What is a Verb?

Brad Smith


I'm the creator of this site (Grammar Gang). I'm also the founder of Codeless, a long-form content creation company that's been featured in The New York Times, Business Insider, The Next Web, and hundreds more.

We produce around ~100 long, in-depth articles each month. So we're relying on these tools on a daily basis. Here, I break down the good, bad, and uuuuuuggggllllyyyy.
Brad Smith

A verb is any word that indicates action, state of being, emotion, possession, or even sense or opinion.

Words like go, run, watch, hit, read, happened, do, love, etc. are some common words that are Verb.

A verb is an imperative part of the sentence without which; a sentence is not complete. But on the other hand, a verb alone can be a sentence.

Don’t believe me?

Let’s, first, try a sentence without a Verb.

“I am a singer”. That was easy, ha?

Well, it’s not. The word “am” is a verb. In the latter part of this post, I’ll show you what kind of verb it is. But for now, you can safely admit that it’s almost impossible to form a sentence without a Verb.

On the contrary, consider “Go!”.

We can call it a sentence as in it’s a command to a second person to go.

Similarly, take another instance like, “Run!”. Once again, we can perceive it as a command and this, a full sentence.

Now, when it’s clear how vital Verb is, we need to know about the different types of verb for a better understanding.

Categories and Types of Verb

Before we discuss the different types of Verbs, it’s essential to understand how the Verb is categorized into three different groups according to its nature.

These are:

  • Action Verbs: Action Verbs are words that explicitly express actions. Come, go, eat, sleep, play, read, walk, etc. are a few examples of Action Verbs.
  • Non-Action or Conceptual Verbs: A Non-Action or Conceptual Verb mainly stands for subjective acts. For example, I know, I think, we consider, you agree, he loves, etc. are Non-Action or Conceptual Verbs where your mind does the action; not your body.
  • State of being Verbs: A State of being Verb is different from the above two categories of verb. It doesn’t indicate any action but describes the existence of a situation or condition. The primary job of the State of being Verb is to link the other two categories of Verb with the subject of a sentence. That’s why they’re also known as “linking verb”. Example – is, am, are, will, shall, etc.

Now, you know the three different categories of Verb, it’s time to move forward and deep dive into the different kinds of Verbs.

1. Transitive Verbs

Transitive Verb is any action or non-action verb that always comes with a direct or indirect object and has an immediate effect on it.

For example, look at the following sentences:

“I am eating a mango”.

“He kicked the ball”.

Lina drinks milk”.

“I gave my pen to Max”.

In all the first three sentences, the verb or actions like ‘eating’, ‘kicked’, and ‘drinks’ are influencing the direct objects ‘mango’, ‘ball’, and ‘milk’ respectively.

However, in the last sentence, the verb ‘gave’ is affecting the indirect object ‘Max’.

Thus, they’re the perfect example of a Transitive Verb.

Transitive Verbs are further divided into Active Transitive Verb and Passive Transitive Verb.

Active Transitive Verb

A verb is called Active when the subject of the sentence is doing the action. For example:

“I bake cake”.

“We are playing soccer”.

“Glenn is writing a letter”.

As you can notice in the above sentences, the subject is the one who’s doing all the work like ‘going’, ‘playing’, or ‘writing’.

Passive Transitive Verb

On the flip side, when the subject of a sentence receives the action of a verb, it becomes a passive verb. For instance:

“Soccer is being played by us”.

“A letter is being written by Glenn”.

“Cake is baked by me”.

Take the first example. What is being played?

Soccer – which also happens to be the subject of the sentence. Similarly, in the second sentence the subject ‘letter’ is going through the action, not the object (Glenn, in this case).

And this different usages of the Verb is what we call “Voice”.

And while using passive voice is ideal for formal papers or letters, it’s always advisable to use active sentences when you’re writing something semi-formal or casual like a blog post or book.

2. Intransitive Verbs

Intransitive Verb also falls under action verbs but unlike Transitive Verbs, it doesn’t come with objects, neither it impacts the object by its actions.

For example:

“I run”.

“The dog is barking”.

“He is going”.

In the sentence “I run”, the action is happening, but it is unclear where I am running. Similarly, in the sentence, the action “barking” is there but who the dog is barking at is missing.

So, it is clear that a verb can be both Transitive and Intransitive depending on whether an object follows it or not.

For example, “I bake” is an Intransitive verb whereas when we add an object like ‘cake’, it becomes “I bake cake” which is the Transitive form of a verb.

In simple words, a verb with an object is Transitive and without object is Intransitive. Got it?

Great! Let’s move on to the next type of verb that is…

3. Auxiliary Verb

Auxiliary Verb aka helping verbs are non-action verbs that don’t express any action but are the most versatile.

An Auxiliary Verb is used to connect the subject of a sentence (a noun or pronoun) with the object or adjective. It is also used with the main verb to determine the tense of a sentence or when the action is taking place.

Moreover, you can use an auxiliary Verb at the beginning of a sentence to turn it into a question or use it before words like ‘no’ or ‘never’ to make a negative sentence.

Some common auxiliary verbs are is, am, are, will, may, might, etc.

Take a look at some examples to see how it functions.

“Henna is a beautiful woman”.

In this sentence, ‘is’ is connecting ‘Henna’ the subject with the adjective ‘beautiful’ and object ‘woman’.

“I will go tomorrow”.

Here, ‘will’ is showing that the action ‘go’ will happen tomorrow.

Similarly, when I place the auxiliary verb ‘will’ before ‘I’, it becomes “Will I go tomorrow?”

And finally, when you add ‘no’ just after ‘will’, it changes the whole meaning entirely and makes it a negative sentence – “I will not go tomorrow”.

Modal Verbs

Besides the usual options that we just discussed above, there is a whole different set of auxiliary verb that indicates whether or not an action is doable, possible, permissible, or imperative to do.

Words like can, could, should, would, must, and may fit this category.

For instance, take “You can run fast”.

Here, the word ‘can’ tells it’s possible to run fast. Similarly, some other sample sentences could be (see, what I did here):

“You must take your medicines”.

“He should buy a pen”.

“It may rain today”.

“How would we go there”.

4. Stative Verbs

As you’ve already guessed by its name, Stative Verb is a part of Conceptual Verbs that mostly shows emotions, thoughts, a state of being, relationships, etc.

You can call any verb Stative if it describes an action done by your mind. These include words like consider, think, love, amaze, agree, believe and many such terms.

Here are a few Stative Verbs in action:

“We can consider Tass as our manager”.

“I think what you’re saying is right”.

“We agree with his thoughts”.

“Russell believes in the law of attraction”.

All the bold words are Stative Verbs.

5. Phrasal Verbs

Phrases are part of our daily lives, but surprisingly, they’re also a kind of verb that is called Phrasal Verb.

A Phrasal Verb is exclusively a combination of two or more verbs that create a different meaning from the original words.

For example, take the phrase ‘looking forward to’ that generally means hopeful or waiting for something.

However, when we separate the words ‘looking’ and ‘forward’, they have different meanings separately.

Similarly, there are tons of words that we can count as Phrasal Verbs. Some of them are:

“Pull up your socks for the challenge”.

“I want to get rid of this old car”.

“This time, Billy wants to go all in”.

“He came up with a brilliant idea”.

We can add some more words to the list like stand out, make up, stack up, make out, flip back and forth, etc.

6. Irregular Verbs

Irregular Verbs don’t fall under a specific category. It includes all the verbs that are spelled differently in their present simple, past simple, and past participle form.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of words that have a different past participle spelling, and some of the most common ones are:

Go, take, bring, see, come, eat, learn, feel, catch, think, teach, drink, etc.

See, what I was talking about.

“I go to Church”.

“I went to Church”.

“She teaches me English”.

“She taught me English”.

“I drink tea”.

“I drank tea”.

How to use Verb correctly

The subject of a sentence determines which form of a verb to be used in the sentence. But sometimes most of the writers fail to understand the right form of subject and thus, use incorrect verbs.

1. Phrases beginning with ‘of’

It’s a common error to use the wrong verb in sentences that contain phrases that start with the word ‘of’. For example:

“A truck of limestones arrive every day”.

This sentence is wrong because the actual subject is ‘Truck’; not stones. So whenever you use phrases that start with ‘of’, keep in mind, the subject always comes before ‘of’.

In this case, the correct sentence should be:

“A truck of limestones arrives every day”.

However, this rule takes a 180° turn when you talk about uncertain quantity like ‘a lot of’, ‘few’, ‘some’, etc.

While using these terms, the verb is determined by the subject that comes after the word ‘of’. For example:

“Lots of people are coming for the show”.

“One of them have gone to a different place”.

“Most of the times he needs you”.

2. Two singular subjects connected by either/or and neither/nor

Make sure to use the singular form of verb in sentences that contain ‘either & or’ to connect two subjects.

For example, incorrect: “Either Seth or Dean are right”.

Correct: “Either Seth or Dean is right”.

Same applies when you’re using ‘neither & nor’ to connect two subjects in a sentence. Like:

Incorrect: “Neither he nor Ryan are coming”.

Correct: “Neither he nor Ryan is coming”.

However, things get a little peculiar for main verbs. When there’s ‘either/or’ or ‘neither/nor’ in a sentence, the main verb follows the subject closest to it.

A sentence like “Either bats or the ball cost higher” becomes “Either the ball or bats cost higher” when we reverse the places of two subjects.

3. Two subjects connected by ‘and’

It’s cool to use a singular verb like when working with ‘either/or’ or neither/nor, but it’s certainly not so while connecting two subjects in a sentence by ‘and’. In such a case, use the plural form of the verb.

For example, always say, “Cole and Sally are going out for lunch”.

“John and I are playing baseball”.

“My mom and dad have eaten the food”.

4. Use ‘Were’ in place of ‘Was’ in hypothetical situations

When writing a wishful sentence, always use were even with singular subjects. For example:

“I wish she were a chef”.

“If Rina were here, we would have had more fun”.

5. Use singular verb for units that denote measurements, distance, a sum of money, etc.

It’s wrong to say, “Forty miles are a long distance to cover”. The correct sentence is “Forty miles is a long distance to cover”.

Repeat the same rule while writing a sum of money or talking about a certain period of time. Like, “Five million dollars sounds very high” or “Three years is enough to complete this project”.

6. Use any form (singular and plural) of verbs with Collective Nouns

Collective Nouns refer to groups; thus, most of the time it is unclear whether they’re singular or plural. That’s why you have the freedom to pair up Collective Nouns with a singular as well as plural form of a verb.

“The whole family eats together” or “The whole family eat together”. Both the sentences are correct.

Similarly, whether you say, “The Army is marching down the lane” or “The Army are marching down the lane”, you’re correct in both the situations.

Common mistakes with Verb

Some common mistakes while using verb:

1. Using Tell and Say

Since both words have the same meaning, people often replace one word with another one without making any changes in the sentence.

Take a look at some of the sample sentences:

“He told me that he would drive the car”.

“He said me that he would drive the car”.

While the first sentence is correct, we can’t say the same for the other one. Why?

Because the word ‘say/said’ never follows an indirect object when used with ‘that’ clause. So, it should be, “He said that he would drive the car” or, “He said to me that he would drive me the car”.

Similarly, if you write “He told to me that he would drive the car”, then that is wrong.

Because ‘tell/told’ is never followed by the infinitive – ‘to’. Remove it and add an indirect subject like a Noun or Pronoun.

2. Using Want and Suggest

Want and Suggest are the same pair of words as ‘say and tell’. The meaning of both words are the same, but usage is different.

While the word ‘want’ works well with the infinitive ‘to’, it never works well with ‘that’ clause. For example,

Correct: “She wants me to take her classes”.

Incorrect: “She wants that I should take her classes”.

On the other hand, the situation is opposite while using ‘suggest’ in sentences.

It can be grouped with ‘that’ clause, but it turns out to be wrong when used with ‘to’ infinitive. For example,

Correct: “She suggested me that I should take her classes” or “She suggested taking her classes”.

Incorrect: “She suggested me to take her classes”.

3. Working with ‘If Clause’

Working with if clause requires you to add two different forms of verb, but most of us don’t get it and end up writing sentences like:

“If I would have scored more, our team would have won the match”.

“If I would have worked hard, I would have got the job”.

“If she would have cooked well, she would have easily won the competition”.

All the above sentences are incorrect because when talking about ideal past circumstances, it’s mandatory to add ‘had + past participle’ to the ‘if Clause’. The main clause follows the ‘would have + past participle’ format.

So, the correct sentences would look like this:

“If I had scored more, our team would have won the match”.

“If I had worked hard, I would have got the job”.

“If she had cooked well, she would have easily won the competition”.

However, the ‘if Clause’ should be in the present form when you are trying to describe a future scene in the main clause. For example:

Incorrect: “If I’ll go there, I’ll surely meet him”.

Correct: “If I go there, I’ll surely meet him”.

Incorrect: “If you’ll work hard, you’ll get a reward”.

Correct: “If you work hard, you’ll get a reward”.

4. Asking indirect questions

In direct questions, the verb always comes before the subject. Take some regular questions like, “are you tired? Or “can you please excuse me?

However, when asking indirect questions, you must use the word ‘if’ and place the object ahead of the verb.

For example, instead of saying “I asked him are you tired”, say, “I asked him if he is tired”.

As you can notice, I used the word ‘if’ and put the object ‘he’ ahead of the verb ‘tired’ and ‘is’.

You can also use ‘whether’ instead of ‘if’ and say “I asked her whether she could excuse me”.

5. Hear and Listen to

People often confuse between the words ‘hear’ and ‘listen to’, and use them as in they have identical meaning.

But in reality, there’s a thin line that separates these two words.

While ‘hear’ reflects any voice that comes to your ears, ‘listen to’ means paying attention to someone’s words.

So, you can’t say, “I can’t listen to you”; instead, say “I can’t hear you”.

Similarly, it’s wrong to speak or write “I listened to a voice”. The correct wordings are “I heard a voice”.

6. Using ‘that’ with interrogative words

That is mostly used to connect two clauses, but interrogative words like ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, and ‘how’ can also work the same way as ‘that’.

That’s why grammar pundits consider sentences like these wrong:

“I want to know that what did he say”.

“You asked that where was your shirt”.

“Maria knows that how does this machine work”.

To rectify them, first, remove ‘that’ from the sentences and shift the auxiliary verb to the very end. Like this:

“I want to know what he said”.

“You asked where your shirt was”.

“Maria knows how this machine works”.

7. Using Leave, quit, and stop

Another set of words with identical meaning, but like all the other sets, the treatment is different.

While quit and stop are versatile, the word ‘leave’ has limited usability.

You can leave a place, thing, or a person to do something, but you can’t use the word for other activities.

Incorrect: “He left working for me”.

Correct: “He stopped working for me”.

Incorrect: “She quit her home”.

Correct: “She left her home”.

Incorrect: “I left drinking”.

Correct: “I quit drinking”.

So that was it from today’s Verb class.

In this post, we talked about what verb is, different types of verb, how to use it correctly, and finally, pointed out some common mistakes we are all guilty of while using these guys (verbs).