What is a verb?
A verb is a word that is used to refer to actions (what things do) and states of being (how things are).
For example, the words: 'kick', 'eat', 'walk' are verbs.
We should use verbs correctly to create great and clear sentences.
We use verbs every day. We use them to express actions, events and states of being.
There are three verb forms every English language learner should take into consideration. They are:
1. Tense verb forms
A tense verb form refers to a different form of a verb or verb phrase that is used to talk or write about different times. For example, we usually use
(A) Present tense verb forms are used to talk about states, events or actions that happen or are happening in the present time.
(1) She cooks every day.
(2) He is playing outside.
(B) Past tense verb forms are used to talk about past time, to describe events, states or actions that have finished.
(1) I ate ugali with beans yesterday.
(2) I wrote a letter to him last week.
Past tense verb forms are also used to refer to present time for the reasons of being polite or for referring to something or someone indirectly.
(1) I was wondering if you wanted a drink.
(2) I was thinking of you that we should do this together.
(C) There is no future tense verb forms in English. We refer to future time in several different ways for different functions. We just use the present tense or 'be going to' or 'will' to talk about future time.
(1) He is going to punish you if he finds out.
(2) I will report to my office tomorrow.
2. VERB FORMS
All main verbs in English have five different forms:
(1) The base form (the infinitive)
Examples of base forms of verbs:
(2) The past form
Examples of past forms of verbs:
(3) The past participle or -ed form,
Examples of past participle (-ed, -en) forms of verbs:
Note: Read more various forms of regular and irregular verb forms in past participle.
(4) The -ing form, e.g. working, taking;
Examples of present participle (-ing) forms of verbs:
(5) The third person singular present simple (-s form)
Examples of third person singular (-s) forms of verbs:
3. VERB PATTERNS
A verb pattern refers to what follows a verb.
(1) Standing alone verbs. Some verbs can stand alone.
- He laughed.
- She cried
(2) Some verbs are followed by an object.
- He loved it.
- She bought a car.
(3) Some verbs are followed by objects + prepositions.
- He jumped on the bed.
- She returned her gown in the drawer.
(4) Verbs that are in other forms.
- I hate waiting, I prefer to walk.
- She likes picnics, she hate to stay indoors.
(5) Verbs followed by a clause.
- We told us to wait.
- She told us (that) we were wrong.
- The boss agreed to come.
- They agreed (that) it was better.
Note: The meaning of the verb is often in the whole pattern, not just in the verb.
TYPES OF VERBS
There are 13 different types of verbs in English. In this article, we will look exclusively at each type of verb.
(1) Action verbs
(2) Stative verbs
(3) Transitive verbs
(4) Intransitive verbs
(5) Linking verbs
(6) Helping verbs (also called auxiliary verbs)
(7) Modal verbs
(8) Regular verbs
(9) Irregular verbs
(10) Phrasal verbs
(11) Finite verbs
(12) Non-Finite Verbs
(13) Infinitive Verbs (Infinitives)
CLOSER LOOK AT EACH TYPE OF VERBS
1. ACTION VERBS
Action verbs are verbs used to refer to actions. They refer to physical actions that are performed with bodies or objects. For example; run, walk, climb, kick, or bring. They also refer to mental actions that we use our brains to perform. For example; remember, think, believe, consider, memorize, or imagine.
In English, most verbs are action verbs.
EXAMPLES OF ACTION VERBS
EXAMPLES OF ACTION VERBS IN SENTENCES
Each of these sentences uses action verbs. You'll see that each verb is referring to a physical or mental action.
(1) Ronaldo receives the ball, dribbles and scores a wonderful goal.
(2) She is sweeping the yard.
(3) The dog is following her everywhere.
(4) I remember everything I did.
(5) She believes you.
(6) Children shouldn't be climbing tall trees.
(7) I work at a Mwanza Textile Industry.
(8) Cats chase mice.
(9) I will listen to you but don't lie to me.
(10) She came last night.
2. STATIVE VERBS
Stative verbs refer to conditions or states of being. They are different from action verbs and they are used to describe things like states of existence, qualities, emotions, opinions, and beliefs.
Things to Consider About Stative Verbs
(1) They do not refer to actions.
(2) They are not used in the continuous verb tenses.
(3) Some stative verbs can be used as either action or stative depending on their meaning in the sentence.
EXAMPLES OF STATIVE VERBS
EXAMPLES OF STATIVE VERBS IN SENTENCES
(1) All I want is you.
(2) Allen loves her children very much.
(3) My house has three bedrooms, one dining room, one kitchen and one storeroom.
(4) Your bicycle needs to be repaired.
(5) If you own nothing, no one will care for you.
(6) He resembles his father very much.
Note: The verbs used in above sentences do not refer to actions.
3. TRANSITIVE VERBS
A transitive verb is a verb that needs an object to complete itself. It passes its action from subject to object. The object can be the noun, noun phrase, or a pronoun that is having something done to it by the subject of the sentence. Both action and stative verbs can be used as transitive verbs and they can be accomplished by objects.
Thus, when a verb is transitive it means it has an object.
- Kick a ball.
- Phone him.
- Study Civics.
Examples of transitive verbs:
EXAMPLES OF TRANSITIVE VERBS IN SENTENCES
(1) They have eaten the food.
(2) I like fruits.
(3) Let’s help them.
(4) She is cleaning the floor.
(5) He kicked the ball into the net.
Note: There is usually no preposition after transitive verb.
And, in these sentences above, the actions denoted by the verbs pass actions from the doers to the objects.
4. INTRANSITIVE VERBS
An intransitive verb is a verb that doesnt need any object to complete itself. It is the opposite of a transitive verb. It does not pass its action from subject to the object. Thus, a verb is an intransitive verb if it is not used with an object. Prepositions are usually used after intransitive verb.
Also, both action and stative verbs can be used as intransitive verbs.
Thus, when a verb is intransitive, it doesn't need an object.
- Walk to school.
- Report on time.
- Go to the market.
Examples of intransitive verbs:
EXAMPLES OF INTRANSITIVE VERBS IN SENTENCES
(1) The child hid herself behind the door.
(2) Some birds fly together in the sky.
(3) We sleep at night.
(4) We wake up in the morning.
(5) She died in a terrible accident.
(6) They disappeared into the bushes.
- Remember, prepositional phrases, adjectives, and adverbs cannot be used as direct objects. Only nouns, pronouns, and noun phrases can be direct objects.
- Each of these sentences uses intransitive verbs and none of these sentences have direct objects.
- Also, in these sentences above, the actions denoted by the verbs do not pass actions from the doers to the objects, but to the prepositional phrases.
5. LINKING VERBS
A linking verb is a verb that acts as a link between two words. This verb links a subject to a noun or an adjective in the sentence.
Linking verbs link a subject with a subject complement. A subject complement describes the subject of the sentence. Most linking verbs function as intransitive verbs which do not take direct objects.
Examples of linking verbs:
EXAMPLES OF LINKING VERBS IN SENTENCES
(1) She is a great dancer.
(2) That looks great.
(3) Your daughter has grown so big these days.
(4) The boss gets angry sometimes.
(5) We remained silent until the teacher came.
(6) The game became difficult after first half.
(7) This food tastes good.
(8) The room is empty.
(9) The couples seem so tired.
(10) I feel thirsty.
In each of the above sentences, linking verbs are linking subjects with subject complements.
6. HELPING VERBS (AUXILIARY VERBS)
A helping verb is a verb that combines with a main verb in order to complete a sentence.
These are helpful verbs that work with other verbs to change the meaning of a sentence. The helping verbs can change the tense of the verb or the mood of a sentence.
Examples of helping verbs:
EXAMPLES OF HELPING VERBS IN SENTENCES
(1) She is cooking rice. ('is' is a helping verb and 'cooking' is a main verb)
(2) She has cooked rice. ('has' is a helping verb and 'cooked' is a main verb)
(3) You should go to the hospital. ('should' is a helping verb and 'go' is a main verb)
(4) I will come. ('will' is a helping verb and 'come' is a main verb)
(5) Athletes can run fast. ('can' is a helping verb and 'run' is a main verb)
(6) I am preparing for the event. ('am' is a helping verb and 'preparing' is a main verb)
Each of the sentences above uses a helping verb and a main verb. Consider how a helping verb contributes to the meaning of the sentence.
7. MODAL VERBS
Modal verbs are helping verbs. They are a subgroup of helping verbs that are used to give a sentence a specific mood.
Each modal verb is used differently, and they are used to express functions such as ability, necessity, possibility, or permission.
Examples of modal verbs:
- Ought to
FUNCTIONS AND EXAMPLES OF MODAL VERBS IN SENTENCES
1. To express ability and request
- I can read and write English.
- They can win this game.
- Can you help me this?
- I can't speak French.
2. To express past ability and suggestion
- I could win if I tried hard.
- Could you open the door please?
- She could not report on time because of the rain.
3. To express permission and future possibilities
- She may leave if she wants.
- May I come in?
- May I help you this?
- He may not come, but the meeting will continue.
- When you finish your homework, you may to play outside.
4. To show present or future possibilities
- It might rain today.
- It might be a good idea to get started.
- She might have been playing us.
- It might not be the case.
5. To express necessity and obligation
- We must attend this meeting.
- You must obey the rules when you are here.
- We must carefully consider this plan.
- They mustn't come to my house.
6. To show what's right or correct to do)
- We ought to leave now.
- They ought to love each other.
7. To make offer or suggestion
- Today, we shall watch the football match on TV.
- Next week, we shall start the course.
- I shall not attend your birthday party.
- We shall overcome this.
- Shall we start the meeting now?
8. To express advice and prediction
- We should not have this meeting.
- I should pay you for this.
- You should pay attention.
- Should we start the meeting now?
9. To show willingness, prediction, and promise
- She will come today.
- I will fulfill my promise soon.
- We will do what is best for everyone.
- Will you be able to come tomorrow?
10. To express request and invitation
- We would win the game if we played well.
- They would come if they were told earlier.
- I would go to the movies if I wasn't busy.
- Would they come if they were told earlier?
The sentences above all use modal verbs to express a certain function or tone. Each sentence has one meaning without a modal verb and it has another meaning with the modal verb.
8. REGULAR VERBS
This is a kind of main verb in which its past and past participle is made by adding '-d', '-ed' or '-t' endings. English language has more irregular main verbs than the other kind of main verb that we will see next.
Examples of Verbs:
The following verbs look are regular verbs because both its past tense form and past participle end in '-d', '-ed' or '-t' forms.
- 'look' becomes 'looked'
- 'jump' becomes 'jumped'
- 'kick' becomes 'kicked'
- 'slip' becomes 'slipped'
- 'ask' becomes 'asked'
- 'try' becomes 'tried'
- 'present' becomes 'presented'
- 'sleep' becomes 'slept'
- 'call' becomes 'called'
- 'lend' becomes 'lent'
- 'educate' becomes 'educated'
- Create - Created
- Book - Booked
EXAMPLES OF REGULAR VERBS IN SENTENCES
Each of the following sentences use regular verbs in either their past tense form or as a past participle.
(1) The newspaper has been banned.
(2) They walked 25 kilometres on foot.
(3) We needed more strength to finish the job.
(4) The boss talked about the future projects.
(5) No one wanted to go alone.
(6) We have tried but in vain.
(7) They have received the package already.
(8) The fans supported us but we failed them.
(9) Your apologies have been accepted.
(10) He played well that's why we won the game.
9. IRREGULAR VERBS
An irregular verb is a form of the verb which does not end in '-ed', '-d', and 't' variant for its past tense and past participle form. The spellings of these verbs may change or may not change at all.
Examples of Irregular Verbs:
- 'be' becomes 'am', 'is', 'are', 'was', 'were', 'be', 'being', and 'been.'
- 'take' becomes 'took' and 'taken'
- 'go' becomes 'went' and 'gone'
- 'eat' becomes 'ate' and 'eaten'
- 'find' becomes 'found' and 'found'
- 'catch' becomes 'caught' and 'caught'
- 'fly' becomes 'flew' and 'flown'.
- 'cut' becomes 'cut' and 'cut'
- Set = Set/Set
- Buy = Bought/Bought
- Do = Did/Done
- Drive = Drove/Driven
Note how some verbs remain unchanged in both past and past participle forms.
EXAMPLES OF IRREGULAR VERBS IN SENTENCES
(1) I was there when the accident happened.
(2) The thieves took everything in my house.
(3) You did a great job.
(4) He shut the door and left.
(5) Have you eaten?
(6) He knew nothing about the accident.
(7) The boss has given me the permission.
(8) The police have caught the thieves.
10. PHRASAL VERBS
A phrasal verb is a verb that consists of two or three words.
A phrasal verb is just a combination of a verb with a preposition and/or an adverb that has a different meaning from each individual word used in the combination. That is, the words are usually a verb plus an adverb and/or a preposition.
For example, the verb 'put' means to place, and the preposition 'on' means over something. But, the phrasal verb 'put on' means to wear something like clothes.
- To back somebody up = to support
- To find out = to discover
- To blow up = to explode
- To take over = to gain control of something, for example; a company.
- To break something down = divide into smaller parts.
Examples of phrasal verbs:
- look for
- ask for
- play with
- take place
- talk to
- put on
- lock up
- look forward to
- cut across
- cut off
EXAMPLES OF PHRASAL VERBS IN SENTENCES
The following sentences show how we can use phrasal verbs. Sometimes the words in a phrasal verb can be separated and the sentence can still be grammatically correct.
(1) He closed down his shop before 6 pm.
(2) He loves to show off his football talent.
(3) She backed me up over my decision.
(4) The bomb blew up and all soldiers died.
(5) Break down this essay into two sections.
(6) They broke up in 2018.
(7) He was locked up but he broke out of the police cell.
(8) The secretary told me she would call me back.
(9) I will check in a nice hotel for you.
(10) Amos cheered up when he won the lottery.
TYPES OF PHRASAL VERBS
There are two types of phrasal verbs:
1. Transitive Phrasal Verbs
2. Intransitive Phrasal Verbs
Note: The same meaning of transitive and intransitive verbs in verbs applies to the phrasal verbs as well.
1. Transitive Phrasal Verbs
A transitive phrasal verb takes an object. When a phrasal verb is transitive, it's possible to put the object between the verb and the adverb/preposition, or put it afterwards. And there is no difference in meaning.
(1) Put on your clothes.
= Put your clothes on.
(2) Take off your jacket.
= Take your jacket off.
However, when we use a pronoun, it must go in the middle.
- Count on him. (Not Count him on)
- Take it off. (Not Take off it.)
- Bring it up. (Not Bring up it.)
Here are some other examples of transitive phrasal verbs:
(1) Turn on: Turn on the computer.
(2) Look at: Look at the magazine.
(3) Put down: Put it down.
(4) Clear up: We need to clear up the garden.
(5) Fill in: Make sure you fill in your information.
(6) Try on: Why dont you try this shirt on?
(7) Call back: She wants to call her back.
2. Intransitive Phrasal Verbs
In Intransitive phrasal verbs there is no object. There are only prepositions and adverbs.
Here are some examples of intransitive phrasal verbs:
(1) Break down: This car is faulty. It breaks down every time!
(2) Take off: The plane took off on time. (left the ground)
(3) Grow up: Your daughter has grown up.
(4) Carry on: You have to carry on regardless of your problems.
(5) Sell out: All tickets are sold out.
(6) Drop out: He dropped out of the college after one year.
Note: When you find a new phrasal verb, test it whether it's transitive or intransitive so you know if you can separate the verb or not. Make and practice your own examples too to help you remember them more easily.
Sinclair, John (2006) Collins COBUILD Intermediate English Grammar, HarperCollins Publishers, Westerhill Road.
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