Types of Verbs Study Guide
Types of Verbs
Like everything metaphysical the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language.
LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN (1889–1951)
Verbs are the second fundamental component of English. Learn how to discern between action, linking, and helping verbs, and why they are called the movers and shakers of written and spoken language.
Most action verbs are visible—the action can be seen—as in the words skate, text, sleep, pick, grab, swim, and clap. When we have to identify action words in sentences, it is generally pretty easy. Some, though, are more challenging to identify because they are much less obvious to our eyes. It's hard to see the action of words like think, yearn, wish, believe, consider, need, understand, remember, and assume. We refer to verbs like these as mental verbs, but we must remember that they, too, are doing verbs.
Visible action verbs:
- I jog every afternoon.
- Justin cooks very well.
- The audience clapped loudly.
- Betsy fell on the sidewalk.
Invisible action verbs:
- I thought it was delicious.
- Donna wanted to play too.
- We need to be more aware.
- Shawna believes everyone.
Linking verbs convey a state of being or condition. In a sentence, they link, or connect, a noun with an adjective, a word that describes the noun:
or with another noun, used to identify the first noun:
Sometimes you will encounter a word that looks like an action verb, when it is really a linking verb. One trick to knowing the difference between the two is looking for the adjective that is describing the noun. If the adjective is not there, then you have an action verb.
Action: Lucas tasted the stew.
Lucas actually tastes the stew; therefore, tasted is an action verb.
Linking: The stew tasted salty.
The stew is NOT tasting anything. The adjective salty is describing the noun stew, so the verb is a linking verb.
Another trick is to replace the verb in the sentence with the verb is. If it makes sense, then the sentence contains a linking verb. For example,
Kevin felt the sandpaper. Kevin is the sandpaper.
This is silly—Kevin is NOT sandpaper! Felt is an action verb in this sentence.
Kevin felt sick this morning. Kevin is sick this morning.
Yes, this is sensible—felt in this sentence is a linking verb.
You should make yourself familiar with this list of verbs that can be both action verbs and linking verbs (remember that their tenses can vary, for example, appear, appears, and appeared).
One last type of verb we use is the helping verb. Helping verbs are used to enhance a main verb's meaning by giving us more information about its tense. Do you recognize these common helping verbs?
In a sentence, a main verb can have as many as three helping verbs in front of it. For example:
Nate served the ball to his opponent. Nate will serve the ball to his opponent. Nate should have served the ball to his opponent
When a main verb has one or more helping verbs, this is called a verb phrase. You should remember that a helping verb does not always have to be right next to the main verb in the sentence. This is because an adverb (not, only, and -ly words) usually separates the helping verbs. For example,
Eddie will surely choose the largest slice of pie. Caroline could not have eaten all those cookies.
Exercises for this concept can be found at Types of Verbs Practice Exercise.
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