A verb is a part of speech that describes an action or state of being. It is a word that conveys what someone or something is doing (e.g., "run," "eat," "sleep"). Verbs are essential elements in constructing sentences, as they provide the main action or link between the subject and the rest of the sentence.
A verb is the action we do.
- David kicks the ball.
- Kate runs fast.
A verb is also the state of being.
- You are right.
- She looks tired.
What is a verb?
"A verb is a word that expresses an action (such as "eat"), an event (such as "happen") or a state (such as "exist")". -Oxford Dictionary
"A verb is a word like "ask", "play", "be", "can", which can be used with a subject to form the basis of a clause." -Michael Swan
"A verb is a word used for saying something about a person or a thing." -J. C. Nesfield.
"A verb is a word used to say something about some person, place, or thing." -Wren & Martin.
Types of Verbs
Verbs in English can be classified in several ways based on their functions, forms, and meanings. Here are some common classifications:
- Helping Verbs & Main Verbs
- Transitive Verbs & Intransitive Verbs
- Action Verbs & State Verbs
- Finite Verbs & Nonfinite Verbs
- Regular Verbs & Irregular Verbs
1. Helping Verbs & Main Verbs
Let's start by understanding what helping verbs and main verbs are:
(i) Main Verbs
Main verb is the primary verb that expresses the main action of the sentence. Main verbs can stand alone and do not require other verbs to make sense. Let's look at some Examples:
- She runs every morning. ("Runs" is the main verb expressing the action.)
- They ate dinner together. ("Ate" is the main verb showing the past action.)
- The sun shines brightly. ("Shines" is the main verb indicating the state of the sun.)
- We play soccer in the park. ("Play" is the main verb describing the activity.)
(ii) Helping Verbs
Helping verbs, as the name suggests, help the main verbs to convey tense, mood, voice, negative, and question. There are 24 helping verbs in English: am, is, are, was, were, have, has, had, do, does, did, have, has, had, shall, should, will, would, can, could, may, might, must, dare, need, used to and ought to.
- She has run marathons every year. (present perfect)
- They will complete the project on time. (future)
- He can play the guitar. (ability, possibility)
- She might attend the meeting. (possibility)
- The book is being read by many students. (passive)
- We have been working on this project. (continuous)
- I do not like spicy food. (negative)
- They did not finish the assignment. (past negative)
- Do you love me?
- What does he want?
Remember that not all sentences require helping verbs, and some sentences may have more than one helping verb depending on the complexity of the verb tense or mood.
Helping Verb + Main Verb
Helping verbs cannot stand alone. We use helping verbs before main verbs. Let's look at some examples:
- I am going to the store. (Helping verb "am" supports the main verb "going.")
- She has finished her homework. (Helping verb "has" supports the main verb "finished.")
- They will come to the party. (Helping verb "will" supports the main verb "come.")
- He should study for the exam. (Helping verb "should" supports the main verb "study.")
2. Transitive Verbs & Intransitive Verbs
Let's first understand the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs:
(i) Transitive Verbs
Transitive verbs are action words that need a direct object to complete their meaning. In other words, they transfer the action from the subject to the direct object. [The direct object is the noun or pronoun that receives the action of the verb.] Here are some example sentences with transitive verbs:
- She bought a new dress. (The verb "bought" transfers the action to the direct object "a new dress.")
- They ate the delicious cake. (The verb "ate" transfers the action to the direct object "the delicious cake.")
- He wrote an email. (The verb "wrote" transfers the action to the direct object "an email.")
- We built a sandcastle. (The verb "built" transfers the action to the direct object "a sandcastle.")
(i) Every Transitive Verb has a direct object [which is a noun or pronoun]. The structure is: Subject + vt + direct object
- Cows eat grass.
- Dogs like meat.
(ii) If a transitive verb has a direct object and an indirect object, the indirect one is placed before the direct object. The structure is: Subject + vt + indirect object + direct object
- He gave me a rose.
If you put the indirect object after the direct object, you need to put a preposition before the indirect object. The structure is: Subject + vt + direct object + preposition + indirect object
- He gave a rose to me.
(iii) Transitive verbs can be used in passive form.
- Grass is eaten by cows.
- Meat is liked by dogs.
(ii) Intransitive Verbs
Intransitive verbs, on the other hand, do not need a direct object to complete their meaning. They express an action that does not transfer to any specific noun or pronoun. Here are some example sentences with intransitive verbs:
- The bird sings. (The verb "sings" does not require a direct object; it stands alone.)
- He runs every morning. (The verb "runs" does not transfer the action to any specific direct object.)
- The car crashed. (The verb "crashed" expresses an action but does not need a direct object.)
- They laughed loudly. (The verb "laughed" stands alone and does not transfer the action to a direct object.)
(i) Intransitive verb does not have any object.
- Cows moo.
- Dogs bark.
(ii) Intransitive verbs are not used in passive form.
Some verbs can function both as transitive and intransitive. They are Ambi-transitive. For example, "write" can be transitive or intransitive.
- She writes a letter.
- He writes every day.
In the first sentence, "write" is transitive because it has a direct object ("a letter"), while in the second sentence, it is intransitive as there is no direct object.
Another ambi-transitive verb is “read”.
- He reads in class 6.
- He reads a book.
Remember that understanding the distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs is important for constructing grammatically correct sentences and ensuring that the intended meaning is conveyed clearly.
3. Action Verbs and State Verbs
Let's learn the difference between action verbs and state verbs:
(i) Action Verbs
Action verbs, as the name suggests, express actions or activities performed by the subject. They describe something that a person or an animal does physically. The underlined verbs in the following sentences are action verbs.
- She runs every morning.
- The kids play in the park.
- They ate dinner together.
- He built a sandcastle.
- We write letters to our grandparents.
(ii) State Verbs
State verbs, also known as stative verbs, describe a state, condition, or situation rather than an action. They express emotions, thoughts, feelings, possession, or states of being that are not actions or activities. The underlined verbs in the following sentences are state verbs.
- She knows the answer.
- He owns a beautiful house.
- They like ice cream.
- The flower smells delightful.
- I believe in you.
State verbs are typically not used in continuous tenses (e.g., present continuous or past continuous) because they describe a fixed state rather than an ongoing action. On the other hand, action verbs are commonly used in all tenses, including continuous tenses.
4. Finite Verbs and Nonfinite Verbs
Finite verbs and nonfinite verbs are classifications based on the form and function of verbs in a sentence.
(i) Finite Verbs
A finite verb is a verb that has a specific tense, number, and person. It serves as the main verb in a sentence. A finite verb indicates when the action or state of being is happening and it agrees with the subject in terms of person and number.
- She runs marathons. (present tense, singular)
- They completed the project. (past tense, plural)
- He is a talented musician. (present tense, singular)
- We will finish the assignment. (future tense, plural)
In these examples, "runs," "completed," "is," and "will finish" are finite verbs because they have a specific tense and agree with the subject in terms of number and person.
(ii) Nonfinite Verbs
Nonfinite verbs do not have a specific tense, number, or person. They are not restricted by the subject of the sentence and often function as infinitives, gerunds, or participles. Nonfinite verbs are used to convey a general action, state, or condition without specifying when or who is performing the action.
- To run marathons requires dedication.
- To complete the project is our goal.
- Running marathons requires dedication.
- Completing the project is our goal.
- The completed project was well-received.
- Running marathons, she exemplifies determination.
In these examples, "to run," "to complete," "running," and "completed" are nonfinite verbs because they do not indicate a specific tense, number, or person. They are used in various constructions to convey general actions or states.
In summary, finite verbs have a specific tense, number, and person and serve as the main verbs in sentences, while nonfinite verbs lack these specific characteristics and are often used in various verbal constructions.
5. Regular Verbs & Irregular Verbs
Regular verbs and irregular verbs are classifications based on how they form their past tense and past participle forms in English. Let's look at each type in detail:
(i) Regular Verbs
Regular verbs follow a consistent pattern when forming the past tense and past participle. To create the past tense, regular verbs typically add "-ed" to the base form (infinitive) of the verb. To form the past participle, the same "-ed" ending is used.
Examples of regular verbs:
|Base Form||Past Form||Past Participle|
Examples of regular verbs in sentences:
- She talked to her friend.
- They played soccer in the park.
- The couple danced gracefully.
(ii) Irregular Verbs
Irregular verbs do not follow the standard "-ed" pattern when forming the past tense and past participle. Each irregular verb has its unique form for the past tense and past participle, and their patterns must be memorized.
Examples of irregular verbs:
|Base Form||Past Form||Past Participle|
Examples of irregular verbs in sentences:
- He went to the store.
- They ate dinner together.
- She sang a beautiful song.
- He wrote an email.
Irregular verbs can be challenging to learn because their past tense and past participle forms do not follow a predictable pattern. It's essential to memorize their irregular forms to use them correctly in sentences.
Knowing the difference between regular and irregular verbs is crucial for constructing grammatically correct sentences and using the appropriate verb forms in different tenses.