Monday, 6 July 2009

what is a verb ?

The verb is perhaps the most important part of the sentence. A verb or compound verb asserts something about the subject of the sentence and express actions, events, or states of being. The verb or compound verb is the critical element of the predicate of a sentence.

In each of the following sentences, the verb or compound verb is highlighted:

Dracula bites his victims on the neck.

The verb "bites" describes the action Dracula takes.

In early October, Giselle will plant twenty tulip bulbs.

Here the compound verb "will plant" describes an action that will take place in the future.

My first teacher was Miss Crawford, but I remember the janitor Mr. Weatherbee more vividly.

In this sentence, the verb "was" (the simple past tense of "is") identifies a particular person and the verb "remembered" describes a mental action.

Karl Creelman bicycled around the world in 1899, but his diaries and his bicycle were destroyed.

In this sentence, the compound verb "were destroyed" describes an action which took place in the past.


Verbs describe (i) an action, (ii) a state or (iii) an occurrence:-

  1. As an action word, it is something that you do, like walk or play or eat.
  2. As a state of being: "My name is John. I am 20 years old. I am Caucasian and my girlfriend looks gorgeous! And she has a heart of gold!"
  3. As an occurrence/happening: "The snow glistened on the trees tops."

TYPES OF VERBS: There are two types of verbs, regular and irregular.

With regular verbs, the past and perfect forms end with '~ed', e.g. talk/talked.

Irregular verbs don't end their past and perfect forms with '~ed'. They change quite differently e.g. speak/spoke/spoken, sing/sang/sung.

ACTION VERBS are something that someone or something is doing, such as run, talk, play, go, cook, speak, etc.

For example, in the phrase: "He is running", the two words 'is running' is the present continuous form of the verb 'to run'.

Here are a few more examples:

  • They slept late that day.
  • It slid off the shelf.
  • Safa played with her toys.
  • She screamed as loudly as she could.

AUXILIARY VERBS: Auxiliary verbs are words that "help" the verb. e.g.

  • In the sentence "I will run", 'will' is the helping verb, making it into a future form of the verb to run.
  • In the sentence "I have run", 'have' is the helping verb, changing the main verb 'run' into it's present perfect form.

The verbs to be, to have and to do are used as auxiliary verbs. Their present, past, singular and plural forms all being used as appropriate.

Modal Auxiliary Verbs: can, could, may, might, would, shall, should, must, ought to.


  • I must visit my grandmother.
  • You ought to do more exercise.
  • Ben can ride a bike.
  • My Uncle might come on Sunday.
  • I could help you with your homework, but I don't know if I should (help you with your homework.)
Note that Modal Auxiliary Verbs have no infinitives.

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