Jumping, eating, sneezing, and sleeping are all verbs you likely perform in a single day, though hopefully not at the same time (that could get messy). While most verbs show the action in a sentence, some verbs are a little harder to spot. However, every sentence needs one — or it’s not a sentence at all.
Verbs are words that show action in a sentence. Just like nouns and adjectives, they’re one of the eight parts of speech.
Verbs also show:
- the tense (time period) of a sentence
- agreement with the subject of a sentence
- a noun’s state of being
- more information about a noun
A printable chart of the nine types of verbs can help you keep them and their functions straight.
Verbs are the first part of a sentence predicate, and often the first word after a noun or pronoun. For example:
- Bob walked down the street.
- I love that movie.
- We sang all night.
- The family drove to the mountains.
With all the jobs verbs have, it’s not surprising that there is more than one type. In fact, there are nine types of verbs — and understanding them can help you make your writing more interesting.
Stative verbs describe a position or state of being that you can’t see, but exists anyway. While they don't perform any visible action, notice that they're typically followed by a direct object.
- You deserve a prize.
- Jane hates humidity.
- Henry loves billiards.
- I remember you.
- We walked to the concert. (walk becomes walked)
- Pauly lied to his friends. (lie becomes lied)
- The kids performed in the school play. (perform becomes performed)
- I smelled smoke in the hallway. (smell becomes smelled)
Verbs that change form in the past tense are irregular verbs.
- I spoke to my neighbor. (speak becomes spoke)
- We saw the new action movie last night. (see becomes saw)
- The community felt nervous. (feel becomes felt)
- Nora made a beautiful speech at the wedding. (make becomes made)
- Joshua brought the noodles. (Joshua brought doesn’t make sense without noodles)
- Sarah organized the kitchen. (Sarah organized doesn’t make sense without the kitchen.)
- Can I borrow your car? (Can I borrow doesn’t make sense without your car)
- Oliver sends his love. (Oliver sends doesn’t make sense without his love)
- Teresa smiled at me. (Teresa smiled makes sense on its own)
- We sat on the stone wall. (We sat makes sense on its own)
- The boat floats in the bathtub. (The boat floats makes sense on its own)
- My sister cried all night. (My sister cried makes sense on its own)
Some verbs (such as clean or read) can take transitive or intransitive meanings, depending on the context in the sentence.
Linking verbs connect the subject to details about the subject. Various forms of the verb to be are linking verbs, including am, is, are, and were.
Examples of linking verbs include:
- Damien is an expert craftsman.
- We became best friends in high school.
- You seem kind and thoughtful.
- I am taller than my brother.
Auxiliary verbs, also known as helping verbs, help the main verb of the sentence (known as a participle) by extending its meaning. You’ll see them in verb phrases where one verb doesn’t form a complete thought, or in perfect verb tenses.
- I have been there before.
- Paul doesn’t know his way home.
- He didn’t run for president.
- The dogs are playing in the yard.
Modal verbs are auxiliary verbs that show possibility or necessity. They always accompany other action verbs.
- We will find the perfect pumpkin.
- Tiffany might want another helping of pie.
- I must finish this project tonight.
- The whole team should be there.
Compound verbs can be one or two words long, or they can be hyphenated.
- Don’t overstay your welcome.
- Can you babysit my kids tonight?
- Be sure to waterproof your new shoes.
- I color-coded my whole file cabinet.
- Can you take out the trash?
- My girlfriend just broke up with me.
- Don’t give up on your dreams.
- The kids get along so well.
Review and practice are two important verbs that can help you with the rest of your grammar. Work on verbs (and go even further) with several review activities and games.
- Play some action verb games to test your knowledge, as well as some helping verb games.
- Learn how to identify verb mood in grammar and how it’s more important than you think.
- Master irregular verb conjugation to avoid unnecessary grammar mistakes. (Then play some irregular verb games to reinforce your understanding.)
- Find out how strong verbs are different from weak verbs, and whether the difference matters in your writing.