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  • Writer's pictureKat Taylor

Understanding verbs: Examples of common verbs in action

Verbs - photo of the word verbs spelled in scrabble tiles

There are many grammatical rules for using verbs, and it can be quite confusing, even for linguists and experienced writers, but understanding the basic types of verbs and how they work in sentences, will help to improve your written communication.

What is a verb?

A verb is a word that expresses an action, occurrence, or state of being in a sentence. Verbs are essential components of sentences as they convey the main idea or action taking place. There are various types of verbs, each serving a different purpose in a sentence.

Understanding the different types of verbs

Action verbs

One common type of verb is the action verb. Action verbs describe physical or mental actions that someone or something is performing. For example, in the sentence "She runs every morning", the verb "runs" indicates the action being performed by the subject. Other examples of action verbs include "jump", "eat", "write", and "think". Action verbs can replace the passive voice to make your sentences more engaging (see rule 12 in my article Mastering the Basics: The 12 Essential Rules of English Grammar).

Linking verbs

Another type of verb is the linking verb. Linking verbs connect the subject of a sentence to a noun or adjective that describes or renames the subject. These verbs do not show action but instead link the subject to additional information. For instance, in the sentence "He is a doctor", the linking verb "is" connects the subject "He" to the noun "doctor." Other examples of linking verbs include "appear", "seem", "become", and "feel".

Modal verbs

Modal verbs, also known as auxilliary verbs or helping verbs are a unique type of verb that express possibility, necessity, or ability. Modal verbs are used to indicate the likelihood or ability of an action taking place. They add to the primary verb of a sentence or clause to make a verb phrase. Examples of modal verbs include "can", "could", "may", "might", "must", "shall", "should", "will", and "would". For instance, in the sentence "You should study for the exam," the modal verb "should" indicates a recommendation or advice.

Irregular verbs

Irregular verbs are verbs that do not follow the standard rules of verb conjugation. These verbs have unique forms for different tenses and can be challenging to memorise. Examples of irregular verbs include "go" (went, gone), "eat" (ate, eaten), "see" (saw, seen), and "do" (did, done).

Phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs are combinations of a verb and one or more particles (prepositions or adverbs) that together create a new meaning. Phrasal verbs are commonly used in English and can have idiomatic or figurative meanings. Examples of phrasal verbs include "give up" (to quit), "look after" (to take care of), "run into" (to encounter unexpectedly), and "put off" (to postpone).

In conclusion, verbs play a crucial role in sentence structure by conveying actions, linking subjects to additional information, expressing possibility or necessity, and creating new meanings through phrasal constructions. Understanding the different types of verbs and how they function in sentences is essential for effective communication in English.

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