Ever heard of a verb? Of course, you have! Verbs are one of the 12 parts of speech essential to building sentences. But did you know there are many different types of verbs?
This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book.
Before we learn about the different types of verbs, let's ask: What are verbs?
Every sentence needs a verb. In fact, sometimes, a sentence can be made up of just a single verb, like this sentence in the imperative mood:
It's easy to find a verb in a sentence:
Be careful not to fall into the false belief that all verbs describe actions. It's true; some verbs do describe an action. But you can also get stative verbs, which represent a state of being.
Here's an example of an action verb:
She runs very fast.
And here's an example of a stative verb:
I have a T-shirt just like that.
There are many different types of verbs, which is the topic of this article, so without further ado, let's check them out.
The first two types of verbs we'll look at are transitive and intransitive. It's pretty straightforward, really:
What does it mean for a verb to have an object? It basically means that the verb is incomplete without the thing it's verbing on. Take a look at the following sentence, which contains a transitive verb:
Can you send that letter on your way to work?
The verb is 'send,' and its object is 'letter.' Without the object, the sentence wouldn't make any sense. "Can you send?" is an incomplete sentence because 'send' is a transitive verb, and therefore it needs an object.
Now let's look at a sentence that contains an intransitive verb:
Shh! The baby is sleeping.
'Sleep' is an intransitive verb because you can't sleep something. Therefore it doesn't require an object.
There's also such a thing as an ambitransitive verb: it's a verb that can be both transitive and intransitive. For example, the verb 'read' is ambitransitive because you can use it on its own, and you can use it with an object:
Have you read the news today?
He's in his bedroom reading.
Top Tip! All verbs fall into one of the above categories: they're either transitive, intransitive, or ambitransitive.
You'll also hear about ditransitive verbs, which take two objects: a direct object and an indirect object.
You didn't have to bring me a gift.
The verb 'bring' has two objects:
Linking verbs alone don't tell us much about the subject, but together with the subject complement, linking verbs tell us how something is.
Here's a list of common linking verbs:
Let's see what this looks like in a sentence:
Is Kelly okay? She seems a little quiet today.
The verb 'seem' here helps link the subject 'she' to its subject complement, 'a little quiet today,' to give us the overall information that Kelly is acting a little out of the ordinary.
You might be thinking these sound like stative verbs. And you wouldn't be wrong! However, while all linking verbs are stative, not all stative verbs are linking verbs. So yes, linking verbs are a type of stative verb.
Here are a few more examples of sentences that contain linking verbs:
Are you cooking somethng? It smells burnt.
You look great! Have you been to the haidresser?
In the following sentence, for example, the auxiliary verb 'was' combined with the main verb 'hoping' come together to make the past continuous tense.
I was hoping you'd stop by.
Or in the following sentence, the auxiliary verb 'would' and the main verb 'buy' combined make the subjunctive mood.
I would buy a mansion if I were rich.
Or in this example, the auxiliary verb 'were' shows the passive voice of the sentence.
The cookies were gone within the hour.
Here's a list of the modal verbs:
Let's take a look at an example of a sentence that contains a modal verb:
I must return this dress before the end of the week.
The modal verb 'must' supports the main verb 'return' to describe the obligation around returning it. You could use a different modal verb and change the meaning of the sentence:
I might return this dress before the end of the week.
Suddenly there's no obligation to return the dress, just a possibility that the subject may or may not return the dress.
Let's look at a few more examples:
You can drop by anytime
She said she would help with the set up but she isn't here.
All verbs can be classed into two categories: regular and irregular.
Regular verbs are nice and easy because you can just learn the rules once and apply them to all regular verbs. With irregular verbs, it's a bit more tricky because you need to memorize them by heart.
The past indefinite and past participle tenses are the ones that irregular verbs affect. The usual conjugation is to add -ed or'd to a verb to make it past tense, and if you can't, that means it's an irregular verb.
Look at the following conjugation of regular verbs' close' and 'honor.' It applies to the past indefinite and past participle tenses.
Past participle: The door is closed.
Past participle: She was honored.
Nice and straightforward, right?
We just took the root form of the verb and added -ed or -d. Irregular verb conjugations would look completely different. First, they often have a separate conjugation for the past indefinite and the past participles. And second, well, they don't follow the conventional rules.
Past participle: The picture is drawn.
Past participle: The song was sung by Josh Groban.
As you can see, there's no real pattern with irregular verbs. You really just have to know them by heart.
The vital thing to note about phrasal verbs is that the verb's meaning changes when combined with the preposition or adverb. Take the phrasal verb' work out,' for example, which means to exercise. The verb 'work' on its own means something completely different, of course, but combined with the adverb 'out,' it takes on a new meaning.
Here are some examples of sentences that contain phrasal verbs:
I don't know how you put up with his behavior.
Why did you throw away all your records?
We've run out of wine!
Top Tip! Don't confuse phrasal verbs with verb phrases, which are verbs made up of several words due to their tense, such as 'would have been' or 'could learn.'
They come in handy when referring to an action while not actually doing it.
I need to talk with you.
No talking is actually taking place. It's simply a request at this stage.
Every type of verb can be put in the infinitive form, and infinitives, despite being verbs, can also be used as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.
My biggest dream is to watch them live. (noun)
I need a bottle of water to sip on at all times. (adjective)
She said she would be honored to give a speech. (adverb)
Gerunds don't act as verbs, but they look like them. So I wanted to give them a mention here. Gerunds look like the present participle form of a verb, but they function as nouns. And just like any noun, they can be the sentence's subject, direct object, indirect object, or the object of a preposition.
Take a look at the following sentences that contain gerunds:
Swimming is my favorite thing to do in the mornings.
They're talking about their mutual love of wine tasting.
Running into you is the best part of my day.
Note that the second and third examples are actually gerund phrases since they're made up of more than one word, and all the words are necessary to the meaning. For instance, 'Running is the best part of my day' would mean something completely different. The words 'into you' are very important to convey the sentence's proper meaning.
That concludes this article on the different types of verbs. I hope you've found it helpful.
Let's summarize what we've learned:
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