Although the most common first words for babies are nouns, verbs are arguably the most important words in our language. Without them, none of our sentences would “do” anything because our verbs are the words we have to describe action. Not only that, but words that describe someone or something’s state of being, or how it exists in that moment, are verbs too.
So, no back to basics course would be complete without an article on verbs.
Just like every word must have at least one vowel, a sentence is not a sentence without a verb. In fact, do you remember our definition of a sentence from the simple sentences article back at the beginning? A sentence is a group of words, containing both a subject and a verb that conveys a complete thought. That's pretty much impossible to do without a verb.
What exactly is a verb?
Dictionary.com defines verbs as “any member of a class of words that function as the main elements of predicates, that typically express action, state, or a relation between two things and that may be inflected for tense, aspect, voice, mood, and to show agreement with their subject or object.” That is to say, a verb is a word that tells what the subject of a sentence does, is, or how it relates to something else. Also, in English, when an action takes place as well as who is performing or telling about the action is shown through the form the verb takes.
This means verbs are much more complicated than they originally appear. So we will be looking at them for at least one more lesson after today if not more, even though we’ve already touched on them in this series with the subject/verb agreement article a while back.
Verbs come in different types.
There are different types of verbs. Some can stand more or less on their own without needing a direct object to make them make sense. These are known as intransitive verbs.
Because their sister is deaf, they sign, so she can understand everything that is said.
The verbs bolded and italicized in the examples above are intransitive verbs. The first example is about as simple as a sentence can get, but if you’ll notice, the second example has four verbs. Only one is intransitive because it is the only one that can be taken out of the larger sentence as a whole, with its subject, they, and still make sense.
Other verbs need a direct object to clarify its meaning. These are transitive verbs.
Ada rides horses.
He grows prize-winning tomatoes.
In the examples above, the bolded and italicized words are the transitive verbs, and the underlined words are their direct objects. While “Ada rides,” and “he grows,” might technically make sense, they would lead the reader to the incorrect conclusion without the inclusion of their direct objects. They might assume Ada is riding a bicycle, or the he in the second sentence is a kid having a growth spurt versus a gardener growing tomatoes.
Then there are the linking verbs. While they don’t quite stand on their own, technically speaking, linking verbs are intransitive. Most are state-of-being verbs, and they all link the subject with its compliment, which is why they are called linking verbs.
You can think of them kind of like the glue sticking a noun to a descriptor. This is why they are almost always state-of-being verbs because the descriptor it links to the noun describes how that noun is right at that moment.
She feels sad.
He is a basketball player.
They were happy playing together.
In the examples above, the linking verb is bolded and italicized, and the descriptor being linked to the subject is underlined.
Some verbs can act as more than one type.
Depending on how some verbs are used in a sentence, they might act as either a transitive or intransitive verb.
When I finish my work for the day, I read.
When I finish my work for the day, I read trade magazines to improve my skills.
Take a look at the examples above. In the first, read is used as an intransitive verb. What the speaker reads isn’t important to the meaning the writer is trying to get across. However, the writer of the second sentence has a clear purpose for why they read after work each day, so in that sentence, read is a transitive verb.
That's it for today's article about different types of verbs. Please come back December 12 for a discussion on verb tenses.
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask them below. I try my best to answer any and all questions within twenty-four hours.
A. B. England is a small business owner, mom of two, novelist, all around geek, and avid crafter. She loves mythology, fantasy, and all flavors of science fiction.
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