What Is A Verb?
What is a verb?
A verb is a word that expresses an action or a state of being.
As you can see from that definition, there are two main categories of verbs: action verbs and state of being verbs (also known as linking verbs).
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Because action verbs and linking verbs are strong enough to be used in sentences all by themselves, they are called main verbs.
I love cheese. I turned the page. (action verbs)
I am a teacher. I turned green. (linking verbs)
But wait! There is also a third category of verbs which doesn't get any glory. They are the helping verbs.
Click here to see a list of all 24 helping verbs and to hear the helping verbs song!
The reason that these guys don't get any of the fame that action and linking verbs get is because they don't stand alone as main verbs.
Helping verbs always help either an action verb or a linking verb.
I will play the piano. (will = helping verb, play = action verb)
I will be a teacher. (will = helping verb, be = linking verb)
Some verbs can function as main verbs or helping verbs, but they will only do one job at a time in a sentence.
I have a cat. (have = main verb, action verb)
I have been reading a great book. (have = helping verb)
I am a teacher. (am = main verb, linking verb)
I am cooking dinner for my family. (am = helping verb)
Let's look at some examples of verbs!
|Action verb with no helping verb
||I ate five pizzas!
|Helping verb helping an action verb
||Now, my stomach will hurt for an hour.
|Two helping verbs helping an action verb
||Actually, my stomach will be hurting for a few days.
When you have a helping verb along with an action or linking verb, all of those verbs together are called a verb phrase
Here are some examples of sentences with verb phrases
Example: Now, I will eat fruits and veggies.
Example: I have been feeling great!
|main verb (action verb)
|| have been
|main verb (linking verb)
||have been feeling
What is a verb? Got it all? Here's a summary.
- There are three categories of verbs (action, linking, helping).
- Only two can be main verbs (action, linking). Main means that the verb is strong enough to be the only verb in the sentence.
- Helping verbs are not main verbs. They help action and linking verbs.
- A helping verb and a main verb working together are called a verb phrase.
The Four Verb Types
So, you now know the answer to the question, "What is a verb?" (It's a word that expresses an action or a state of being!)
You also know that there are three categories of verbs (action verbs, linking verbs, and helping verbs).
For the next little while, we are going to focus on main verbs. So, forget about those poor little helping verbs for a bit, and let's turn our attention to action verbs
and linking verbs
These two kinds of main verbs can act in four different ways.
|Transitive Active Action Verb
John kicked the ball.
|Intransitive Complete Action Verb
The ball rolled.
|Transitive PassiveAction Verb
The ball was kicked.
|Intransitive LinkingLinking Verb
John felt happy.
1. Intransitive Complete Verbs
These guys are action verbs, so we know that they show action.
This type of verb does not transfer its action to anyone or anything. These verbs make sense without having to transfer action anywhere.
Cats drink. Clocks tick. Buses move.
2. Transitive Active Verbs
These action verbs transfer their action to someone or something.
That means that something or someone is always being acted upon. In our example sentence, Jen
is receiving the action kicked
- even though she probably doesn't want to be receiving it.
The receiver of the action in this kind of verb is called the direct object
. In our example sentence, Jen
is the direct object.
Every single transitive active sentence must have a direct object, and the direct object always receives the action.
Cats drink milk. Clocks make noise. I lost my ticket.
is receiving the action of drink
. It is what cats drink. It is the direct object.
is receiving the action of make
. It is what clocks make. It is the direct object.
is receiving the action of lost
. It is what I lost. It is the direct object.
These verbs are written in the active voice
3. Transitive Passive Verbs
These verbs also show action, and they also transfer their action to a receiver.
In transitive active verbs, the receiver was the direct object. In transitive passive verbs
, the receiver of the action is the subject!
John was kicked. The house was demolished.
Who is receiving the action in those sentences?
received the action of kick
received the action of demolished
are the subjects of those sentences.
Notice that we may not actually know who initiated the action. (Who kicked John?) Sometimes we find this out in a prepositional phrase
John was kicked by Jen. The house was demolished by the storm.
These verbs are written in the passive voice
4. Intransitive Linking
differ from the three other verb types because they are the only verb type that does not express any action.
What do linking verbs do? It's pretty simple. Linking verbs tell us about the state
of the subject.
They link the subject of a sentence with either a noun that renames the subject or an adjective that describes the subject.
Nouns that rename the subject are called predicate nouns
. Adjectives that describe the subject are called predicate adjectives
Milk tastes delicious. Clocks are helpful. I am the bus driver!
It may help you to think of linking verbs as an equal sign between the subject and a predicate noun or a predicate adjective.
|I am a teacher.
||I = teacher
|The soup is salty.
||soup = salty
is linking the subject I
with the predicate noun teacher
is linking the subject soup
with the predicate adjective salty
This video shows you the difference between a linking verb and an action verb. To see more, see these grammar lessons.
What is a verb? You know the answer, right?
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