Verbs

What Is a Verb?

Verbs can be defined as words of doable activities or words that express states of being and typically constitute the grammatical center of a sentence. Verbs constitute a vast and important class of words whose forms change according to tenseOpens in new window or moodOpens in new window.

A verb indicates the action performed by the subjectOpens in new window or the current state—state of being—of the subject:

Action DoneState of Being
  • James has written five books.
  • Gretchen's brother is a doctor.

Verbs are generally known to follow the subject of a sentence, although sometimes with one or more intervening words.

Observe the sentences below:
  • I enjoy the guitar lesson.
  • We ran across the street.
  • The winner takes all the praise.
  • That man is a footballer.

There are some cases, however, in which a verb may precede the subject.

Examples include:
  • Floating on the water was a single petal.
  • Waiting on the door was a postman.

We find a verb phrase in almost every sentence. A verb phraseOpens in new window may have a single word or more words.

  • The sun rises in the east.
  • She has invested some money in her business.
  • He has been living in Memphis since 2001.
  • They will have been waiting for us.

Types of Verbs

Verbs are divided into different classes. These are briefly discussed below:

1.  Regular and Irregular verbsOpens in new windowRegular verbs, which account for the majority, follow a standard pattern in their various tenses, whereas, irregular verbs, which are much more unpredictable, follow a nonstandard pattern.

2.  Finite and Nonfinite Verbs — A grammatically correct sentence must contain a phrase with a finite verb. A finite verbOpens in new window has both a subjectOpens in new window and a specific tenseOpens in new window, numberOpens in new window, and personOpens in new window, as appropriate to constitute a complete sentence. Notice the finite verbs underlined in the sentences below:

  • The clock stopped.
  • The balls are blue.
  • He stands alone.

The non-finite forms of a verb include the infinitiveOpens in new window, the present participleOpens in new window, and the past participleOpens in new window; these verbs cannot by themselves constitute a complete sentence and do not change to reflect singular and plural or tenseOpens in new window e.g. going to school,” “walking by the river.”

3.  Transitive and Intransitive Verbs. — There is also the subdivision of transitive and intransitive groups:

3a.   Transitive Verb
    Transitive verbs typically takes and transfer their action to a direct object to constitute a complete sense. The underlined words below are transitive verbs:

  • Andy eats breakfast. (breakfast as direct object receiving the action “eats”)
  • Gretchen brought liveliness. (liveliness as direct object of the action verb, brought)
  • She cuts her nails.
    (nail receiving the action cuts.)
  • Transitive verb also consists in the following types:
    Ditransitive Verb —A transitive form of verb that takes both a direct and an indirect object. The following are examples of ditransitive verbs:

  • lent her a pen.
  • The philanthropist brought cheerfulness to widows
  • That horrid music gave me a headache.
    Ditransitive Prepositional Verb —Another form of transitive verb that takes both a direct and an indirect object, the direct object requiring an introductory preposition:

  • The Manager assured her employees of their job security.
  • They nominated Martin for the position.
3b.  Intransitive Verb
    Intransitive verbs typically do not take a direct object. They complete a sentence independently without necessarily transferring action to anything or objects before making complete sense. The underlined words in the sentences are transitive verbs:
  • Andy ate.
  • The bridge collapsed.
  • Everything vanished.
  • All these sentences make complete sense without transfering action to a direct object (receiver).

Although some verbs are always transitive or intransitive, but many may be used either transitively or intransitively in different contexts; For example:

  • “He turned the car around;”
  • “The car turned around”.

The same verb can have a different meaning depending on whether it is being used transitively or intransitively, as:

  • “They staggered the new arrivals to avoid congestion;”
  • “He staggered down the road.”

4.   Reflexive Verbs — In reflexive verbs, whose actions are directed back to their subjects, the subject and object are the same.

Examples include:
  • She prides herself.
  • He drove himself
  • They praise themselves.
  • The baby amuses itself with a rattle.

5.  Auxiliary VerbsOpens in new window Auxiliary verbs represent another class of verbs,known as modalsOpens in new window, which are used to help main verbs indicate shades of meaning, tense, and mood. They include shall, will, may, can, must.

Observe the following sentences:
  • I might pay with cash.
  • We may write a check.
  • That will be done.
  • He shall go with us.

Another class of auxiliary verbs are the forms of be, have, and do, which can sometimes be used independently as main verb:

  • At home, he did the chores.
  • She is a winner.
  • They have several awards to their credit.

Another class of verbs, that closely resembles auxiliary verbs are semi-modals and verb phrases, which include: dare, going to, be able to, had better, need to, ought to, used to, and would rather. Like auxiliary verbs, these also come before the main verb, which is rendered in the bare infinitive (without to):

  • He was able to complete the project.
  • We are going to be at the event.
  • He had better leave before it gets dark.
  • We used to play hide and seek in his house.
  • They ought to pay the workers.

6.  Catenative VerbsOpens in new windowA verb string used in combination with one another. These verbs, like the auxiliary verbs, are used in front of a main verb in its infinitive form (including to).

Examples include:
  • She managed to seem to be surprised.
  • As time passes we begin to get to know each other better.

7.  Linking or Copular Verbs.Linking verbOpens in new window, also known as copular verb, does not express any action; it merely tell us the state of being or condition of the subject and serve to link a subject to a word or phrase describing it.

Examples include:
  • Mr. Peterson is a doctor.
  • The sky became cloudy.
  • The garden is well kept.