Verbs in English are probably the most important parts of a sentence. That being the case, they are the heart of a sentence, and without them, sentences would not exist. A verb is a word that expresses time while showing an action or a condition. Thus, it also shows that something simply exists.

Firstly, in the sentence “Skyler plays piano,” the verb plays clearly shows an action. Next, in the sentence “Contestants are on the stage,” the verb are shows a condition. Lastly, in the sentence “The snake was here,” the verb was shows existence.

Verbs in English may be classified as action verbs, helping verbs, and linking verbs.

In this lesson, we will be discussing a little bit about everything.

Verbs in English: Action Verbs

The first type of verbs in English is the action verbs. Generally, an action verb is an action word. Sing and dance, for example, are action verbs. An action verb tells what action someone or something is performing.

verbs in english action verbs

Take a look at the following sentences:

  • The dog barks.
  • Disaster struck the nation.

 In a sentence, the person or thing that performs the action is called the subject of the verb. In the first sentence, the verb ‘barks’ tells what the subject ‘dog’ does. Meanwhile, the verb ‘struck’ tells what the subject ‘Disaster’ did.

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

In verbs in English, a transitive verb directs an action toward a person or a thing named within the sentence. While on the other hand, an intransitive verb does not direct action toward a person or a thing named within the sentence. The receiver of the action of a transitive verb is called the object of the verb. Intransitive verbs, however, do not have objects.

Take a look at the following sentences:

  • Liz carried her luggage to the airport.
  • He arrived early.

In the first sentence, the verb ‘carried’ is directed towards ‘her luggage.’ While in the second sentence, the verb ‘arrived’ is not directed towards anything or anyone. A helpful trick in determining whether verbs in English are transitive or intransitive is to ask the questions ‘Whom?’ or ‘What?’ after the verb.

The verb is transitive if the answer is found within the sentence.

Harry reads books about World War II.

  • Reads whom? None
  • Reads what? Books = Transitive

If not, the verb is intransitive.

Harry reads every morning before heading to school.

  • Reads whom? None
  • Reads what? None = Intransitive

 

Verbs in English: Linking Verbs

On the other hand, linking verbs in English do not show action. To start with, linking verbs are few in number. However, despite that, they are still widely used. Linking verbs helps one-word name or describe the condition of another word within the same sentence. Another function of a linking verb is connecting a word at or near the beginning of a sentence with a word at or near the end. Just think of linking verbs as bridges that connect the gap between words.

verbs in english

In English, the most common linking verb is some form of the verb be.

The Verb ‘Be’

Is, are, and was are all forms of the verb ‘be’.

For instance, take a look at the following sentences:

  • Robin was very happy, indeed.
  • The dogs are excited.
  • Eliza is a famous singer.

Notice how they all connect words at the beginning of a sentence with words at the end.

Other forms of ‘be’ include:

  • Am
  • Were
  • Being
  • Been

Other linking verbs in English that can be used in the same way as ‘be’ to link two parts of a sentence include:

  • Appear
  • Become
  • Feel
  • Grow
  • Look
  • Remain
  • Seem
  • Smell
  • Sound
  • Stay
  • Taste
  • Turn

Linking Verb or Action Verb?

Because a lot of linking verbs in English can be used as action verbs, it could be difficult to identify one from the other. There is a simple way to determine whether a verb is used as an action verb or as a linking verb. First, substitute the verb with either am, are, or is. Next, if the substituted verb still makes sense and connects two words, then the verb is used as a linking verb. But, if the substituted verb makes no sense, or if the sentence becomes illogical, then the verb is an action verb.

Following the concept above, take a look at the following examples:

Those apples taste sweet, to be honest.

  • Those apples are sweet, to be honest. – Logical, LINKING

I taste the lemon.

  • I is the lemon. – Illogical, NOT LINKING

 

The group appears ready.

  • The group is ready. – Logical, LINKING

Selma appears suddenly.

  • Selma are suddenly. – Illogical, NOT LINKING

 

Genevieve grew tired.

  • Genevieve is tired. – Logical, LINKING

Kelso grew a moustache, too.

  • Kelso is a moustache, too. – Illogical, NOT LINKING

As previously stated, the verb is a linking verb if am, are, or is can be substituted for the verb, and the sentence still remains logical.

 

Verbs in English: Helping Verbs

Next, the last class of verbs are the helping verbs. So, what are helping verbs? Initially, these are verbs that help add meaning to another verb. Similarly, helping verbs are also used to form verb tenses. Additionally, when helping verbs are added to other verbs, a verb phrase is formed. Verb phrases are made up of as many as four words.

Usually, forms of the verb ‘be’ can also be used as helping verbs.

verbs in english helping verbs

Some common helping verbs other than forms of ‘be’ include:

  • Do
  • Does
  • Did
  • Have
  • Has
  • Had
  • Would
  • Shall
  • Should
  • Will
  • Might
  • Must
  • Can
  • Could
  • May

To form verb phrases, add a helping verb to another verb. For example:

  • am + sleeping
  • did + sing
  • can + write
  • will be + climbing
  • should have + seen
  • may + consider

Helping verbs are also called auxiliary verbs or auxiliaries. Additionally, helping verbs add meaning to other verbs. In the following example sentences, notice how adding helping verbs can change the meaning of the sentences.

WITHOUT HELPING VERB: She sleeps alone.
WITH HELPING VERB: She will sleep alone.

WITHOUT HELPING VERB: Arthur sings opera.
WITH HELPING VERB: Arthur did sing opera.

WITHOUT HELPING VERB: Jim writes poetry.
WITH HELPING VERB: Jim can write poetry.

WITHOUT HELPING VERB: The Jones family climbs every summer.
WITH HELPING VERB: The Jones family will be climbing every summer.

WITHOUT HELPING VERB: The maid saw her arrive in the morning.
WITH HELPING VERB: The maid might see you arrive in the morning.

Finding Helping Verbs in Sentences

Words often interrupt verb phrases. As a result, it could be tricky trying to find helping verbs in a sentence.

There are some sentences that contain verb phrases with the words together. For example:

  • As a matter of fact, his flight will be arriving in the morning.
  • The flight attendants had boarded the plane early.
  • Astronauts had landed on the moon six times!

Alternatively, some sentences contain verb phrases with the words separated by other words. For example:

  • Jane should be diligently studying for her final exams.
  • All the same, our team has always easily won every competition.
  • Thanks to NASA, our knowledge of space has dramatically increased over the years.

Given these points, the importance of verbs is quite clear. Therefore, as an English language learner, you are encouraged to take them seriously. To help you learn about verbs easily, try finding them in your own readings or writings. Then, once you’ve identified verbs, try to classify whether they are action verbs, linking verbs, or auxiliary verbs. So, what did you think about this lesson? Please share it with us in the comments below.

Incidentally, how well do you think you understood this lesson? Check your level of comprehension by answering this short quiz.

TRUE or FALSE: Linking verbs are also known as 'auxiliaries'.

Correct! Wrong!

Helping verbs are also known as 'auxiliary verbs' or 'auxiliaries' because of their ability to add new meaning to verbs.

In the sentence "Christine looks exquisite." The verb 'looks' functions as a:

Correct! Wrong!

If a verb is substituted with either 'is', 'are', or 'am', and the sentence still makes sense, the verb is a linking verb. If the sentence does not make sense after the verb is substituted with 'is', 'are', or 'am', the verb is an action verb.

TRUE or FALSE: The sentence "Ronan eats healthy" contains a transitive verb.

Correct! Wrong!

A transitive verb directs an action toward a person or a thing named within the sentence. While an intransitive verb does not direct action toward a person or a thing named within the sentence. The receiver of the action of a transitive verb is called the object of the verb. Intransitive verbs, on the other hand, do not have objects.In the sentence "Ronan eats healthy." The verb 'eats' does not have an object to receive it. Therefore, the verb is an intransitive verb.

Which of the following sentences contain an action verb?

Correct! Wrong!

An action verb is an action word. An action verb tells what action someone or something is performing. In the third sentence, the verb 'jumped' shows an action performed by the subject 'cow.'

Which of the following sentences contain an intransitive verb?

Correct! Wrong!

Intransitive verbs do not direct action towards a person or a thing named within the sentence. Therefore, intransitive verbs, do not have objects.In the first sentence, the verb 'jog' is not directed at anything or anyone. Unlike in the second sentence (plays - basketball) and the third sentence (take - the dogs).

Classifying Verbs in English
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