Action verbs are verbs that specifically describe what the subject of the sentence is doing. These types of verbs carry a great deal of information in a sentence and can convey emotion and a sense of purpose that extends beyond the literal meanings of the words. A sentence like "The band appeared on the scene" sounds much less impressive than the sentence "The band erupted onto the scene." The power of action verbs lies in the meaning and intention that they contain and how they bring direction and force to the sentence. Understanding the types of action verbs will make students better writers and communicators.
Types of Action Verbs
The following list of tenses shows the different verb forms for regular verbs:
Base - To discover
- Present - I discover something new every day.
- Present progressive - I am discovering myself.
- Present perfect - I have discovered a new way.
- Present perfect progressive - I have been discovering new music.
- Past - I discovered that already.
- Past progressive - I was discovering something this morning.
- Past perfect - I had discovered that I was lost.
- Past perfect progressive - I had been discovering an interesting place.
- Future - I will discover that when I get there.
- Future progressive - I am discovering that tomorrow.
- Future perfect - I will have discovered that by the time I get home.
- Future perfect progressive - I will have been discovering that for week by the time you arrive.
Rules for Past Tense of Regular Verbs
The general rule for past tense is that you add –ed to the base of the verb. However, the past tense verb form becomes more complicated depending on what letter the base of the verb ends with. The following rules apply to most cases of regular verbs.
When the base form of the verb ends with:
- -e: This is the simplest situation: just add –d. For example, devise becomes devised.
- -y: When the base form ends in –y, simply change the –y to –ied. For example, fortify becomes fortified.
- -c: If the base of the verb ends in –c add –ked. For example, panic becomes panicked.
- -p, -g, or -m: When a verb ends in -p, -g, or -m, the consonant is typically doubled. For example, ram becomes rammed, flip becomes flipped, and rig becomes rigged.
- For verbs that end in a consonant and the final syllable is stressed, the ending consonant is typically doubled. For example, plan becomes planned.
Irregular verbs don't conform to the above spelling rules and therefore must be learned individually. The following is an example of the different verb forms for an irregular verb:
Base - To drink
- Present - I drink when I am thirsty.
- Present progressive - I am drinking orange juice.
- Present perfect - She has drunk the new cocktail.
- Present perfect progressive - I have been drinking plenty of water.
- Past - I drank my share of water.
- Past progressive - I was drinking coffee when you called.
- Past perfect - I had drunk all the tea in the pitcher.
- Past perfect progressive - The team had been drinking Gatorade before we got here.
- Future - I will drink hot cider tonight.
- Future progressive - I am going to drink my homemade wine.
- Future perfect - He will have drunk everything in sight by morning.
- Future perfect progressive - I will be drinking sweet tea when we get to Carolina.
Pay Attention to Verbs
- Student Tip!
Revising writing to include verbs that are lively and express action is a fantastic way for students to improve their prose. Consider what the actions are in a sentence and choose the most expressive, powerful verbs to convey those actions.
- Teacher Tip!
Have students circle every is, are, was, and were in their papers and ask them to think about the action in the sentence. Do these verbs convey the action accurately? Have them brainstorm on other verbs that better express the action of the sentence.
One genre that stresses the importance of using action verbs is resume and cover letter writing. Job seekers need to understand that employers need to be able to clearly see the applicants accomplishments. Since resumes and cover letters strive to be succinct and to the point, verb usage is particularly important. Be sure to use the right action verbs to describe your skills and past accomplishments when applying for a job.