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A verb is a word that expresses an action, event, feeling, or state of being. They are often thought of as 'doing words', for example, 'she eats ' or 'the horse runs '. However, not all verbs are necessarily things that are 'done', they can also be experiences, eg. 'Homer thought about the donut' or 'Jack loved going to the beach'.
Verbs normally describe what the noun or the subject in a sentence is doing. To recap - the subject of the verb is normally the person or thing performing an action while the object of a verb is normally the person or thing which receives the action. In the case of this sentence 'Homer thought about the donut', the subject 'Homer' is the person who is 'thought' about the object (the donut). Therefore, the verb 'thought' shows what action the person is doing.
There are a number of verb types:
We will explain what each type of verb is and give you plenty of examples to help you understand how they are used.
A main verb is a verb that can stand on its own . It's a strong, independent verb that doesn't need anything else. The main verb is the word that ' heads ' the verb phrase, it carries most of the meaning in the phrase and carries the most important information.
Main verbs usually come straight after the subject of the sentence. For example, in the sentence 'the unicorn rode the dinosaur' the main verb 'rode' follows the subject, which is 'the unicorn'. The word 'rode' is the main verb as it gives the most information about what the subject is doing.
Auxiliary verbs are ' helping verbs ' - they 'help' the main verb to convey extra information. They are always used alongside the main verb and do not carry the main meaning of a phrase.
There are twelve auxiliary verbs, divided into two categories: auxiliary verbs and modal auxiliary verbs.
The first three auxiliary verbs are very important. These are the verbs that 'help' to show a verb's tense , voice , or mood . These are called ' primary auxiliaries ' and consist of the various forms of ' to have ', ' to be ', and ' to do '. For example:
Forms of have - has, had
Forms of be - is, am, are, was, were
Forms of do - does, did
Let's take a look at these in action:
'He is enjoying the game'
As we know, auxiliary verbs 'help' the main verb. In the sentence 'he is enjoying the game', the verb 'is' helps the main verb 'enjoying'. In this case, it gives information about the tense of the action, the boy is currently and continually 'enjoying' the game in the present moment.
'He had enjoyed the game'
In the sentence 'he had enjoyed the game', the verb 'had' shows the action (main verb) was done in the past. Therefore, it helps add information to the verb phrase.
There are nine modal auxiliaries:
These verbs show possibility, eg. 'I might go to the shop later'; ability, eg. 'I can dance well'; permission, eg. 'you may marry Juliet'; or obligation, eg. 'I should see my grandma'. As you can see from these examples, modal auxiliary verbs can never stand alone as a main verb; instead, they always appear alongside the main verb.
Linking verbs are verbs that connect (or 'link') a subject to a noun or adjective. They stand alone as verbs and pull the different parts of a phrase together. For example, in the sentence 'the parrot is stubborn', the verb 'is' is used to link the subject (parrot) and the adjective (stubborn). In the sentence, 'he seems close', the verb 'seems' links the subject and adjective.
Main verbs can be further categorized into several other groups which help define features of verbs:
Dynamic verbs are verbs that describe action or processes done by a noun or subject, as opposed to being about a 'state of being'. They are 'action verbs'. Examples of dynamic verbs include:
Stative verbs are different from dynamic verbs because they describe a state of being rather than an action. For example:
Imperative verbs are verbs used to give orders or instructions , make a request, or give warning . They tell someone to do something. For example:
Clean your room!
Come over here, please.
Learn your verbs!
As you can see from these examples, imperative verbs are often used at the beginning of a sentence. They often sound demanding, like you are being shouted out!
In English, inflectional affixes may be added to a verb. These are added to the beginning or end of a word, and add information.
Verb inflections may be used to express:
Take a look at this table of tenses for the verb 'to study'. Don't worry about the name of the tenses for now; focus on the inflections of the verbs and the 'helping' auxiliary verbs, which are highlighted in bold:
As you can see, a single verb ('to study') may have a number of different forms, made by adding inflections. Key things to note:
Irregular verbs do not take regular inflections, such as the -ed ending. Instead, the whole word is spelled differently. Take the word 'begin' for example. In the past tense, this becomes 'began', or as a past participle it is 'begun'. This is similar to the verb 'to choose', which becomes 'chose' or 'chosen'. In these cases, we can't add the regular past tense inflection -ed as this would become 'beginned' or 'choosed' which plain wrong!
Let's have a look at another example:
The diagram above shows the different forms of the verb 'to give' and its inflections. Each form gives information about tense - 'gives' is present tense and 'giving' is continuous present (the -ing participle, sometimes called the 'present participle'). The two irregular forms are 'gave', which is in the simple past tense, and 'given', which is the past participle. It is also important to note that not all of these can stand alone, eg. the word 'giving' often requires the help of a primary auxiliary verb such as 'he is giving' or 'he was giving'.
Suffixes may signal what word class a word belongs to. They often change a word from one word class to another, eg. the adjective 'short' can become the verb 'shorten' by adding the suffix '-en'.
Here are some common suffixes for verbs:
A verb phrase is a group of words that has a main verb along with any other auxiliary verbs that 'help' the main verb. For example, 'could eat' is a verb phrase as it contains the main verb ('eat') and an auxiliary ('could'). More complex verb phrases may also contain complements, direct objects, indirect objects, or modifiers in the phrase. The verb phrase 'I am running' consists of the main verb ('running'), the primary auxiliary ('am'), and the subject ('I').
Let's take a look at some other types of verbs that may crop up in the big wide world of verbs.
A multi-word verb, sometimes called a phrasal verb, is a verb that has one or more prepositions or particles linked to it. For example, 'carry out', 'hand in' and 'grow up' are two-part verbs that consist of a verb (eg. 'grow') and a particle (eg. 'up') that gives the verb a new meaning. There are also three-part verbs that consist of a verb and two particles such as 'walk out on' and 'look up to'.
Transitive verbs are verbs that require an object in order to make sense. For example, in the sentence 'giraffes eat' you are left wondering 'what do they eat?'. This is where an object is required to receive the action and complete the sentence, eg. 'giraffes eat leaves'. Examples of transitive verbs include: bring, buy, show, lend, and impress. You have to bring something, buy something, or impress someone. These verbs, therefore, require an object (noun or pronoun) to complete the sentence.
Intransitive verbs contrast transitive verbs as they do not require an object to complete the meaning of the sentence. Examples of intransitive verbs include: exist, work, walk, sigh, and die. You don't have to exist anything, sigh anything, or die anything. These verbs don't require anything to receive the action of the verb.
A verb is a word that expresses an action, event, feeling, or state of being. Verbs usually describe what the noun or subject is doing.
Examples of verbs include verbs that describe action (dynamic verbs), eg. ‘run’, ‘throw’, ‘hide’, and verbs that describe a state of being (stative verbs), eg. ‘love’, ‘imagine’, ‘know’. Verbs may also be used to ‘help’ other verbs by showing grammatical information such as tense, eg. ‘had’, ‘will be’, ‘doing’. These are called auxiliary verbs.
Verbs are necessary in a sentence to show what the noun or subject is doing or feeling. A sentence often requires a subject that does the action (eg. Jack) and a verb that describes the action (e.g. kicks). There may also be an object that receives the action (eg. ball). This will form a verb phrase eg. ‘Jack kicks the ball’.
What is the difference between a main verb and an auxiliary verb?
A main verb is a verb that can stand on its own and carries most of the meaning in a verb phrase. For example, ‘run’, ‘find’. Auxiliary verbs cannot stand alone, instead, they work alongside a main verb and ‘help’ the verb to express more grammatical information e.g. tense, mood, possibility.
What is the difference between a primary auxiliary verb and a modal auxiliary verb?
Primary auxiliary verbs consist of the various forms of ‘to have’, ‘to be’, and ‘to do’ e.g. ‘had’, ‘was’, ‘done’. They help to express a verb’s tense, voice, or mood. Modal auxiliary verbs show possibility, ability, permission, or obligation. There are 9 auxiliary verbs including ‘could’, ‘will’, might’.
Which of the following are primary auxiliary verbs?
The primary auxiliary verbs in this list are ‘is’, ‘have’, and ‘does’. They are all forms of the main primary auxiliary verbs ‘to have’, ‘to be’, and ‘to do’. ‘Play’ and ‘run’ are main verbs and ‘could’ is a modal auxiliary verb.
Name 6 out of the 9 modal auxiliary verbs.
Answers include: Could, would, should, may, might, can, will, must, shall
‘The fairies were asleep’. In this sentence, is the verb ‘were’ a linking verb or an auxiliary verb?
The word ‘were’ is used as a linking verb as it stands alone in the sentence. It is used to link the subject (fairies) and the adjective (asleep).
What is the difference between dynamic verbs and stative verbs?
A dynamic verb describes an action or process done by a noun or subject. They are thought of as ‘action verbs’ e.g. ‘kick’, ‘run’, ‘eat’. Stative verbs describe the state of being of a person or thing. These are states that are not necessarily physical action e.g. ‘know’, ‘love’, ‘suppose’.
Which of the following are dynamic verbs and which are stative verbs?
The dynamic verbs are ‘drink’, ‘talk’, and ‘write’ as they all describe an action. The stative verbs are ‘prefer’, ‘seem’, and ‘understand’ as they all describe a state of being.
What is an imperative verb?
Imperative verbs are verbs used to give orders, give instructions, make a request or give warning. They tell someone to do something. For example, ‘clean your room!’.
Inflections give information about tense, person, number, mood, or voice. True or false?
What information does the inflection ‘-ing’ give for a verb?
The inflection ‘-ing’ is often used to show that an action or state is continuous and ongoing.
How do you know if a verb is irregular?
An irregular verb does not take the regular inflections, instead the whole word is spelt a different way. For example, begin becomes ‘began’ or ‘begun’. We can’t add the regular past tense inflection -ed as this would become ‘beginned’ which doesn’t make sense.
Suffixes can never signal what word class a word belongs to. True or false?
False. Suffixes can signal what word class a word belongs to. For example, ‘-ify’ is a common suffix for verbs (‘identity’, ‘simplify’)
A verb phrase is built around a noun. True or false?
False. A verb phrase is a group of words that has a main verb along with any other auxiliary verbs that ‘help’ the main verb. For example, ‘could eat’ is a verb phrase as it contains a main verb (‘could’) and an auxiliary verb (‘could’).
Which of the following are multi-word verbs?
Look up to
The verbs ‘rely on’ and ‘look up to’ are multi-word verbs as they consist of a verb that has one or more prepositions or particles linked to it.
What is the difference between a transition verb and an intransitive verb?
Transitive verbs are verbs that require an object in order to make sense. For example, the word ‘bring’ requires an object that is brought (‘I bring news’). Intransitive verbs do not require an object to complete the meaning of the sentence e.g. ‘exist’ (‘I exist’).
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