What is a Verb?

A verb is a word or a combination of words implying action or a situation or state of being. A verb is the part of a sentence, which tells us what the subject is doing. Verbs are the heart of English sentences.


A verb is a “doing” word. A verb can express:

1.A mental action

(e.g., to guessto thinkto consider)

While many verbs express physical actions (e.g., to jumpto danceto sing), verbs can also express mental actions. For example:

  • He considers the job done. (The word considers is a verb. It expresses the mental activity to consider.)
  • Sarah guessed the right number. (The word guessed is a verb. It expresses the mental activity to guess.)
  • thought the same thing. (The word thought is a verb. It expresses the mental activity to think.)

2.A Physical Action

(e.g., to writeto climbto swim).

Here are some sentences with verbs that express physical actions. (In each example, the verb is highlighted.)

  • He sells pegs and lucky heather. (In this example, the word sells is a verb. It expresses the physical activity to sell.)
  • The doctor wrote the prescription. (In this example, the word wrote is a verb. It expresses the physical activity to write.)
  • John bought a ticket. (The word bought is a verb. It expresses the physical activity to buy.)

3.A state of being

(e.g., to beto appearto exist).

A small but extremely important group of verbs do not express any activity at all. The most important verb in this group (arguably of all) is the verb to be.

Here is the verb to be in the different:

Present Tense:

I> am
You> are
We> are
They> are

Past Tense:

I> Was
You> Were
We> Were
They> Were

Future Tense:

I> Will Be
You> Will Be
He/She/It>Will Be
We> Will Be
You>Will Be
They> Will Be

Examples with the verb to be:

  • Johnna is the largest elephant in this area.
  • It was a joke.
  • am.

Types of Verbs

As we’ve covered, a verb can be categorized as a physical verb (e.g., to run), a mental verb (e.g., to think), or a state-of-being verb (e.g., to be). However, a verb will often be further categorized as one of the following:

1.Action Verb

An action verb expresses an activity that a person or thing can do. For example:

  • Sarah eats cake.
  • The bear chased the salmon in the shallow rapids.

2.Stative Verb

A stative verb expresses a state rather than an action. A stative verb typically relates to a state of being, a thought, or an emotion. For example:

  • am at home.
  • He believes in fairies.
  • She feels elated.

3.Transitive Verb

A transitive verb is one that acts on something (i.e., it has a direct object). For example:

  • saw the cat.
  • Jessica ate the pie.
  • The postman will give Sarah the letter.

4.Intransitive Verb

An intransitive verb is one that does not act on something (i.e., there is no direct object). For example:

  • The rain fell.
  • My throat hurts.
  • The cat sneezed.

5.Auxiliary Verb

An auxiliary verb (or helping verb) accompanies the main verb to help express tense, voice, or mood. The most common auxiliary verbs are bedo, and have (in their various forms). Here are some examples of auxiliary verbs:

  • Sarah has eaten all the pies.
  • The table has been prepared.
  • If she were to arrive in the next 15 minutes, we would be on schedule.

6.Modal Verb

A modal verb is a type of auxiliary verb used to express ideas such as ability, possibility, permission, and obligation. The modal auxiliary verbs are cancouldmaymightmustought toshallshouldwill, and would. For example:

  • Sarah can eat a lot of pies.
  • Sarah might eat that pie before he gets home.
  • Sarah may eat as many pies as he likes.
  • Sarah should give you some of that pie given you bought it.

7.Phrasal Verb

A phrasal verb is a verb made up of more than one word (usually two words). A phrasal verb has a main verb and another word (either a preposition or a particle). The phrasal verb usually has a meaning different from the main verb. For example:

  • A burglar will often break a window to break in.
  • If you drop the baton the team will drop back to the last place.

8.Regular & Irregular Verbs

A regular verb is one that forms its simple past tense and its past participle by adding -ed or -d to the base form of the verb. (Note: There are spelling rules to consider too.) For example:

  • Love – Loved
  • Hate – Hated
  • Move – Moved

An irregular verb is one that does not conform to this ruling. For example:

  • Tell – Told

See Also
What is a noun?
Punctuation Marks in English