Verbs are an essential component of sentence structure by integrating and expressing states, occurrences, or actions and propelling the narrative forward. In grammar, they follow a range of language rules in terms of how they are used correctly. Proper use of verbs is vital to portray and convey clear and effective messages in academic writing. This article gives a more profound insight into the types of verbs, conjugations, and tenses, providing relevant tools to enhance your academic language.
Verbs are types of words that describe an occurrence, physical action, or state of being and shape the foundation of a predicate in a sentence. The verb meaning depends on the context of the intended message and refers to actions a subject can experience, do, or be. Verbs are adaptable and are commonly used to express mood, tense, voice, and aspect, which makes them a vital component of sentence structures in the English language. There is a variety of verb types, which will be delved into extensively in this article.
As mentioned above, verbs act as the backbone of a sentence, expressing occurrences, states of being, and actions. The following verb lists illustrate common examples for each type.
Physical and mental verbs
To articulate actions, states, and occurrences effectively and clearly, it is imperative to distinguish physical actions from mental actions. Both types are vital for constructing descriptive and nuanced sentences that accurately express what is occurring in the physical realm and the sphere of emotions and thoughts.
Physical verbs are forms of action verbs and refer to activities that involve bodily motion or external influences of the environment. In other words, they describe actions that involve senses or interactions with objects, which makes them easily detectable. The following outlines a few physical verb examples.
Contrarily to physical verbs, mental verbs refer to stative verbs, state-of-being verbs, or perception verbs, describing emotional or cognitive processes rather than physical ones. These are often invisible and can’t be observed externally, as they refer to processes happening in our minds.
In the English language, the verb “to be” serves a foundational role and is the most-used linking verb. The verb “to be” is versatile, taking on various roles in sentences. They can operate as linking verbs, main verbs, and auxiliary verbs. The following list of be-verbs showcases them in various ways, in their forms and functions, demonstrating their common uses.
- As linking verbs: In this form, being-verbs link the subject and subject complement in a sentence.
- As main verbs: In this form, they act as state-of-being verbs, referring to mental or cognitive processes and to objects.
- As auxiliary verbs: In this form, they act as helper verbs to shape voices, moods, aspects, and tenses.
Types of verbs
In general, verbs power the narratives of sentences forward by indicating occurrences, actions, and states. Depending on their form and function, they can be classified into a range of types. In context, each type serves a distinctive and important role in constructing meaningful statements. Understanding these types is crucial to internalizing and articulating the English language. Find the types below.
Verbs describing directly performed actions by the subject are referred to as action verbs. With the purpose of creating clarity and vitality in a sentence, they indicate what the subject is doing.
Dynamic verbs, or process verbs, are a subcategory of action verbs and refer to temporary actions that happen during specific time periods and can happen in a sequence or be paused or disrupted. These types of verbs are often used with continuous tenses to depict whether the action is occurring during these specific time periods or at the moment.
Stative verbs illustrate conditions or situations that are unchanging or static in nature. They indicate relationships between things, rather than performed activities that can be observed.
State-of-being verbs, or stative verbs, often serve as linking verbs, as they indicate unchanging conditions and connect the subject to the subject complement in a sentence.
Modal verbs, also referred to as modal auxiliary verbs, have the function of representing possibility, necessity, ability, and permission. They often modify the main verbs in sentences by clarifying the narrator’s intent for an action. As shown in the modal verb examples below, the structure or form of the original verb never changes and is always followed by the root form of the main verb.
The modal verb examples above list the most common examples of modal verbs in the English language and their various functions.
Auxiliary verbs, or helper verbs, serve as building blocks to construct moods, voices, tenses, and aspects in sentences. In other words, they modify the key verb in a sentence structure and provide extra details regarding the described state, occurrence, or action. As a single verb, these types of verbs don’t entail any semantics, but merely operate as “help.” The following auxiliary verb examples entail the primary auxiliaries “to be,” “to do,” and “to have.” However, they can become quite tricky when dealing with more advanced tenses.
“To be” is used to construct passive voice, continuous aspects, and tenses.
“To do” is typically used to introduce questions, and implement negation or emphatics in simple tenses.
“To have” is used to form perfect tenses like past perfect, present perfect, and future perfect.
The following list of helping verbs shows the primary auxiliaries in their various forms:
- Be: am, are, is, was, were
- Do: do, does, did
- Have: have, has, had
Phrasal verbs refer to idioms containing a main verb combined with other components such as adverbs, prepositions, or both. In combination, they typically provide a different meaning than the initial verb and act as individual verbs. The following phrasal verb examples illustrate commonly used ones with their meanings and examples, respectively.
These examples of phrasal verbs represent a fraction of an endless list. Learn more about them in this detailed article about phrasal verbs.
Verbs can further be classified into various categories, each following their individual rules. A more profound understanding of the categories can be an immense advantage in terms of grasping language, allowing you to improve your spoken and written articulation.
Regular and irregular verbs
When verbs follow a predictable and consistent conjugation pattern, we speak of regular verbs. In the English language, they end in “-ed” when using the past simple and past participle forms.
On the other hand, irregular verbs have an inconsistent pattern when conjugated. As they don’t follow set rules, but each have their individual and unique pattern, they must be memorized. When dealing with advanced tenses, these can become increasingly difficult to remember. The following irregular verb examples provide an insight into some of them.
Here is a short irregular verbs list of the most commonly used ones with their conjugations:
|Present/base||Past simple||Past participle|
|Be, am, is, are||Was, were||Been|
Transitive and intransitive verbs
As the word already indicates, transitive verbs need a direct object for a complete meaning. This means that the action indicated by the verb transfers an object. According to English grammar, a transitive verb precedes a direct object.
In this example, the verb “eats” transfers the direct object “a burger.”
On the contrary, intransitive verbs don’t need to transfer direct objects to convey a complete meaning. The action is carried out on its own and does not need a receiving object to be executed. Typically, sentences with intransitive verbs include prepositions or adverbial phrases for more detailed contexts; however, there is no direct object.
Depending on the context of the sentence, some verbs can be both transitive and intransitive.
Active and passive verbs
Active verbs indicate that the subject in a sentence carries out the action. This type of structure is referred to as active voice and is based on the following sentence structure:
Subject + Active verb + Object
In contrast, the subject in a sentence receives the action of a passive verb, but does not carry it out. This type of structure is also called passive voice and is based on the following sentence structure:
Subject + Passive verb + Agent
Active voice vs. passive voice
|Active voice||Passive voice|
Verbs that link the subject of a sentence with the subject complement are called linking verbs or popular verbs. These types don’t describe actions, but rather conditions or states of being. Subject complements are typically nouns or adjectives and provide extra information about the subject. Below are some linking verb examples for a better understanding.
Common Linking verbs list
Here are some of the most frequently used linking verbs in the English language.
When the object reflects on the subject in a sentence, the respective verb is called a reflexive verb. In other words, the subject and the object are both affected by the same verb. Oftentimes, these types of sentences involve reflexive pronouns such as, “myself,” “yourself,” “himself,” “herself,” “itself,” “ourselves,” “yourselves,” and “themselves” as indicators that the action carried out by the object returns to the subject. The following examples of reflexive verbs portray the correct use of them in sentences.
When the subject and the object of the sentence do not share the same verb, reflexive verbs are used in other verb forms.
Note: While not every verb can be reflexive, some reflexive verbs can be used in other forms, e.g., “It cleaned the floor.”
To pinpoint verbs in sentences, it is integral to understand their form and functions. The following illustrates some tips that may help recognize verbs:
The most common function of a verb is to describe an action someone/something carries out, e.g., “to write,” “to sing,” or “to swim.”
State of being:
If an action is not detectable or can’t be identified, look for a condition or state of mind like “to believe,” “to seem,” or “to know.”
Look for auxiliary verbs such as “will,” “have,” or “was,” as a sentence may contain verb phrases, which are made of multiple words like “has eaten.”
Detect the subject:
Verbs are closely connected to the subject of a sentence, as they typically describe its action. Detecting the subject simplifies finding the verb.
Test if words change by using different pronouns. E.g., when an “-s” follows a “verb” when you use he/she/it, it’s most likely a verb.
Use negated words such as “not” after the potential verb. If the meaning of the sentence still makes sense, it is most likely a verb.
In English grammar, the foundational sentence structure is Subject + Verb + Object (SVO). However, this varies depending on the complexity.
If you analyse a question, the auxiliary verb most likely stands in the initial position of the sentence, introducing the question.
The infinitive of a verb is often preceded by the word “to” (e.g., to sing). Be cautious of the prepositional use in a sentence.
Forms of verbs are crucial for understanding and mastering the English language, as they indicate the mood, voice, number, tense, and person. The most common verb forms you may encounter are:
- Infinitive form – is the root form of the verb, i.e., its initial form. It is frequently indicated with the word “to” standing in front of it.
- Simple present – refers to the tense that forms the verb in a way to express actions that have a habitual nature or depict general truths.
- Simple past – refers to the tense that forms the verb in a manner that indicates an action that took place in the past.
- Past participle – refers to the form, where the verb is often accompanied by the word “have/has” to refer to a perfect tense.
- Present participle – is a form where the verb is often accompanied by the word “be” to shape continuous or progressive tenses.
The following table shows examples of these forms of verbs for regular and irregular verbs.
Infinitive verb form
The infinitive verb form refers to the basic form or root form of a verb. It is usually preceded by the word “to” and depicts the verb in its natural form without any conjugation. The following represents infinitive examples of using them in sentences and as bare infinitives.
Infinitives can act as adjectives, nouns, and adverbs in a sentence, as illustrated examples.
Imperative verb form
Sentences that express commands, offer invitations, or make requests usually contain an imperative verb. In addition, the subject is typically implied and not directly stated in imperative sentences. Most of the time, the subject refers to the person being addressed. In this type of sentence, the verb is typically in its infinitive form and stands in the initial position.
When we speak of a third-person singular in a sentence, we refer to one person or entity. The pronouns for 3rd person singular are “he,” “she,” and “it.” Verbs are commonly conjugated differently in the third-person singular and present tense in comparison to the other persons’ singular and plural forms.
In the simple present tense, third-person singular verbs usually end with an “-s” or “-es.”
Participle verbs act as adjectives and modify pronouns and nouns. The two types of participles are present participle and past participle, delved into below.
The format of present participles is: base form of the verb + “-ing”
Present participle examples are shown in the following.
The format for past participles of regular verbs is: base form of verb + “-ed”
The format for past participles of irregular verbs is not consistently the same, meaning that they vary depending on the verb. In this case, they need to be studied individually. Here are past participle examples for regular and irregular verbs.
Present and past participles are integral in forming the present continuous tense and past perfect tense. Read more in the following!
Verb conjugation takes on an important role in identifying the form of the verb and its purpose in the sentence construct. This is essentially crucial, as it shows the way, in which a verb varies depending on the intended meaning. The form of a verb is primarily influenced by the main tenses for the present, past, and future, as well as individuals or numbers. Below, we delve into the conjugations of verbs in different tenses, especially complicated tenses, providing a detailed guide on verb forms.
Conjugating simple tenses
The simple tenses consist of the simple present, simple past, and simple future, which all follow specific rules. These are all fairly common tenses.
- Use root form for “I,” “you,” “we,” and “they.”
- End verb with “-s” or “-es” for “he,” “she,” and “it.”
- End root form of regular verbs with “-ed.”
- Learn the individual past forms of irregular verbs.
- Precede the root form with “will” to indicate a future action.
The following tables show simple past, simple future, and simple present tense examples of regular and irregular verbs.
Conjugating continuous tenses
The simple continuous or progressive tenses have a predicate construct of the verb “to be” and the present participle of the main verb.
Simple present continuous:
- Construct of the present tense of “to be” and the present participle
- Am/are/is + ing-form of the main verb
Simple past continuous:
- Construct of the past tense of “to be” and the present participle
- Was/were + ing-form of the main verb
Simple future continuous:
- Construct of the future tense of “will be” and the present participle
- Will be + ing-form of the main verb
The following tables show the correct conjugations of continuous tenses of a regular and an irregular verb.
Conjugating perfect tenses
The past perfect tenses are the present perfect tense, past perfect tense, and future perfect tense. The predicate constructs include the auxiliary verb “to have” and the past participle of the main verb. These are more complicated tenses, which may be confusing, especially regarding irregular forms.
- Construct of the present tense of “to have” and the past participle
- Have/has + past participle of the main verb
- Construct of the past tense of “to have” and the past participle
- Had + past participle of the main verb
- Construct of the future tense of “will have” and the past participle
- Will have + past participle of the main verb
The following tables illustrate present perfect tense examples, past perfect tense examples, and future perfect tense examples of a regular and an irregular verb.
States of unreality like necessity, possibility, doubt, or an action that hasn’t happened yet are often times expressed through subjunctive verb forms. In the English language, however, the subjunctive form may be incorporated subtly, thus making it more difficult to detect. Therefore, it is imperative to assess the context, especially, after specific verbs and fixed expressions. The following table shows examples of the subjunctive form with respective explanations.
The subjunctive mood can often be identified when assessing the clause structure. Subjunctives are often included in incomplete sentences or dependent clauses that are introduced with “that” and proceeded by verbs such as “recommend,” “demand,” “insist,” and “suggest” as well as phrases like “it’s necessary,” “it’s essential,” and “it’s important.”
Gerund (-ing verbs)
A gerund is a specific form of -ing verbs and describes a verb in its noun form, which is created by adding the ending “-ing.” It is essential to understand the context and sentence structure when identifying these noun forms, as they are similar to the present participle verbs, which function as adjectives. The following table illustrates gerund examples in various contexts.
Compound subjects and compound verbs define subject or verb constructs, meaning they consist of more than one subject or verb, respectively. Using them creates more complex sentences by describing multiple subjects or actions in one sentence.
A compound subject often emerges when there are multiple subjects in one sentence that share the same verb/verbs. In this case, the subjects are commonly linked by conjunctions such as “and” or “or.”
Here, “Lisa” and “Thomas” represent a subject. They are both in connection with the verb “traveling.”
The compound verb, on the other hand, describes multiple verbs sharing the same subject in a sentence. Similar to the compound subject, they are frequently joined by conjunctions like “and” or “or.”
Here, “cooked” and “cleaned” represent two verbs sharing the same subject “they.”
Note: A compound subject and compound verb can occur simultaneously in one sentence, creating compound sentences. For instance, “Lisa and Thomas cooked and cleaned all morning.”
The subject-verb agreement defines the rule that the number of subjects and verbs in a sentence must align. In other words, if there is a singular subject, the verb must be singular, and if there is a plural subject, the verb must be plural correspondingly.
A verb is a word that indicates a state, an action, or an occurrence of a subject and resembles the predicate of a sentence construct.
Verbs refer to the words in a sentence that imply actions, states, or occurrences. Typically, verbs describe the action of a noun or pronoun.
Verbs that describe literal actions are called action verbs. Here are ten examples:
- To be
- To win
- To run
- To listen
- To sing
- To promise
- To have
- To go
- To walk
- To swim
A verb can be identified as a word in a sentence that describes and expresses the action or state of the subject or direct object. Essentially, it can be found in the following structure:
Subject + verb + direct object
The three main types of verbs are:
- Action verbs
- Linking verbs
- Modal verbs