Verbs in English Grammar
'Verb' originally meant 'word' in archaic languages. In the world of grammar, verbs are the second most populated country after nouns. Start your journey!
Verbs are words or a group of words that express:
- a physical action (swim)
- a mental action (think)
- a state of being (exist)
Almost every sentence requires a verb. In the English language, the basic form of the verb is called the infinitive.
Verbs have different tenses: present, to indicate that an action is being carried out; past, to indicate that an action has been done; future, to indicate that an action will be done.
Verbs in some languages must agree with the person, gender or number of some of its arguments, such as its subject, or object.
In English language (with the exception of the verb to be), only in third person singular, present tense form of verbs, we have agreement between verbs and its subject. It is marked by adding '-s' or '-es' to the end of the verbs. All the other persons do not agree.
Types of Verbs
As we mentioned earlier, a verb can be categorized as a physical verb (to swim), a mental verb (to think), or a state of being verb (to exist). but we can categorize a verb further by the following terms:
An intransitive verb is one that does not act on something or somebody (i.e., there is no direct object). For example:
A transitive verb is one that acts on something or somebody (i.e., it has a direct object). For example:
Here, the direct object is "the dog."
Here, the direct object is "the book."
Linking verbs (also called copular verbs) must be followed by a noun or an adjective. They cannot be followed by an adverb. These linking verbs include be, seem, become, appear, look, and remain. For example:
An auxiliary verb (or helping verb) is a verb such as be, do and have used with main verbs to show tense, voice or mood and to form questions and negatives. Here are some examples of auxiliary verbs:
Here, the auxiliary verb "has" helps to express tense, and 'do' helps form a question.
A modal verb is a type of auxiliary verb used to express some communicative functions such as ability, possibility, permission, and obligation. The modal auxiliary verbs are 'can', 'could', 'may', 'might', 'must', 'ought to', 'shall', 'should', 'will', and 'would'. For example:
Here, the modal verb "can" helps to express the idea of ability.
Here, the modal verb "might" helps to express the idea of possibility.
Sometimes a verb is not a single word and it's comprised of a main verb and another word (either a preposition or a particle). The phrasal verb usually has a meaning different to the main verb. For example:
She's against the idea but I'm sure I can
Here, the phrasal verb "win over" means "to get somebody to change their opinion," which is different to "win."
The voice of a verb shows whether the subject of the verb is doing the action of the verb or whether the action is being done on the subject. The two most common voices are the active voice (as in "I saw the car") and the passive voice (as in "The car was seen by me").
This is an active sentence. "I" is the subject.
This is a passive sentence. No one is blamed for breaking the window.
Conjugation of Verbs
A verb will change its form a little depending on the subject. For instance, the verb "break" can be conjugated to form the words break, breaks, broke, broken and breaking. English has a relatively simple conjugation. But some languages such as French and Arabic have more complex conjugation system.