Verbs Definition and Examples
What are Verbs?
Apart from nouns which serve as subjects and objects in sentences, verbs are the most essential part of speech. They are necessary to make a sentence complete. In English grammar, at its most basic, a single verb in its imperative form can function as a complete sentence. The command “Stop!” for example. A phrase also needs a verb to be considered a clause.
Verbs have a lot of functions. Fundamentally, they describe how a subject is or what it does. They refer to actions, events, conditions, and states of being. Here are some examples of verbs in basic sentences:
- Kitty is crying.
- She wants to eat.
- Lillian was exhausted.
- They were thinking about you.
- Ethan will be living with us for a while.
There are a wide variety of verbs, classified by functionality and how they “behave” in sentences. They have distinct uses but may overlap in classification. Mastering the proper use of verbs is a crucial step in mastering grammar and effective English communication. In this article, we are going to cover all the different types of verbs and give you an overview of how to use them successfully.
(It’s important to note that here at LillyPad.ai, helping you make the most of your language journey is our priority. Feel free to look through our blog for dedicated pages for each type of verb that will describe each topic in greater detail.)
Let’s talk about verb conjugation, which is how verbs change forms according to their subjects, tenses, moods, and the voice they assume in a sentence. The most basic conjugations are the rules for subject-verb agreement. This is when verbs change forms depending on whether their subjects are singular or plural. English has six subject forms, represented in the table below by their respective pronouns. We will use the verb “eat” in this table:
1. Subject-Verb Agreement
|First Person Singular||I||eat|
|Second Person Plural||You||eat|
|Third Person Singular||He/She/It||eats|
|First Person Plural||We||eat|
|Second Person Plural||You||eat|
|Third Person Plural||They||eat|
As you can see, singular subjects must be used with singular verbs, and vice versa. For example:
- I eat breakfast late. NOT I eats breakfast late.
- He eats breakfast late. NOT He eat breakfast late.
2. Verb Tenses
Tenses also affect how verbs are conjugated. Tenses use verbs within time references. There are three main ones, which include the past, the present, and the future tenses:
Past – talks about habits or things that are happening now
Present – talks about actions that have been completed
Future – talked about actions that have yet to occur.
Each of these tenses is further organized into 4 aspects: simple, progressive or continuous, perfect, and perfect progressive or continuous tenses. This makes a total of 12 tenses.
Additionally, regular and irregular verbs are conjugated differently in each aspect. For the table below, let’s use the regular verb “watch.”
|Simple||I watched the TV show.||I watch the TV show.||I will watch the TV show.|
|Progressive||I was watching the TV show.||I am watching the TV show.||I will be watching the TV show.|
|Perfect||I had watched the TV show.||I have watched the TV show.||I will have watched the TV show.|
|Perfect Progressive||I had been watching the TV show.||I have been watching the TV show.||I will have been watching the TV show.|
In English grammar, there are 5 moods of verbs. These specify the intention of sentences. Let’s look at the table below:
|Mood of Verb||Function||Example|
|Conditional||As the name suggests, this mood conveys conditions.||– If you want to go to the ball, finish the house chores first.|
– If Liona feels uncomfortable, she can leave.
– If there are too many people, I won’t stay.
|Indicative||Puts facts across.||– Jimmy hates anchovies.|
– Cats go crazy for catnip.
– My parents work at the same hospital.
|Imperative||Expresses commands.||– Do your homework now. |
– Send this to his office.
|Interrogative||Asks questions.||– Did you guys meet Helena?|
– May I have some?
– Can you close the door after yourself?
|Subjunctive||Articulates wishes or hypothetical situations; can also be used to express demands or doubts.||– I suggest we take a cab together so it’s cheaper for everyone. |
– Ben proposed that Delia take charge of the next project.
– If I were given three wishes, I would wish to own a beautiful island, have gold reserves, and have the power to teleport.
4. Active and Passive Voice
Most sentences are either in the active or the passive voice. Sentences in which subjects execute the actions are in the active voice. On the other hand, sentences are in the passive voice if the subjects are the recipients of the action. Passive voice sentences are made by using Be verbs as auxiliary verbs followed by the past participle forms of the main verbs (e.g. “was taken”, are caught”, “will be written,” and so on). They are used to highlight the result of an action over the deed itself. For example:
|Active Voice||Passive Voice|
|– Steve created the algorithm.|
– Robin grilled the chicken.
– The children gathered strange rocks from the field.
|– The algorithm was created by Steve. |
– The chicken was grilled by Robin.
– Strange rocks from the field were gathered by the children.
Verb Types and Examples
1. Linking Verbs
As a special type of stative verb, linking verbs act as bridges connecting subjects to their subject complements, Subject complements are modifiers that describe the subjects of sentences. Linking verbs can function as intransitive verbs as they don’t need direct objects to express a complete thought. For example:
- Bangkok is the capital of Thailand.
- They will be late.
- Your video transcript seems incomplete.
- These are the key terms for your speech.
- They are busy with football practice at the moment.
2. Auxiliary Verbs
We combine auxiliary verbs (also helping verbs) with main verbs in different tenses and moods. For example:
- They are visiting the Jade temple in the afternoon.
- I should practice more to improve faster.
- Oliver didn’t agree with Pedra’s methods.
- We were given free lunches because of the delay.
- You may pick two toys from the basket.
3. Dynamic or Action Verbs
Dynamic or action verbs (also active or event verbs) are used to indicate actions or physical or mental activity. For example:
- My daughter painted her bedroom herself.
- Can you cover for me and teach my classes on Friday?
- I’m sorry but my boss didn’t approve the transaction.
- They can’t attend his birthday party because of the blizzard.
- Greg’s mom will replace the flower pots that he broke.
4. Stative Verbs
A verb is classified as a stative verb if it expresses a condition or state of being rather than an action. For example:
- It weighed like nothing.
- Can you include the following names on the list?
- Jessie doesn’t believe Ryan was capable of embezzlement.
- I won’t wish this on my worst enemy.
- Where do you think Mon hid the presents?
5. Transitive Verbs
Transitive verbs are verbs that need direct objects. Direct objects can be nouns, pronouns, or noun phrases that follow the verb and receives the action. For example:
- Remy bought a set of cards.
- She touched the chipped parts of the painting.
- Yolanda bleached Jacob’s hair and laughed for hours.
- Maricris cleaned the pantry after her shift.
- Emmanuel needed a car so I lent him mine.
6. Intransitive Verbs
Intransitive verbs don’t require direct objects to express complete sentences. And since verbs in the passive voice require subjects to receive actions, intransitive verbs can’t be used in the passive voice. For example:
- The staff members ate under the shade.
- I need to draw every day to maintain my skill.
- We will leave for the airport at 6 a.m.
- They are singing at the entrance of the property.
- So many trees had fallen during the night.
7. Modal Verbs
A sub-type of auxiliary verbs, modal verbs are used with main verbs to assign specific moods to sentences. Modal verbs can signify ability, necessity, obligation, permission, or possibility. For example:
- I would join you guys if I didn’t have a deadline.
- You may go once you’re done with the exam.
- Tracy must leave soon because there won’t be any buses after 10 p.m.
- Deedee might want to check with accounting to confirm the check.
- The delegates can register after they’ve settled in their rooms.
8. Regular Verbs
Regular verbs form their past tense and past participles with the standard –ed, –d, and –t endings. Let’s look at several examples in the list below:
|Verb||Past Tense||Past Participle|
9. Irregular Verbs
Irregular verbs form their past tense and past participles by not using the standard –ed, –d, and –t endings. Irregular verbs change spellings, sometimes drastically, or stay the same. Let’s look at several examples in the list below:
|Verb||Past Tense||Past Participle|
10. Phrasal Verbs
A phrasal verb is a group of two or more words that functions as an individual verb. It usually combines a verb with a preposition and/or an adverb to establish a meaning typically independent of any of the original words. For example, the phrasal verb “break down” means to stop working/functioning and has nothing to do with the meaning of the word break (to separate into pieces) and down (not ‘up’). Let’s look at a few more examples of phrasal verbs in the list below:
There are two kinds of participles. First is the present participle, which is formed by adding –ing to the end of verbs. Present participles are used for progressive tenses with the auxiliary verbs am, is, are, was, were, or has/have/had been. Second is the past participle, which is used for perfect tenses and following proper conjugation rules. They are used with the auxiliary verbs has, have, or had. For example:
- It was raining a little when we arrived at the resort.
- The children are running with the dogs around the yard.
- Belinda has lived on her own for five years.
- They had been working in the quarry for 3 months before they quit.
- We were protesting against the implementation of school uniforms.
Infinitives are the same as the base forms of verbs but aren’t actually verbs. They’re used with the word “to” as parts of infinitive phrases. They function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. For example:
- To reach an overall IELTS score of 7.5 is my dream. (as a noun)
- Katya is the person to ask about the tapes. (as an adjective)
- The plush toy was too big to fit in my bag. (as an adverb)
Verbs Exercises with Answers
Exercise on Verbs
1. Benjamin (is/are) still editing the photos from the trip.
2. They were (create/creating) new prints to show different color palettes.
3. She (imitates/imitated) the comedian’s jokes in her performance last night.
4. Asian men like him were (teached, taught) not to question their elders when they were kids.
5. The smoke from the bonfire made me (cough/coughed).
6. Where did Pamela (sing/sang) that song?
7. Vincent (has/had) already shopped before coming home from work.
8. Zion (invent/invented) an elegant alarm system when he was 17.
9. We (are/were) sunbathing on the roof a few hours ago.
10. Do you hear that? Who (is/was) whistling?
11. Letty was (surprising/surprised) when her best friend showed up at the restaurant.
12. Wesley (remember/remembers) that he has errands to run.
13. Did she (understand/understands) the instructions on the pamphlet?
14. Gracie (will be/was) speaking at the orientation about leave credits.
15. (Do/Did) you like going to the waterpark? We should go sometime.
1. Benjamin is still editing the photos from the trip.
2. They were creating new prints to show different color palettes.
3. She imitated the comedian’s jokes in her performance last night.
4. Asian men like him were taught not to question their elders when they were kids.
5. The smoke from the bonfire made me cough.
6. Where did Pamela sing that song?
7. Vincent had already shopped before coming home from work.
8. Zion invented an elegant alarm system when he was 17.
9. We were sunbathing on the roof a few hours ago.
10. Do you hear that? Who is whistling?
11. Letty was surprised when her best friend showed up at the restaurant.
12. Wesley remembers that he has errands to run.
13. Did she understand the instructions on the pamphlet?
14. Gracie will be speaking at the orientation about leave credits.
15. Do you like going to the waterpark? We should go sometime.
|Common Linking Verbs||Modal Verbs||Auxiliary Verbs||Transitive-Only Verbs||Intransitive-Only Verbs|
|forms of “Have” |
forms of “Do”
forms of “Be”
Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners
Without verbs, sentences in English won’t be possible. Verbs express ideas, states of being, and the qualities of their subjects. However, because of the various types of verbs and their functions (some unique and some overlapping), mastering the use of verbs can be daunting for English language learners. Here are a few general guidelines that you could consider following to help you manage the challenges in your English language studies:
1. Use Grammar Lists
Grammar resources such as lists, tables, charts, and diagrams can be tedious due to their sheer volume. The best way to maximize their utility is to find tools that are easy for you to understand. You could also customize them according to your own study methods and habits. Obviously, these materials aren’t the only means of learning. Nonetheless, they work effectively as introductions to all grammatical concepts, not just verbs. They split up complex grammar concepts into more comprehensible and “bite-sized” patterns, formats, and rules. More than that, they typically include real-world sentence samples that are useful in expanding your vocabulary and improving your skills in sentence construction.
2. Use Audio-Visual Resources
Independent learning is unavoidable. The amount of time you study in a traditional classroom setup isn’t adequate to reach advanced language proficiency in a given timeframe. You need to self-study, and this requires commitment and consistency.
Sounds strenuous, doesn’t it? But it isn’t just thorns and hardship. A great way to absorb how English speakers use the language in different contexts is to have ample exposure to audio-visual materials: podcasts, music, TV shows, YouTube videos, TikTok, films, and so on. You literally have the finest resources at your fingertips. More than that, it’s something you can actually enjoy.
The English language is believed to be the most creative language in the world (possibly because it’s the only language that almost the entire globe knows) and it is constantly evolving. A big chunk of these changes is influenced by pop culture. By using these tools, you’ll also learn culturally and socially relevant language. See, learning and entertainment can go hand in hand, as long as you actively listen and consume media with intention.
3. Practical Use
In all avenues of academics, theory means nothing without practical use. Have you ever met a grammar whiz who is, ironically, unable to carry a lengthy conversation? Chances are, the heft of their learning is done through books and their actual practice is close to nonexistent. The only true way to achieve fluency in speaking is to talk. When your skills are limited to the realms of reading and writing, it’s still commendable, but not at all close to ideal. You’re not going to answer standardized tests all the time. You’re studying English to communicate for future necessities: networking, building relationships at work, being based overseas, etc. So speak every time an opportunity presents itself. And if it doesn’t, organize an English club or a study group. The bonus? You can cultivate friendships with fellow English students and learn how the language is used in their respective countries.
Common Errors Made by English Learners
Study the following list of common errors that English language learners commit with Be Verbs so you can avoid making the same mistakes:
|Subject-Verb Agreement||Subject-verb agreement errors happen when the number of the subject and the verb don’t match. Singular verbs to singular subjects, plural verbs to plural subjects. Subject-verb agreement is confusing for many English students because of the plural forms of nouns. Plural nouns usually end in -s while verbs that assume the -s form are singular. For example:|
– Her kids are playing in the snow. (kids = plural noun)
– Her kid plays in the snow. (plays = singular verb)
In some sentences, the subject might be elusive or confusing at first. For example:
– The team of artists practices in the school basement.
At first glance, many English language learners would think the subject is “artists” and use the plural verb “practice.” Grammatically, “of artists” is a prepositional phrase that modifies the real subject, which is “team.” It’s a collective noun that is treated as singular.
Despite knowing subject-verb agreement rules, many English learners still make these mistakes carelessly. It’s important to be aware of how common they are so you can become conscious of your own sentence construction and avoid making the same errors.
|Inconsistent or Shifting Tenses||When telling a story or explaining something, whether in spoken or written English, English learners should be conscious about the tenses they use. While multiple tenses can indeed exist in the same narrative (and even the same sentence), it only works in certain contexts and requires a certain level of expertise. Avoid flip-flopping between tenses. Pick one when telling a story and frame all your verbs within it. For example:|
Incorrect: I stepped into the room. Suddenly I hear a scream.
Correct: I step into the room. Suddenly, I hear a scream.
Correct: I stepped into the room. Suddenly, I heard a scream.
|Mixing Up Verbs||There are many tricky verbs in the English language. These are verbs that have close resemblances or meanings and cause confusion among language learners. Sometimes, native English speakers even mix them up. Here are some of the most common examples:|
– Hear and Listen
“Hear” means to sense sound in your surroundings, while “listen” is a deliberate action. Take note that you can hear things without wanting to, but “listen” requires a level of focus.
– Say and tell
Typically, we use the verb “say” without personal objects, but we include personal objects when we use the word “tell.” If we want to include a personal object after the verb “say” we should use the word “to” but this isn’t common. Note that using the phrase “tell to” is incorrect. For example:
Incorrect: I told to Holly to stay.
Correct: I told Holly to stay.
Awkward but correct in writing and reported speech: Holly said to me, “Leave now!”
Better: “Leave now,” Holly said.
Better: Holly told me to leave.
– Know and learn
First, we “learn”. After that, we “know.” Note that we don’t use infinitives directly after the word “know.” We have to use “how to.” For example:
They learned to do pottery yesterday. Now they know how to make make a bowl.
Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Be Verbs
Below is a list of useful tips for studying Verbs:
|Study the different conjugations of new verbs||Every time you come across a new verb, write its forms in different tenses. For example, you learned a new verb “awake.” It’s not enough to learn its meaning. Learn its past tense and past participle forms. In this instance, awoke and awaken, respectively. Use it in sentences and ask a teacher or a fellow student to check them.|
|List irregular verbs in categories||Conjugation rules for irregular verbs are vague. This makes it difficult for them to remember. The best practice is to memorize their forms when you encounter them. Also, some irregular verbs fall into similar patterns, so try putting them together in categories by making your own list such as “Verbs that don’t change form” (e.g. cost, hit, hurt, let, and read) or “Verbs that change vowels” (e.g. sing, sang, sang and hang hung).|
|Welcome corrections from others||We hear mistakes in language better when others are making them. This is why many English learners record themselves and listen to their mistakes. You may do this yourself. Or you can ask fellow students or teachers to correct you when you make mistakes because they’ll be able to hear errors in grammar more easily than you can. Welcome these corrections and don’t feel discouraged. Instead, receive them as learning opportunities.|
|Learn through sentences||In most language references or resources, the sentences included as examples are taken from real-life situations. Copy them or make your own based on their structures. You’ll be able to improve your ability in crafting sentences and using various ways of expressing them. This is crucial in developing fluency.|
Be Verbs Frequently Asked Questions
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