect continuous: I will have been going to the university for three years this fall.

Another role of auxiliary verbs is to show whether a sentence is in the active or passive voice. You can also use auxiliary verbs to add emphasis to a question.

Example:

  • You love tuna sandwiches, don’t you?
  • I do love them!

“Have,” “be,” and “do” are the three main auxiliary verbs. Since they can all be used as standalone action verbs, you have to identify a second verb to see if they are auxiliary verbs or not.

For example:

  • Action verb: I did the dishes right after lunch.
  • Auxiliary verb: I did not listen to a single word he said.

Modal Auxiliary Verbs

Modal verbs are a type of phrasal verb that can be utilized to communicate a variety of hypothetical conditions, including requests, advice, and capabilities. They are employed in conjunction with a primary verb to bring about a subtle shift in that word’s meaning. Because they are auxiliary verbs, it is not always possible to use them on their own.

Some of the most common modal verbs in English include:

  • Must
  • Will
  • Should
  • Could
  • Would
  • May
  • Can

Confused about how to use model verbs? Here are some pointers.

Likelihood

We often use modal verbs to talk about something we’re not entirely sure about. Verbs like must and should are great for showing probability without certainty.

For example:

  • She must have studied for the test, how else would she get such a high grade?
  • My mom should be back from the store any minute now.

Possibility

The modal verbs most used to discuss possible situations are might, may, and could.

Examples:

  • I don’t have a plan for tonight, I might just stay home and relax.
  • With his skills, he could become the best soccer player in the country.

Permission

When asking permission to do something, we usually start with could, may, and can. If you want to take the formal approach, always start with may or might (as in “May I go to the bathroom?”) because “can” makes it seem like you’re questioning your ability.

Ability

“Can” is a modal verb used to talk about one’s ability to act. Consequently, the negative form “cannot” shows that someone or something is unable to perform an action.

Examples:

  • I can listen to music and study at the same time.
  • I can’t focus on studying with all that noise.

Phrasal Verbs

A phrasal verb is formed by joining a regular verb with a preposition or an adverb. It is helpful to treat a phrasal verb as if it were its own word because its meaning is usually unconnected to that of the words it is made up of.

Phrasal verbs are employed in the same ways as regular verbs in terms of conjugation and placement in a phrase. However, they do adhere to some unique word order restrictions. Phrasal verbs are versatile since they can be transformed into any regular verb form.

Let’s take the verb” to get over” as an example. “To get” means to acquire, while “over” means going above something. When you join them together, you get a phrasal verb that means “to overcome.”

Types of Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs fall into one of the two following categories: transitive and intransitive, separable and inseparable. A phrasal verb can only fall into one of these two categories, even if they are all transitive.

Examples of phrasal verbs:

  • Put out
  • Call off
  • Check out
  • Get away with
  • Get ahead
  • Find out
  • Look up
  • Put on
  • Leave out
  • Keep up

Transitive

A transitive phrasal verb uses a direct object.

Example:

  • My teacher couldn’t get over how well we all knew the lesson.

Intransitive

These verbs do not use an object.

Example:

  • I was late for class, so they went ahead without me.

Separable

When dealing with separable phrasal verbs, you can add the direct object between the two components. However, word order is very important in this particular category, but we’ll talk about that later.

Example:

  • I put the book down to listen to the teacher.

Inseparable

You must always use the words together for this particular verb category and never split them.

Example:

  • If he’s a liability, you have to carry on without him.

Phrasal Verbs Word Order

Words that make up a phrasal verb, for the most part, do not separate from one another. The intransitive verb and the participle must always be placed next to one another and cannot be separated when using phrasal verbs that are inseparable and intransitive.

Separable phrasal verbs have different guidelines, as they are always transitive. Since they use an object, you can place that direct object in the middle of the verb and the participle.

Example:

  • I promise I won’t let you down.

Transitive, Intransitive, and Ditransitive

These three terms indicate how a verb acts concerning direct and indirect objects. Direct objects encompass people or objects that the action is reflected upon. Indirect objects are whatever or whoever received the direct object.

Example: I opened the door for my grandmother.

In this sentence, we have the following:

  • I – serving as the subject.
  • Opened – the verb.
  • The door – the direct object.

In the English language, certain verbs don’t have direct or indirect objects. These verbs are called intransitive.

Examples of intransitive verbs:

  • Sleep
  • Walk
  • Run
  • Go
  • Sit

Transitive verbs, on the other hand, have a direct object but not an indirect one.

Examples of transitive verbs:

  • Say
  • Learn
  • Want
  • Clean
  • Love

When a verb uses both direct and indirect objects, it’s called ditransitive.

Examples:

  • Bring
  • Sell
  • Buy
  • Make
  • throw

Active Vs. Passive Voice

The phrase “active voice” refers to the typical structure used in English in which the subject is the one who acts. Nevertheless, you can rearrange your words so that the direct or indirect objects become the subject of the sentence. This is referred to as using the passive voice. While the active voice is simpler to understand, the passive voice requires more explanations.

Let’s start with an example:

  • I wrote the article. (active voice)
  • The article was written by me. (passive voice)

People use active voice to make the writing more direct and packed with action. You have a subject that performs the action and a recipient that receives it. The passive voice is the reverse, with the subject being that which is acted upon.

When to Use Active and Passive Voice

This is something I actually struggle with when writing. But tools like Grammarly definitely help me stay on track. If you don’t have access to tools like that, here are some helpful tips to remember the difference and how to use them properly.

Active voice is a good idea when you want to communicate briefly and efficiently. It’s commonly used when writing blog posts, emails, and different types of essays and stating facts you want the reader to understand clearly and immediately.

While passive voice is not incorrect, it is often frowned upon because it complicates the sentences. However, it can be very useful in certain circumstances. News reports are a great example of proper passive voice usage.

Examples:

  • A robbery was committed at the corner of 5th and Main.
  • The money was stolen right from the victim’s wallet.

The passive voice is utilized to emphasize the activity rather than the individual or group who did the crime; this is done most of the time since the offender isn’t identified.

In scientific and historical reports, the passive voice finds its way because readers are more interested in knowing about the action rather than who did it.

Example:

  • The rats showed a positive response when being administered mild medicine quantities.

With this example, we’re more interested in knowing what happened with the study rather than who performed the study.

Verbs and Tenses

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The verb also changes depending on the tense you’re writing in. Using them incorrectly can cause common spelling errors and stop writing flow. Here are some examples to help you understand and avoid this basic grammar mistake.

1st Person Verb (present tense)

  • Cry
  • Walk
  • Ride

2nd Person Verb (Past tense)

  • Crying
  • Walking
  • Riding

3rd Person Verb (Past tense)

  • Cried
  • Walked
  • Rode

1st, 2nd, and 3rd Person Verbs: Examples of Sentences

Sometimes it helps to understand when seeing them used in a full sentence.

1st Person Verb Sentences (Present Tense)

  • I cry as Damien tells me he’s leaving me.
  • I walk over to where my other stands.
  • I want to ride the horse all the way home.

2nd Person Verb Sentences (Past Tense)

  • Why are you are crying over this man?
  • I found you walking down the street.
  • You were always great at riding horseback.

3rd Person Verb Sentences (Past Tense)

  • I cried over him for weeks before the tears dried up.
  • We walk all the way across town for the concert.
  • He rode over here the moment I called.

Regular Vs. Irregular Verbs

Verbs can take various forms to express their many meanings, including an action that took place in the past, an activity that takes place continually, and so on. As a general rule, these forms adhere to the same conjugation patterns, enabling you to apply the same set of guidelines to all verbs. Verbs are considered regular when they make use of their standard forms.

Unluckily, not all verbs are willing to play by the established guidelines. In particular, the forms for the simple past tense and the past participle each have their characteristics and do not follow any patterns. These are the infamously unpredictable verbs, and quite a few, including the most typical verb “to be.”

To make the situation even worse, the only way to learn how to use irregular verbs correctly is to study them and all the forms they come in. On the positive side, I’ll walk you through the most effective strategies to commit irregular verbs to memory. Firstly, you should familiarize yourself with the typical verb forms of most standard ones.

Verb Conjugation in English

In English, verbs are conjugated to show tenses, aspects, moods, and voices in complex sentences. There are three basic forms of main tenses – past, present, and future – which are divided into four aspects – simple, progressive, perfect, and perfect.

Each tense can be shown in either the active or passive voice. In addition, there are subjunctive and conditional moods, which can also be shown in either the active or passive voice.

Verb conjugation simply means changing the verb’s form to show who’s performing the action and when the action is taking place.

For example, the verb “to read” is conjugated as “read-read-read” in the present simple tense, “is reading” in the present progressive tense, “has read” in the present perfect tense, and “has been reading” in the present perfect progressive tense.

To conjugate a verb in English, you need to know the base form of the verb, as well as the person (first person singular, second person singular, third person singular, etc.) and number (singular or plural) of the subject.

To conjugate verbs in English, you will need to know the base form of the verb, as well as the person and tense that you are conjugating for. The base form is simply the verb’s infinitive, without any end.

For example, the base form of “to write” is “write.”

To conjugate a verb, you will add an appropriate ending to the base form, depending on the person and tense.

For example, if you were conjugating the verb “write” in the present tense for the first person singular, you would add an “-s” to the end of the base form, making it “writes.”

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Transitive verbs take an object, whereas intransitive verbs do not. For example, the verb “eat” is transitive because it takes an object (what you eat), whereas the verb “sleep” is intransitive because it doesn’t take an object.

When a verb is transitive, the person or thing that the verb acts upon is called the direct object. For example, “I eat an apple,” the word “apple” is the direct object.

Looking at “I am writing a paper,” the verb “writing” is transitive because it has a direct object, “paper.” An intransitive verb doesn’t have a direct object. For example, in the sentence “I am laughing,” the verb “laughing” is intransitive because there is no direct object.

Ergative Verbs

Ergative verbs can be transitive and transitive simultaneously, as they both have identical objects.

For instance, let’s consider the ergative verb “to open.”

  • Transitive form: I opened the window.
  • Intransitive: The window opened.

Linking Verbs

Linking verbs are often used to describe the physical or mental state of the subject. For example, “I feel sleepy” uses the linking verb “feel” to describe my physical state. Similarly, “I am happy” uses the linking verb “am” to describe my mental state.

However, linking verbs can also be used to describe other aspects of the subject, such as its size, age, color, material composition, or location.

For example, “The apple is red” uses the linking verb “is” to describe the apple’s color. Similarly, “The book is on the table” uses the linking verb “is” to describe the book’s location.

When deciding whether to use a linking verb or not, it is important to consider what information you are trying to communicate about the subject. A linking verb is likely appropriate if you are simply describing its physical or mental state.

However, suppose you are describing another aspect of the subject, such as its size, age, color, material composition, or location. So, it might be best to use a different verb altogether.

Infinitive Verbs

Infinitive verbs express an action or a state of being without specifying who is acting. For example, the verb “to run” is the infinitive form because it describes running without specifying who is doing it.

There are two types of infinitive verbs: those that can be used as the subject of a sentence and those that cannot. Verbs that can be used as the subject of a sentence are known as “subjective infinitives,” while those that cannot be used as the subject of a sentence are known as “objective infinitives.”

Subjective infinitives are typically used in conjunction with other verbs to express complex actions or states of being.

For example, the sentence “I like to run” uses the subjective infinitive “to run” to describe the state of being that I like.

On the other hand, objective infinitives are typically used after other verbs to express the direct object of the verb.

Expert Tips on Putting Verbs into Action

As a writer, it is important to use verbs to create action and movement in your writing. However, 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. I can tell the difference because the active voice is more forward, and it is usually easier to understand compared to the passive.

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 – there are plenty of things you can do 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 makes it easier to spot them.

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.

Infinitives as Nouns

An infinitive verb is a verb form that typically appears with the word “to” in front of it, such as “to run,” “to jump,” or “to be.” When used as a noun, an infinitive verb can function as the subject or object of a sentence.

For example, the sentence “I like to run” uses the infinitive verb “to run” as the object.

Similarly, the sentence “To run is good for you” uses the infinitive verb “to run” as the subject.

Final Thoughts

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.

GRAMMARIST WORKSHEET 40

See also

Auxiliary verbs
Moods
Non-finite verbs
Participles
Phrasal verbs

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