What is a verb? Verb is an indispensable part of English language in writing and speech. Discover the facts about verb, types with example and easy to remember quick tips.

What is a verb?

What’s a verb?

Verbs are words that usually express an action.

Think of an expression, there is no sentence or a question without a verb! 

The verb signals an action, an occurrence, or a state of being. Whether mental, physical, or mechanical, verbs always express activity.

Here are two easy ways to identify a verb; you can use either one. 

  1. If a word can have should in front of it and the phrase sounds complete, the word is a verb. 
    Examples: should leave, should sail, should discover, should complain. Leave, sail, discover, and complain are all verbs. 
  2. If a word can have "to" in front of it and the phrase sounds complete, it’s a verb. 
    Examples: to leave, to sail, to discover, to complain. Leave, sail, discover, and complain are all verbs. (Note that we’re not talking here about two, too, or the to that indicates direction, as in Let’s go to the park.)

Here are some examples of verbs. You can see that they all meet the test with the test with to. go: should go, to go

tell: should tell, to tell

disagree: should disagree, to disagree

spell: should spell, to spell

In contrast,the following words do not pass the should or to test: 

cofee: *should coffee, *to coffee

beautiful: *should beautiful, *to beautiful

hardly:  *should hardly, *tohardly

under:   *should under  *to under

Thus, coffee, beautiful, hardly, and under are not verbs


Test Yourself

Which of the following words are verbs? See if they sound like a complete unit when you put the word here: should or to







Sometimes a verb changes it's form. Let’s look at the following sentences.

  1. John should study.
  2. John studied.
  3. John is studying
  4. John studies. 

You certainly can't say, *John should studied, or John to studied, so how do we know that studied is a verb? To test the word, you have to see if it can follow should or to in a different form, not necessarily in the form that you see in a particular sentence. 

The verbs we have looked at so far, such as go, sing, and revise, all indicate actions. In fact, they’re called action verbs. However, there are other verbs which don’t indicate actions. These are most commonly called linking verbs.

One example of such a verb is the word seem, as in the sentences, You seem tired, They’ve seemed busy largely. 

Don’t worry, though: seem still follows our should or to rules: 

Harry should seem surprised at times; You don't want to seem arrogant, do you?

So even though seem isn't indicating an action, it’s easy to identify it as a verb. Other examples of linking verbs are resemble and become. Linking verbs express a relationship between the noun or pronoun that comes before the linking verb and whatever follows it.

The most common linking verb is the verb be, often called the copula. You can see different forms of the verb be in the following sentences.

I am happy

He is happy

You are happy

Notice how different these forms are from the base form of be. In fact, be is the most irregular verb in the English language: it has more forms than any other verb. But you can still use the should or to test to identify be as a verb: You should be happy,They decided to be happy.

Quick tip

The forms of the irregular verb "be" are: am, are, is, was, were, be, been, being

Note that be and become are two different verbs. Here are the forms of become: become, becomes,became,becoming.

Quick tip

If you can substitute a form of be for a verb and the meaning of the sentence is basically the same, the verb is probably being used as a linking verb. The verb be and its forms are also linking verbs.

Quick tip

If you can substitute a form of seem for a verb and the meaning of the sentence is basically the same, the verb is probably being used as a linking verb.

Another important difference between action and linking verbs is that a linking verb can be followed by just an adjective, while an action verb cannot:


She is tired. (Tired is an adjective.)

The mayor looked victorious. (Victorious is an adjective.)

*She washed tired.

*The mayor voted victorious.

As you can see, is and looked are linking verbs in these sentences;washed and voted are action verbs. However, since we haven't yet talked about adjectives, just keep this in mind as another difference between the two types of verbs.

Quick tip

Linking verbs are followed or modified by adjectives, while action verbs are followed or modified by adverbs.

Transitive and Intransitive verb

Those verbs that act on something are called transitive verbs. Typically, in statements,a transitive verb is followed by the noun (or noun phrase) that it is acting upon.

Other verbs, such as sleep, die and arrive, do not act upon something. In fact, these verbs can’t have a direct object. Notice that you can't say, for example: 

*I usually sleep the dog, 

*They'll arrive the book.

Those verbs that do not act on something and appear in sentences that do not have a direct object are called intransitive verbs.

Action verbs that act upon something are called transitive verbs. 

Action verbs that do not act upon something are called intransitive verbs. 

Quick tip

If a verb (in any of it's forms) can be put in one of the following slots, it is transitive: 

(a) What did you ________?

(b) Who did you _________?

If a verb cannot be put in one of these slots, it is intransitive.

If a verb (in one of it's forms) can be put in one of the following slots,it is transitive:

(a)He ________ something.

(b)He ________ someone.

If a verb (in one of it's forms) can be put in the following slot,it is intransitive:

He ________ .

Types of verb

There are various m types of verbs. In fact, there are more than ten different types of verbs that are grouped by function.

Verbs vary by type, and each type is determined by the kinds of words that accompany it and the relationship those words have with the verb itself. 

Verbs are words that show action or state of being. There are three major categories of verbs.

1. Helping Verb (Auxiliary Verb)

They help the main verb in the sentence by telling us more about its tense and the subtleties of its meaning. The main verb will be either an action verb or a linking verb. 

The helping verb(s) and the main verb come together to form a verb phrase . 

Examples: be, am, is, are, was, were, been, being, have, has, had, could, etc

2. Action Verb

As their name implies, action verbs show action. Keep in mind that action doesn't always mean movement.

Examples: clean, cut, drive eat, fly, go, live, make, play, read, run, shower, etc

3. Linking Verb

Linking verb is a verb, used to link the subject of a sentence with a predicate (usually a subject complement or an adverbial), that unites or associates the subject with the predicate.

For example: 

That soup smells delicious.

He was soaked to the skin.

Your proposal sounds good to me.


Verb is any word that indicates an action, event, or state.

Auxiliary verb is a verb that accompanies the main verb in a clause in order to make distinctions in tense, mood, voice or aspect.

Action verb is a word that expresses action and tells what the subject of a sentence does.

Linking verb is verb that links a subject to a complement that refers to the subject.

However, action verbs that act upon something are called transitive verbs while action verbs that do not act upon something are called intransitive verbs.