Caleb S.
Caleb S.

What Are Verbs and How They Work?

15 min read

Published on: Jun 1, 2024

Last updated on: Jun 19, 2024

verb | part of speech

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “a verb is a word that characteristically is the grammatical center of a predicate and expresses an action, state, or occurrence and is typically inflected for tense, voice, mood, person, and number.”

In simple words, a verb is a part of speech that expresses an action, occurrence, or state of being. It's what gives life to a sentence, indicating what someone or something is doing or experiencing. 

For example, in the sentence "The cat sleeps," the verb "sleeps" shows the action performed by the cat.

Every sentence needs a verb. Even the simplest sentence can just be one word telling someone what to do, like "Jump!" In this case, the word "Jump" is the verb, and it's like saying "You, jump!"

Functions of Verbs

Verbs serve various functions within a sentence, including:

  • Showing Action: Action verbs depict physical or mental actions performed by the subject. They bring movement and vitality to sentences, making them dynamic and engaging.
  • Expressing State of Being: Verbs such as "be," "seem," and "appear" denote a state of being or existence. They indicate how someone or something exists or appears at a particular moment.
  • Indicating Relationships: Linking verbs establish connections between the subject and a complement, which can be a noun, pronoun, or adjective. They help describe the subject or clarify its identity.
  • Conveying Modality: Modal verbs convey the speaker's attitude towards the action or express degrees of possibility, necessity, or obligation. They add nuances to statements, making them more nuanced and precise.
  • Showing Time and Tense: Verbs indicate the time at which an action occurs through tense. English verbs typically have past, present, and future tenses, each further modified by aspects such as progressive or perfect.

Verb Conjugation

Verbs undergo changes in form to indicate tense, mood, voice, aspect, and agreement with the subject. This process is known as verb conjugation. 

In English, regular verbs follow a predictable pattern when conjugated, while irregular verbs have unique forms for different tenses.

Subject

(Who is performing the action)

Verb conjugation changes depending on the subject of the sentence. Here's how it looks for different people:

Person

Singular

Plural

1st Person

I walk

We walk

2nd Person

You walk

You (all) walk

3rd Person

He/She/It walks

They walk

Example:

  • I walk to school every day. (1st person singular)
  • You play basketball well. (2nd person singular)
  • He eats breakfast every morning. (3rd person singular)
  • We study together. (1st person plural)
  • They dance at parties. (3rd person plural)

Tense

(When the action occurs)

Verb conjugation also changes to indicate the time of the action. Here are the common tenses:

Tense

Example

Present

I walk to school.

Past

I walked to school yesterday.

Future

I will walk to school.

Example:

  • She eats breakfast every day. (Present tense)
  • They played soccer yesterday. (Past tense)
  • We will swim tomorrow. (Future tense)

Mood

(The attitude or intention towards the action)

Mood expresses the speaker's attitude towards the action. Common moods include indicative, imperative, and subjunctive.

Mood

Example

Indicative

I am walking to school.

Imperative

Walk to school!

Subjunctive

If I were you, I would walk to school.

Example:

  • He is singing in the choir. (Indicative mood)
  • Walk quietly in the library. (Imperative mood)
  • If I were a bird, I would fly. (Subjunctive mood)

Active and Passive Voice

(Whether the subject performs the action actively or the action is done to the subject)

The voice of a verb indicates whether the subject is performing the action (active voice) 

or receiving it (passive voice).

Voice

Example

Active

The dog chased the cat.

Passive

The cat was chased by the dog.


Example:

  • She bakes a cake. (Active voice)
  • The cake was baked by her. (Passive voice)

Participles

(Forms of verbs used in constructing verb tenses or aspects or as an adjective)

Participles are forms of verbs that function as adjectives or parts of verb phrases. They can be present (-ing) or past (-ed).

Participle

Example

Present

The running water is refreshing.

Past

The baked bread smells delicious.

Example:

  • The running water is refreshing. (Present participle)
  • The bread baked her smells delicious. (Past participle)

Types of Verbs

Verbs can be classified into several categories based on their functions and characteristics:

Action Verbs

Action verbs express physical or mental actions. They show what someone or something does. They can convey actions that are observable and measurable.

Example: She ran to catch the bus. (Physical action)

Linking Verbs

Linking verbs connect the subject of a sentence to a noun, pronoun, or adjective that renames or describes it. They express a state of being or existence.

Example: The cake is delicious. (Linking "is" connects the subject "cake" to the adjective "delicious.")

The linking verbs do not show action but instead connect the subject to additional information about it.

Helping Verbs (Auxiliary Verbs)

Helping verbs accompany the main verb to express nuances such as tense, mood, voice, or emphasis.

Example: They have finished their homework. (The helping verb "have" precedes the main verb "finished.")

The helping verb assists the main verb in conveying specific meanings related to time, possibility, obligation, etc.

Modal Verbs

Modal verbs express possibility, necessity, ability, permission, or obligation. They modify the meaning of the main verb to indicate the speaker's attitude or the likelihood of the action.

Example: You must finish your homework. (Expresses obligation)

Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs consist of a main verb combined with one or more particles (typically prepositions or adverbs) to create a new meaning. Their meaning often cannot be deduced from the individual words, requiring familiarity with the phrasal verb itself.

Example: He turned down the job offer. (Main verb "turn" + particle "down" = refuse)

Gerunds

Gerunds are verbs that function as nouns and end in "-ing." They represent actions or states. Gerunds can serve as subjects, objects, or complements in a sentence, functioning as nouns despite being verbs.

Example: Swimming is her favorite hobby. (Gerund "swimming" acts as the subject of the sentence.)

Regular vs. Irregular Verbs

Regular verbs form their past tense and past participle by adding "-ed" to the base form, while irregular verbs have unique past tense and past participle forms.

  • Regular Verb Example: She walked to the store. (Base form + "-ed" = past tense)
  • Irregular Verb Example: He ate dinner. (Unique past tense form)

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Transitive verbs require a direct object to complete their meaning, while intransitive verbs do not.

  • Transitive Verb Example: She bought a book. (The verb "bought" requires a direct object "book.")
  • Intransitive Verb Example: The bird sings. (No direct object is needed; the verb "sings" is complete on its own.)

Stative and Dynamic Verbs

Stative verbs describe states or conditions, while dynamic verbs represent actions or processes.

  • Stative Verb Example: She knows the answer. (Describing a state of knowing)
  • Dynamic Verb Example: He runs every morning. (Depicting an action)

Verbs are essential for communication, allowing us to express actions and states of being. Understanding different types of verbs helps us communicate effectively. Remember to pay attention to verbs—they're important for clear communication.

Need Help with Grammar or Writing?

If you're not sure about your word choices or grammar in your writing, try using the Grammar Checker at MyEssayWriter.ai. It gives instant feedback on spelling, punctuation, and structure, helping you improve your language skills for better communication. 

We also have a tool to help you generate flawless within 90 seconds, so try our AI essay writer free online with no sign-up.

Continue Learning

If you want to learn more about academic writing, grammar, and related concepts, check out these blogs. 

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Essay Outline

MLA format

Infinitives

Paraphrasing

Chicago Style

Analogy

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Harvard Style

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ASA Format


Sentence Structure

ACS Citation

Caleb S.

WRITTEN BY

Caleb S. (Mass Literature and Linguistics, Masters)

Caleb S. is an accomplished author with over five years of experience and a Master's degree from Oxford University. He excels in various writing forms, including articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As a valued author at MyEssayWriter.ai, Caleb assists students and professionals by providing practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style enhancement.

Caleb S. is an accomplished author with over five years of experience and a Master's degree from Oxford University. He excels in various writing forms, including articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As a valued author at MyEssayWriter.ai, Caleb assists students and professionals by providing practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style enhancement.

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