What Is a Verb? Definition and Types

What is a verb? Verbs are an important part of the English language. Without them, sentences wouldn’t have any action. Develop an understanding of what verbs really are and explore the various types of verbs used in the English language along with sample sentences.

Woman Ironing Action Verb and Woman tired State of Being Verb Woman Ironing Action Verb and Woman tired State of Being Verb
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Verb Definition and Examples

Simply put, a verb can be defined as a word that expresses an action or a state of being. Most verbs provide key information about the subject of a sentence and are central to the sentence's predicate. Whether a verb is literally performing the action in the sentence or merely linking the subject to the rest of the information, they're always "doing" something. Verbs are the busybodies of sentences that serve to bring the entire thought to completion.

Verb Examples: Describing Action

Some verbs describe what action is being performed by the subject of the sentence. In the sentence examples throughout this article, the subject is underlined and the verb is bold.

  • She ironed her dress. (The action is ironing)
  • He drove to the mountains. (The action is driving)

Verb Examples: Describing State of Being

Some verbs describe the state of being of the subject.

  • She feels tired. (The state of being is feeling tired.)
  • He prefers coffee. (The state of being is preferring coffee.)

What Is a Verb? 6 Types

While all verbs express action or describe a state of being, there are not just two types of verbs. Explore six key verb types to further expand your knowledge of this all-important part of speech.

1. Action Verbs

Most verbs are action verbs. As the name indicates, these verbs describe actions. They describe things a person can do or demonstrate. For example, when you're playing Simon Says, Simon can ask you to do things like hop, skip, pat your head, or make a pair of moccasins. There are many examples of action verbs.

  • to accept - She accepted the job offer.
  • to ask - She asked to borrow a pencil.
  • to bake - Elizabeth baked a carrot cake.
  • to sing - He sings in the choir.

Action verbs can be either transitive or intransitive.

2. Transitive Verbs

Sounds technical and tricky, right? Fear not. Transitive verbs simply express an action. Seems on par with what a verb is, right? The only thing to note with this category of verbs is that they're always followed by a direct object, which is someone or something that's receiving the action of the verb. With transitive verbs, an object is required.

Sentences with transitive verbs follow the pattern subject, verb, direct object. In the examples below, the subject is underlined, the transitive verb is bold, and the direct object is italicized.

  • Molly drove the car.
  • Sam wants a bike.
  • Aileen wrote a poem.
  • Joshua ate the noodles.
  • Sarah cleaned the kitchen.
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3. Intransitive Verbs

Intransitive verbs are also verbs that show action. Unlike transitive verbs, they are ones that are not followed by a direct object. Nothing is receiving the action of the verb. Instead, the action is being performed by the subject of the sentence.

  • The plane lands at 5 o'clock.
  • I arrived at the coffee shop.
  • My dog lies by the couch.
  • Together, we sat on the stone wall.
  • We went to the coffee shop.

Some verbs can be either transitive or intransitive; the type depends on how the verb is used in a sentence.

4. Linking Verbs

Linking verbs do not express action. Rather, they connect the subject to the additional information that's about to come. In other words, they link the subject to details about the subject. Various forms of the verb "to be" are linking verbs, including verbs like "am," "is," "are," and "were." There are many additional examples of linking verbs.

  • Damien is an expert craftsman.
  • I am Jennifer.
  • The car was here.
  • We were exhausted after the trip.

Some words (such as smell, look or appear) can be used as linking verbs or action verbs. With these words, it's important to consider the function the verb is performing in the sentence in order to identify the type.

5. Helping Verbs

Helping verbs do exactly what it seems like they should do. They help. That is, they help the main verb of the sentence by extending its meaning. They are used in cases where the linking verb on its own is not sufficient to form a complete thought or sentence. In the examples below, the helping verb is bold and italicized, while the linking verb is bold only.

  • I have been there before.
  • I am walking to the store.
  • We are reading the book together.
  • He will run for president.
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6. Stative Verbs

Stative verbs are more difficult to identify as verbs. They describe a position or state of being; they have no duration, no beginning and no end. They're more intangible than action verbs. While they don't perform any action, notice that they're typically followed by a direct object, which is italicized in the examples below.

  • You deserve a prize.
  • Jane dislikes humidity.
  • She hates eating contests.
  • Henry loves billiards.

Printable Verb List Worksheet

Now that you know what a verb is, it's time to show how many you know! Use the printable worksheet below to list at least one verb that starts with each letter of the alphabet. Try to use every type of verb at least once.

Vocabulary verbs worksheet

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Beyond Verb Meaning: Take Action Today!

Ready for a little fun now that you understand what a verb is? Why not enjoy a few games? Here are some action verb games to test your knowledge, as well as some helping verb games to help you or your students keep their verb game on point. Then, when it's time to go beyond the basics, move on to discover the verb tenses. From there, learn how to identify verb mood in grammar.