Verbs: Grammar Review Study Guide

Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Practice exercises for this concept can be found at Verbs: Grammar Review Practice Exercises.

Imagine having a lively conversation with your friend about a recent hit movie, each of you contorting your faces and waving your arms about, as in a game of charades. If we lacked verbs in our language, this would be about the only way that we could get our points across: by mimicking. Luckily, with the use of verbs—the movers and shakers of any written and spoken language—you can convey your ideas not only expressively, but also with a wide variety of colorful, vivid choices. For instance, let's see in how many ways L. E. Phant and Pac A. Derm, a pair of loxodonta africanus, trek across the Kenyan savannah.

The pair walk … then decide to stomp … and march … and then parade … after which, they lumbertrudge … and plod … then finally, overcome with exhaustion, they hobble and limp their way to the forest.

Okay, so these action verbs are pretty obvious. But are they all? Well, no. Some are less physical, and more mental: want, need, require, think, suppose, know, wonder, hope, feel, mean, remember, understand, see, find, consider, love, like, etc. The action is there; it's just not visible.

Linking and Helping Verbs: Make The Connection!

The linking verb does not express action, but expresses a state of being or a condition. Specifically, this kind of verb links, or connects, a noun to an adjective or other noun.

Rosemarie is thoughtful. (Thoughtful describes Rosemarie; is links the two.)
Mark became a soccer coach. (Coach identifies Mark; became links the two.)
The bananas looked ripe. (Ripe describes bananas; looked links the two.)

Identifying some linking verbs can be tricky because they look like action verbs. Their job, however, is to clarify the condition of the related noun in the sentence. Following is a short list of verbs that perform multiple tasks, and act not only as action verbs, but also as linking verbs.

appear become feel grow look prove remain
seem smell sound stay taste come lie
prove act turned fall get

How can one tell the difference with these tricky verbs? Take the word feels:

    Meghan gently pets the cat and feels its soft fur.

Meghan is performing the action, to feel. Can you visualize her hand petting and feeling the cat's soft fur?

    The cat begins to purr because it feels content.

The word feel connects the adjective content to the noun cat. Feel is acting as a linking verb, not an action verb.

Let's try another one.

      Mom remained calm even though she burned last night's dinner.
      The odor of charred fish remained in the house for a week.

In the first sentence, remained links Mom and the adjective calm, which describes how Mom felt, whereas in the second sentence, remained is an action verb, implying that the odor stayed behind.

An easy way to tell if a verb is an action or linking verb is to substitute the verb with a verb form of to be, or another linking verb, like seem or become. If you substitute the verb and it still makes sense, then you have a linking verb. If it doesn't, then it's an action verb. Take a look at these examples.

The leaves turn orange and red every autumn.

Now, replace turn with the verb are.

The leaves are orange and red every autumn.

Or use the verb seem.

The leaves seem orange and red every autumn.

Let's try another one.

When I turn the hair dryer on, it is very noisy.

Now, replace turn again with the verb was.

When I was the hair dryer on, it is noisy.

Or use became here.

When I became the hair dryer on, it is noisy.

These just don't make sense, because the word turn in this sentence is an action verb, not a linking verb.

Sometimes, you'll encounter another type of verb in your writing and reading called a helping verb. Helping verbs enhance the main verb by providing more information about its tense. Some common helping verbs are am, are, be, can, could, do, have, had, has, may, might, should, was, were, and would, among others. A main verb can have as many as three helping verbs. For instance:

      Nathan was playing guitar yesterday.
      He has been playing for quite a while now.
      Next year, he will have been playing for 11 years total.
View Full Article
Add your own comment