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Verbs and Verbals for English Grammar

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Aug 12, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Verbs and Verbals Practice Exercises for English Grammar

Verbs

A verb is the word or words that describe the action or state of being of the subject of a sentence or clause. The verb makes a statement about its subject.

Consider the following sentences:

Mrs. Carter loves her son. (The verb loves makes a statement about the subject of the sentence, Mrs. Carter.)

Politicians campaign actively for election. (Verb campaign, subject Politicians.)

Things are not just what they seem. (Main verb are makes a statement about its subject Things. The verb seem in the subordinate clause what they seem makes a statement about what, the subject of the subordinate clause.)

They feel well this morning. (Verb feel, subject They.)

The ship sailed last Wednesday for France. (Verb sailed, subject ship.)

All the artists have finished their paintings for the show. (Verb have finished, subject All.)

Each verb—loves, campaign, are, seem, feel, sailed, have finished—describes an action performed by the subject or describes the state of being of the subject.

Predicate

A predicate is the verb in a clause or sentence plus all the modifiers and objects or complements of that verb.

A verb that has no modifiers, objects, or complements is referred to as a simple predicate. Two verbs that have the same subject are referred to as a compound predicate.

The sun shone.   (Simple predicate.)

The sun shone brightly.   (Predicate consisting of verb and its modifier.)

He hit the ball.   (Predicate consisting of verb and its object.)

He is a great man.   (Predicate consisting of copulative verb and its complement.)

Amanda cooks and bakes bread every day. (Compound predicate.)

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

A transitive verb must have a direct object. An intransitive verb does not have a direct object. Some verbs function transitively and intransitively.

Consider the following sentences:

She ate the cereal. (In this sentence, ate is transitive, since it has the direct object cereal.)

She ate for hours on end. (In this sentence, ate is intransitive, since it has no direct object.)

The tree grew for many years even though concrete covered all its roots. (Grew is intransitive, since it has no direct object. The second verb covered is transitive, since it has the direct object roots.)

Her gardener grew the finest tomatoes. (Here grew is transitive, since it has the direct object tomatoes.)

Copulative (Linking) Verbs

A copulative, or linking, verb links a subject with its complement. The complement is either a predicate noun or predicate adjective. A copulative verb does not take an object.

The most common copulative verbs are be, seem, appear, become, taste, feel, act, sound, and grow. (Note that some of these copulative verbs may also be used transitively, for example, taste and feel: This egg tastes good; I tasted the egg. The dog's coat feels smooth; she felt the dog's coat.)

Consider the following sentences:

Now you are a man. (The verb are is a copulative verb, doing nothing more than linking you with man, a predicate noun. The verb be, in all its forms, is copulative except when it is used as an auxiliary verb.)

She felt ill during the play. (The verb felt is a copulative verb linking she with ill, a predicate adjective.)

She felt the fabric. (The verb felt is a transitive verb having fabric as its direct object.)

He acted morose. (The verb acted is a copulative verb, with morose as predicate adjective.)

He acted the part well. (The verb acted is transitive, having part as direct object.)

Thus, the manner in which certain verbs are used determines whether they are copulative.

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Verbs and Verbals Practice Exercises for English Grammar

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