What is a verb?
A verb is a word that expresses an action or a state of being.
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)
|Action verb with no helping verb|
|Helping verb helping an action verb|
|Two helping verbs helping an action verb|
|main verb (action verb)||eat|
|verb phrase||will eat|
|helping verbs||have been|
|main verb (linking verb)||feeling|
|verb phrase||have been feeling|
John kicked the ball.
The ball rolled.
The ball was kicked.
John felt happy.
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.
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.
Milk is receiving the action of drink. It is what cats drink. It is the direct object.
Noise is receiving the action of make. It is what clocks make. It is the direct object.
Ticket is receiving the action of lost. It is what I lost. It is the direct object.
These verbs are written in the active voice.
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?
John received the action of kick and house received the action of demolished. John and house 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.
Linking verbs 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 or condition 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|
Am is linking the subject I with the predicate noun teacher.
Is 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?