This lesson helps you understand what a verb in English is, how many types of verbs we have, and how we use and identify them in a sentence.
What is a verb in English?
A verb is a word that indicates an action the subject performs, or a state of being the subject is in, or links the subject to its complement. There are different types of verbs that serve different purposes. Some indicate what the subject is doing (eat, write, laugh), some indicate the state of the subject (love, own, want), and some (to be, seem, become) link the subject to its complement.
- Jon plays cricket in the morning everyday.
The verb plays shows an action that Jon, the subject, performs. It also shows the time of the action; the action happens repeatedly in the present.
- We are watching T.V in the hall.
Here, we have two types of verbs. Are is the helping verb and watching is the main verb (action). The helping verb helps the main verb in showing the time of the action and following the subject in its number, and the main verb shows the action the subject performs. Together, it forms a verb phrase. A verb phrase shows the tense of the sentence.
- I loved your performance,
Here, loved is a stative verb. It indicates the state of the subject and the time of the state.
- Unfortunately, Virat is my manager.
Here, we have a linking verb (is). The linking verb links the subject to its complement, which is either a new name of the subject (noun) or a description of the subject (adjective). It also refers to the time when the situation is about. Here, the linking verb is linking the subject ‘Virat’ to its complement ‘my manager’ and showing this is true in the present.
These are some of the types of verbs we have in English. Let’s study all of them one by one.
Types of verbs in English
All verbs in English are categorized into two main types:
- Main verbs
- Auxiliary verbs
The main verb of a sentence indicates an action that the subject performs, or shows the state of the subject, or links the subject to its complement. It is also known as the principal verb. Main verbs either stand alone or are paired with an auxiliary verb.
- Aarushi called me after the class.
(Here, called is the main verb, indicating the action that the subject ‘Aarushi’ performed in the past. It is an action verb.)
- Ashish loves teaching English.
(In this sentence, loves is the main verb that is showing the emotional state the subject Ashish is in. It is a stative verb.)
- Jon is the best singer in our group.
(Here, is is the main verb that is connecting the subject ‘Jon’ to its complement: the best singer in our group. It is a linking verb.)
Types of main verbs in English
- Action verbs (dynamic)
- Stative verbs
- Linking verbs
Let’s understand these types of verbs in detail.
An action verb indicates an action that the subject performs. Note that the action can be dynamic or mental.
Some action verbs in English
Examples of action verbs in sentences:
- Don’t worry. The dog does not bite.
- Do you eat fish?
- Max studied very hard for the exam.
- Don’t wait for us. We will be late tonight.
- After the meeting, let’s go to a nice place and eat something good.
- She always yells at me for no reason.
- I was thinking about something when you called.
- I joined the meeting at 5 pm and left it at 9 pm.
- Why are you arguing with me?
All the verbs mentioned above are dynamic verbs.
Other types of action verbs in English
- Transitive and Intransitive verbs
- Regular and Irregular verbs
A transitive verb is an action verb that has an object. It acts upon something or somebody. A transitive verb indicates an action that is acted upon an object. The object comes right after the transitive verb. Note that it is a type of the main verb.
- She slapped Rohan.
(Slap is a transitive verb. You can slap someone or something. Here, the object of the verb slap is Rohan.)
- Jyoti is chopping vegetables right now.
(Chop is a transitive verb. You can chop something or someone.)
- I did not break the bottle.
(Break is a transitive verb. The bottle is the direct object of the verb.)
- My friends are enjoying the party.
- Should I invite her to the party?
- He should have accepted his mistake.
- I haven’t studied this chapter.
An intransitive verb is an action verb that can’t be acted upon an object. It does not have an object.
- Jon was sleeping in his couch.
(Sleeping is the action verb, but it is intransitive. It can’t have an object. Can you sleep something or somebody? No, you can’t. You can sleep ‘on‘, in‘ or even ‘with’ something or someone but you can’t sleep an object.)
- She smiled at me.
(Again, ask yourself: can you smile a person or a thing? You can smile at a person or a thing, but you can’t perform this action upon someone or something directly. It is an intransitive verb.)
- Why is he coughing so much?
(Coughing is an intransitive verb. You can’t cough someone or something.)
Click here to master transitive and intransitive verbs in detail.
A list of some transitive and intransitive verbs
|Transitive verb||Intransitive verb|
Verbs that end with a certain pattern (ed, d, ied, t) when changed into past and past participle forms are called regular verbs.
Verbs ending with ‘ed’
|Base form||Past tense||Past participle|
Verbs ending with ‘ied’
|Base form||Past tense||Past participle|
Action verbs that don’t end in a certain pattern in the past form and past participle form are called irregular verbs.
|Base form||Past tense||Past participle|
A stative verb in English, also known as a state verb, is a type of the main verb that shows the state of the subject. It doesn’t indicate any physical (dynamic) action; it simply indicates in what state the subject is.
- My History teacher hates me. He doesn’t like my approach to the subject.
(Hates is the stative verb here that’s showing the emotional state of the subject ‘My History teacher’. The verb hate does not indicate any physical action.)
- Jon did not understand my situation.
(Here, understand is the stative verb that’s showing the cognitive/mental state of the subject Jon in the past. He didn’t do any dynamic action. Actually, he did not do anything at all. The stative verb understand indicates the mental state of the subject.)
Types of stative verbs in English
Stative verbs indicate the following state of a subject:
- Mental or Cognitive state: think, believe, doubt, guess, remember, pretend, recognize, recall, guess, forget, agree, disagree, need, prefer, satisfy
- Emotional state: love, hate, adore, abhor, like, dislike, appreciate, envy, detest, loathe
- Senses: see, hear, feel, seem, taste, smell, sense, sound
- Possessional state: have, belong, possess, own, belong, want
- Others (condition): weigh, contain, involve, concern, lack, deserve, matter, resemble
- We appreciate what Max has done for our family.
- He needed food very badly.
- You seem upset about something.
- The food tastes awful.
- I hate this company.
- You smell great.
- You look smart.
- He sounds quite confident.
- All of us have a gaming laptop.
- The chair weighs 15 pounds.
A linking verb links the subject to a word or words called the subject complement. A subject complement identifies the subject and either renames it (using a noun or a noun equivalent) or describes it (using an adjective). A linking verb is a type of the main verb.
Linking verbs list
|TO BE||TO BE: is, am, are, was, were, may be, might be,|
should be, would be, can be, could be, must be, will be, shall be
BEING: is being, am being, are being, was being, were being
BEEN: has been, have been, had been, may have been, might have been, must have been, could have, should have been,
will have been, shall have been
|TO SEEM||seem, seems, seemed|
|TO LOOK||look, looks, looked|
|TO FEEL||feel, feels, felt|
|TO SOUND||sound, sounds, sounded|
|TO TASTE||taste, tastes, tasted|
|TO SMELL||smell, smells, smelt|
|TO STAY||stay, stays, stayed|
|TO BECOME||become, becomes, became|
|TO GO||go, goes, went, gone|
|TO REMAIN||remain, remains, remained|
|TO TURN||turn, turns, turned|
|TO GET||get, gets, got|
|TO APPEAR||appear, appears, appeared|
- You are a wonderful singer.
(The linking verb ‘are’ is linking the subject ‘you’ to its complement ‘a wonderful singer’, which is giving the subject a name. You = a wonderful singer)
- Jon was sad last night.
(The linking verb ‘was’ is connecting the subject ‘Jon’ with the subject complement ‘sad’. Jon = sad)
- You were the love of my life.
- Sam is being extremely polite to me.
- All the interviewers were being very rude to me.
- This year has been terrible for most people.
- Knowing how many skillful workers the company has lost, the employers have been very positive about the future.
- The food smells delicious.
- Jon had been very helpful in those days.
- This jacket looks perfect on you.
- Because of you, the party could be exciting.
An auxiliary verb, also known as a helping verb, supports the main verb to express the time, voice, and mood of the sentence. It doesn’t stand on its own; it needs to be paired with a main verb to complete the meaning of the sentence.
There are two types of auxiliary verbs in English:
- Primary auxiliary verbs
- Modal auxiliary verbs
Primary auxiliary verbs
There are three primary auxiliary verbs in English: BE, HAVE, & DO. Each of these verbs has several verbs in them. Note that these verbs can function as both auxiliary verbs and main verbs. But we will be using them as the auxiliary verbs in this post.
|BE||BE = is, am, are, was, were|
BEING = is being, am being, are being, was being, were being
BEEN = has been, have been, had been
|HAVE||has, have, had|
|DO||do, does, did|
- I am talking to you.
- He is playing with some kids.
- They are sleeping right now.
- You are being taken to an amazing place.
- We have been doing this for a long time.
- We had not been waiting there.
- I have known her for the last 5 years.
- He has done the task.
- Does she know you?
- We don’t have a car.
Auxiliary verbs always have a main verb coming right them. If they don’t have a main verb following them, they themselves function as the main verb. Here in the examples, the word underlined is the main verb; the auxiliary verb is in bold.
- I am working here. (am = auxiliary verb, working = main verb)
- I am ready. (am = main verb (linking))
- You have done a great job. (have = auxiliary verb, done = main verb (action))
- You have many talents. (have = main verb (stative))
- I did not have a pet. (did = auxiliary verb, have = main verb (stative))
- I did this many times. (did = main verb (action))
- They have been helping us. (have been = auxiliary verb, helping = main verb (action))
- They have been helpful. (have been = main verb (linking))
Notice these verbs BE, HAVE, DO can be both auxiliary and main.
Modal auxiliary verbs
Modal auxiliary verbs are helping verbs that are used to indicate certainty, possibility, obligation, request, or permission. They are followed by a base form of a verb (V1).
Structure: subject + modal auxiliary verb + main verb
Here are the 9 modal auxiliary verbs in English:
The modal verb ‘can’ is used for the following:
- To indicate the ability (only the present)
- To make a request
- To ask for permission
- To make an offer
- She can speak many languages. (ability)
- Can you help me with this question? (request)
- Can I date your daughter, sir? (permission)
- Can I drop you somewhere? (offering help)
- Past ability or possibility
- To make a request
- To ask for permission
- We could easily win that match. (it was possible to win that match)
- Could you take a picture of us? (request)
- Could I sit in your stop for a moment? (permission)
- Possibility of a situation
- To give permission
- To ask for permission
- She may join us tonight. (possibility in the future)
- Ron may be upset with you. (possibility in the present)
- He may have fallen ill eating that sandwich. Just call him and check. (possibility in the past)
- You may go home now. I will ask someone else to do it. (Giving permission)
- May I use your bathroom? (taking permission)
- Possibility of a situation (lesson than MAY)
- Conditional sentences
- To offer a suggestion
- It might rain today. (possibility)
- He might have gone to the park. He generally spends time there when he is upset. (possibility in the past)
- We might have to take a bus. (suggestion)
- If you had treated her well, she might not have left the company. (conditional sentence)
- To indicate an obligation/necessity
- To give a strong recommendation
- To offer advice
- To indicate a possibility
- We must have the guest pass to meet Dr. Shelly. (necessary)
- You must try the biryani from this place. It is heavenly. (strong recommendation)
- Jon must stop hanging out with those people. (advice)
- Your bike keys are not on the table. Your brother must have taken them. (possibility)
- To offer advice
- To make a recommendation
- To give your opinion
- To indicate obligation or duty
- You should start working out. It will change your life. (advice)
- You should try the Italian food here. I have heard a lot about it. (recommendation)
- We should not kill animals for our taste. (opinion)
- You should be at work right now. (duty)
- To express a desire
- To make a polite request
- To offer something politely
- Repeated actions in the past
- Conditional sentences (unreal)
- I would love to work with Jon. (desire)
- Would you mind helping me with this project? (request)
- Would you like some coffee? (offer)
- My younger sister would cry for toys. (repeated past action)
- If we had enough money, we would start our business. (conditional sentence)
- To indicate a future plan
- To make a promise
- To make a threat
- To make a prediction
- I will drop the next video tomorrow. (future plan)
- Don’t worry. I will not tell this anyone. (promise)
- He will turn us in to the police. (threat)
- India will win the next match. (prediction)
The modal verb ‘shall’ is not used a lot in modern English. But we still use ‘shall’ for the following:
- To indicate a future plan
- To offer help
- To seek advice
- We shall leave today. (future plan)
- Shall I get you something to eat? (offer help)
- Shall we call the police or talk to the man who is troubling her? (seeking advice)
HAVE TO, HAS TO, and OUGHT TO are considered semi-modal verbs.
HAVE TO and HAS TO are used to express necessity or responsibility. Both modal verbs are used in the present. Note that HAVE TO is used with a plural subject including ‘I’ and HAS TO is used with a singular subject.
- We have to take care of this matter.
- I have to go now.
- They have to pass the drug test in order to play the match.
- She has to feed her family after the death of her father.
- This system has to change now.
- Someone has to come forward and do something about this issue.
‘WILL HAVE TO‘
This expression is used with both singular and plural subjects, and it refers to the future time. Like have to and has to, it also expresses responsibility and necessity.
- You will have apologize to her if you want to work here.
- I will have to wake up early tomorrow. I have a train to catch.
- We are running out of money. We will have to find a cheaper place to live next month.
We use ought to to express things that are desired or ideal. It is used to express what the speaker thinks should happen.
- We ought to be home by 9 pm.
- We ought to allow children to play in the park.
- You guys ought to take a break once in a while.
- The elderly ought to be treated well.
IMPORTANT POINTS TO NOTE
A) Stative verbs are not used in continuous forms.
Stative verbs are not used in continuous forms as they show the state of the subject. So, don’t make the mistake of using stative verbs in continuous tenses.
- We are loving the class. ❌
- We love the class. ✅
- We are understanding you. ❌
- We understand you. ✅
- I am having a car. ❌
- I have a car. ✅
- The bag is weighing 1o pounds. ❌
- The bag weighs 1o pounds. ✅
B) Some verbs can be both stative and dynamic (action)
Here are the verbs that can be both stative verbs and action verbs:
|Smell||Meaning = the condition of something in terms of its smell|
• The fish smells awful.
(In other words, the fish is awful in terms of its smell.)
|Meaning = the action of using your nose|
• He smells the fish before packing them.
|Taste||Meaning = the quality of taste of something|
• The food tastes delicious.
(In other words, the food is delicious.)
|Meaning = to eat something to find out its taste|
• Let him taste the food.
• The chef is tasting the food.
|See||Meaning = To perceive through your eyes|
• Can you see me?
(You see objects without trying to look at them. So, there is no dynamic action here.)
|Meaning = to check or date a person|
• The doctor is seeing someone right now. (checking)
• She is seeing someone these days. (dating)
|Have||Meaning = to possess or own|
• Jon has a ship.
• I don’t have much time.
|Meaning = to eat, take, or taste|
• You can have (eat) my lunch.
• What are you having (drinking)?
|Think||Meaning = to talk about your opinion|
• I think he should try teaching.
|Meaning = to have/process something in your mind|
• I was thinking about our conversation.
|Look||Meaning = to appear|
• You look dapper in the suit.
• She looked tired in the class.
|Meaning = to direct eyes in a direction deliberately|
• They are looking at you.
• Why did you look at my sister angrily?
|Weigh||Meaning = the weight possessed by something|
• My phone weighs 200 gms.
|Meaning = to measure the weight|
• The conductor is weighing the goods.
|Measure||Meaning = the measurement of an object|
• The TV screen measures 42 inches.
|Meaning = to measure something|
• We can’t measure the statue without permission.
• They are measuring the length of the house.
|Be||Meaning = a state of being|
• My friends are supportive.
|Meaning = a deliberate action to be in a state/behave|
• He is being sarcastic.
|Feel||Meaning = to have an opinion|
• I feel we are smart enough to pass the test.
|Meaning = to experience a feeling or emotion (through touching generally)|
• I am feeling something hot in my pocket.
• Feel the quality of the glass before buying it.
|Appear||Meaning = to make people believe something to be true|
• He appears to be a talented teacher.
• It appears that didn’t enjoy the match.
|Meaning = to show up|
• Conor is appearing in the next show.
• Did Dhoni’s wife appear at the match?
C) Don’t use an adverb after a linking verb!
- It tasted strongly. ❌
- It tasted strong. ✅
- You smell nicely. ❌
- You smell nice. ✅
D) A transitive verb can have two objects: the direct object and the indirect object.
When a transitive verb has two objects, it answers both ‘what’ and ‘whom’.
- She gifted me a phone on my last birthday.
gifted what = a phone (direct object)
gifted whom = me (indirect object)
- Could you pass her this note?
Pass what = this note (direct object)
Pass whom = her (indirect object)
Verbs that take two objects are called ditransitive verbs.
E) Some verbs can be both transitive and intransitive.
Here’s a list of verbs that can be both transitive and intransitive:
|Verbs||Transitive verbs||Intransitive verbs|
|Move||Can you move this to your room?||The car was moving fast.|
|Run||He is running this business well.||He was running fast in the park.|
|Change||Let’s change the plan.||He has changed. He is not the same person anymore.|
|Close||They closed the shop early.||The shop closes at 9 pm.|
|Open||Don’t open your eyes. I have something for you.||The shop opens at 8 am.|
|Stop||Can you stop yelling at me?||When the train stopped, we went outside and got something to eat.|
|Start||Stop her going there.||The movie started very late.|
|Do||We did what we could.||We did well in the game.|
Now, we know what a verb is, different types of verbs in English, and how to use them in a sentence correctly. Do share your question, doubt, or feedback in the comment section, and share the post with others to help.