Verbs: The Definitive Guide

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For the aspiring writer, mastering verbs is key to opening up a world of communicative possibilities. But knowing which verb forms to use in different instances isn’t always easy. Whether you’re struggling with tenses, confused about participles or could use a few pointers about gerunds and infinitives, then this guide is for you! Written by experienced professionals who have wrestled with verbs themselves (and won!), it will provide all the guidance and knowledge that you need!


What are Verbs?

Verbs are a fundamental component of language. They’re the parts of speech that express action, occurrence, or state of being. Essentially, they are what make sentences move! Most verbs also have different tenses; present, past, future, and even more specific forms depending on the context.

As if that’s not enough, some verbs can take on multiple meanings such as “to run” – it can mean to move quickly on foot or to manage something. It’s no wonder why language gurus consider verbs one of the most complex elements in grammar!

Types of Verbs

Verbs are one of the most important elements of any sentence in English. They are used to describe an action, occurrence, or possession or link a subject to its predicate. Verbs can be categorized into several different types including action verbs, linking verbs, auxiliary (helping) verbs, regular verbs, and irregular verbs.

Knowing how to correctly use each type of verb is essential for expressing yourself accurately and clearly in written English. Let’s take a look at the different types of verbs below:

a. Action Verbs

Action verbs are a powerful tool for any sort of writing, from creative work to technical writing. A great way to enliven your writing is to use action verbs rather than non-action verbs – those that describe an activity or express a state of being. Action verbs can make your sentences more vivid, active, and engaging.

Some examples include:

  • Walk
  • Run
  • Jump
  • Sprint
  • Weave
  • Skitter
  • Howl
  • Roar
  • Groan and others

You can also add “ing” to turn almost any verb into an action verb; for example, you could go from ‘write’ to ‘writing’. Thinking of different and descriptive action verbs will help improve the flow of your sentences and give it a more interesting feel.

b. Linking Verbs

Linking verbs are an important form of the verb that acts as a bridge between the subject of a sentence and more information about it. Common examples of linking verbs include “be,” “seem,” and “become.” In other words, linking verbs act to link the subject with either a noun, pronoun, or adjective following it.

For example; if you said “The sky is blue,” “is” is functioning as a linking verb connecting the noun “sky” with the adjective “blue.” Additionally, if you said “She seems tired,” “seems” is a linking verb connecting the pronoun “she” with the adjective “tired.” Without linking verbs like these in our sentences, we wouldn’t be able to accurately describe what we want to convey accurately and in good grammar.

c. Auxiliary (Helping) Verbs

Auxiliary (or “helping”) verbs are an essential part of the English language that are used to indicate aspects like tense and mood of other verbs.

  • For example, the phrase “I am playing music” features two auxiliaries: “am” and “have.”

Both of these words help to convey that the action is occurring right now, in this present tense. Additionally, there are modal auxiliaries such as “may” and “can” which can be used to express possibility, ability, or permission.

Other common examples include: should, must, will, and shall. Knowing how to use auxiliary verbs correctly when constructing a sentence is paramount if you want to sound professional and avoid any awkward phrasing.

Verb Tenses

Verb tenses help us to express time, duration, and sequence of events in English. Several verb tenses can be used to communicate effectively and accurately. The most common verb tenses include the present simple tense, past simple tense, future simple tense, present perfect tense, past perfect tense, future perfect tense, and continuous tenses.

Understanding when and how to use each of these verb tenses is essential for clear communication in English. Below is a list of the different types of verb tenses with examples:

a. Present Tense

The present tense is one of the most frequently used verb tenses in English, allowing us to communicate simple statements of fact or to tell stories. It is generally used to express an action that takes place in the present moment or something that happens regularly.

  • For example, “I play baseball” is a present tense sentence because it expresses one’s current relationship with the activity taking place in real-time.
  • In addition, when we say “I like chocolate,” this is reported in the present tense because it denotes a perpetual truth and not something that has happened only once.
  • When we say “She walks to work,” this is also said in the present tense to indicate an established pattern taking place on an ongoing basis.

The present tense is a key verb form used in English to express actions that are taking place right now or have been established as habits. It’s essential to understand how and when to use this verb form correctly if you want to communicate effectively in the language.

b. Past Tense

Past tense is a verb form that indicates actions, events, or situations that have already occurred. It usually uses words like “ran,” “jumped,” and “ate.”

  • Examples of past tense verbs include: talked, jumped, played, sang, and worked. Past tense verbs are usually preceded by action words like “had” or “did”.

Other common past tenses in the English language include the present perfect, pluperfects, and past progressive. With these tenses, you can effectively communicate actions that have taken place at specific moments in the past as well as those that have been taking place over time. Knowing how to properly use various past tenses will ensure your writing is clear and grammatically correct.

c. Future Tense

Future Tense is a way to refer to actions that take place after the present moment. It’s used when you’re talking about something that has not yet happened, such as tomorrow, one week from now, or even next year. Common examples of Future Tense are using “will”, “shall”, “am going to”, and “be about to”.

  • For example, if you say “I will go to the store later today” or “The movie is going to start at 7pm.”

These sentences both involve Future Tense because in each case the action hasn’t yet happened. It’s something that someone intends or plans to do in the future. Understanding when and how to use Future Tense is a useful skill for accurately expressing yourself!

Irregular and Regular Verbs

When it comes to language, verbs can be a bit confusing! A verb is an action word that is used to describe what something or someone does. Verbs come in two types – regular and irregular.

The difference between the two lies in their past tense form.

Regular verbs are those whose past tense takes the same ending as the base form of the word, for example, ‘play’ becomes ‘played’, and ‘talk’ becomes ‘talked’.

On the other hand, irregular verbs do not follow this rule, and their past tense form changes drastically. Some common examples include words like ‘swim’ which changes to ‘swam’ in the past tense, and ‘teach’ which turns into ‘taught’. Knowing how to use both regular and irregular verbs correctly will help you accurately express yourself in any language.

Verb Phrases and Gerunds         

Verb phrases and gerunds are essential elements of English grammar. A verb phrase is made up of two or more words that function together as a single verb. Gerunds are forms of verbs ending in -ing, which often act as nouns in a sentence.

  • For example, if someone said “I enjoy skiing”, the verb phrase is “enjoy skiing” and the gerund is “skiing”.

Other examples include:

  • Taking a walk
  • Studying for an exam
  • Speaking Spanish
  • Running quickly

Knowing how to correctly form verb phrases and use gerunds is key for anyone wishing to master the English language.

Subject-Verb Agreement        

Subject-Verb Agreement is one of the important elements in English grammar. It refers to a rule that states that a subject must agree with its verb in number, meaning singular subjects need singular verbs and plural subjects need plural verbs. One great way to make sure your subjects and verbs are agreeing is to get rid of any extra words between the subject and verb.

  • For example: “The cats roam around the backyard,” instead of “The cats are roaming around the backyard.”
  • Another example would be “She shouts louder than he does,” instead of “She is shouting louder than he is doing.”

Adhering to this principle will make your writing clear, concise, and error-free.

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs        

Transitive and intransitive verbs are two types of verbs. Transitive verbs are those that require a direct object to make sense in a sentence; something or someone is affected directly as a result of the action in the verb.

  • For example, “She ate lunch” is a transitive verb because it requires who ate (she) and what was eaten (lunch).

Intransitive verbs do not need an object to make sense but rather describe actions that simply happen without influencing anything else.

  • An example of an intransitive verb would be “He ran.” In this sentence, there is no action being carried out on anyone or anything, it is just giving information about what took place.

Understanding these different types of verbs can help you write better sentences and increase your vocabulary.

Active Voice vs Passive Voice          

Knowing the difference between active voice and passive voice can make a big impact when it comes to your writing style. Active voice is when the sentence subject is doing the action, and passive voice occurs when the sentence object is receiving the action.

  • For example, a sentence written in active voice might say, “The dog chased the ball” while a sentence written in passive voice may look something like this: “The ball was chased by the dog”.

A good rule of thumb for identifying which type of voice you’re using is to look for an auxiliary verb such as “was” or “were”, as these are usually indicative of passive voice. When possible, it’s often better for clarity and ease of reading to use active voice in most cases.

Using Modal Auxiliary (Helping) verbs   

Modal auxiliary (helping) verbs are used to express ability, possibility, necessity, or obligation. Common modal verbs include can, could, may, might, must, ought to, shall, should and will.

  • For example, one might say “I can finish this quickly,” expressing the ability to complete a task.
  • Or you could say “I should be home by 8,” implying an obligation or requirement of arriving at home by 8 pm.
  • Someone could say “We must call the boss about this,” expressing a necessity that an action needs to occur or else there will be consequences.

As you can see from these examples of modal verbs in use sentence context influences the meaning and intent of what is being expressed greatly.

Using Adverbs to Emphasize the Meaning of the Verb   

Adverbs are a great way to take the verb in a sentence and emphasize its meaning. When done correctly, adverbs add depth and context to help create a more vivid description, allowing readers to truly envision what is happening. To emphasize the meaning of a verb with an adverb, look for the descriptive details that can be drawn from the original verb and use them to strengthen it.

  • For example, instead of saying “She ran quickly,” you could say “She raced hastily across the field.”
  • Another technique is focusing on the tone of voice you’re trying to evoke by selecting emotional or sensory language; rather than simply saying, “He spoke firmly” you could explore phrases like “He barked sternly” or conveyed “rock-solid determination in his words.”

By carefully considering each word choice and how every adverb interacts with the preceding verb, your writing will become more precise and effective.

The Different Forms of “To Be”   

The verb “to be” is one of the most commonly used in the English language and is important for communicating basic concepts. Some examples include:

  • I am a student
  • Are you going?
  • She has been waiting.

This verb can also exist in 3 different forms, which are: “am/is/are”, “was/were” and “be/being/been”. For example, you would use “is” in the present tense to describe something happening at this time: “He is studying.” “Was” would be used to describe something that happened in the past: “He was studying yesterday.”

And finally you would use “been” to talk about something done up until this point: “He had been studying before he stopped.” Understanding when to use each form of “to be” is essential for having clear conversations with others.

How to Use Irregular Verb Forms Correctly   

It can be tricky to master irregular verb forms, but you can do it! After all, these tenses are used a lot in everyday speech and writing. To use irregular verbs correctly, we need to get familiar with the group of verb forms called “strong verbs,” which form their past tense and participle without adding “-ed” or “-d.”

  • For example, some common strong verbs include “to drink,” which is past tense “drank” and perfect participle “drunk”; or “to think,” which changes to past tense “thought” and perfect participle “thought.

To memorize these variations, it can be helpful to try making fun mnemonic devices or studying audio pronunciations. With just a bit of practice, you can quickly become an expert at using irregular verb forms correctly!

The Imperative Mood in English Grammar    

The imperative mood in English grammar refers to a specific form of the verb that is used for issuing orders and giving commands. This type of verb is most easily recognized because it does not have a subject, as typically only the base form of the verb is used.

  • Examples of verbs in the imperative mood include “listen,” “read,” “go,” and “make.”

By using words such as these, we are instructing somebody else to take action without providing any context or background information whatsoever. Furthermore, this mood can be used to make requests or offer advice, as in “Please open the window” or “Let’s go out for dinner tonight.” No matter how you use them, by understanding the various nuances that make up the imperative mood you can become familiar with the powerful effects these words can have.

Using Subjunctive Mood for Expressing Desires, Wishes, or Hypothetical Situations

The subjunctive mood is a great tool for expressing our deepest desires and wishes as well as hypothetical situations. Through its use of distinct verb forms, we can communicate ideas that cannot be conveyed through ordinary language.

  • For example, “If I could fly, how wonderful it would be” would usually be expressed in the subjunctive form as “Were I able to fly, what bliss it would be.”
  • In Spanish, the imperative form is often used to express wishes; you might say, “¡Viva el mejor equipo del mundo!” which translates to “Long live the best team in the world!”, rather than simply stating a preference.
  • Similarly, hypothetical situations are often expressed using the subjunctive mood; we might say, “If I were president…” but we know this is not a reality so we use special verb forms – such as past participles – to provide greater clarity.

By understanding how to effectively use the subjunctive mood, we can convey our deepest desires and wishes or talk about hypotheticals far more powerfully than words alone.

Using Infinitives as Nouns, Adjectives, or Adverbs

Infinitives can be used as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs to add flavor to your sentences.

  • For example, “to improve” can be a noun in the sentence: ‘”My dream is to improve,” whereas “improve” can be an adjective in the sentence “I plan on implementing a few improvements.”

As an adverb, “to improve” can take on the phrase “to improve,” creating dialogue like: “We must practice regularly to improve our skills.” Used correctly, infinitives can help your writing come alive and make it easier for readers to follow along.

Understanding Transitivity

Transitivity refers to how a verb implies a relationship between its subject and object. Verbs that describe an action with no direct object, like “laugh”, are called intransitive verbs. These verbs talk about the action of their subject but do not involve objects.

Then we have transitive verbs such as “play” or “contain” which involve objects that receive the action of the subject.

There is also a third category of verb—linked transitive—that requires a linked noun phrase to make sense, such as “give (something)” or “drive (something).

  • Examples of intransitive verbs include walking, speaking and thinking; examples of transitive verbs include hitting, loving and digging; examples of linked transitive verbs include buying and choosing.

Understanding transitivity can help when constructing sentences because it allows us to choose and use appropriate verbs.

How to Identify Subject Complements

Identifying subject complements can seem tricky at first; however, by understanding the definition of a complement and its purposes, it can be easier to decipher. A subject complement is a word, clause, or phrase that follows a linking verb (such as am, is, are, was, were) and provides additional information about the subject of the sentence.

The most common type of subject complement is an adjective (such as delicious or beautiful), which elaborates on the action being done. Other types of subject complements can include nouns (such as teacher), pronouns (such as she), or even adverbs such as quickly.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • “The soup tastes delicious.”
  • “Jordan is a teacher.”
  • “This problem has been solved quickly.”

In each case, we see a linking verb followed by a word or phrase that further identifies the noun or pronoun in the sentence. With practice and reviewing examples like these you too will soon be able to easily identify subject complements!

How to Use the Different Forms of “To Have”

We use the verb “have” in many ways. For instance, it can be used as an auxiliary verb to help form a perfect tense such as “has jumped” or “have been working”, indicating something that happened in the past and has continued until now. Additionally, we can use it to denote ownership: you might say “he had a car”, implying ownership of the car in the past.

We could also use it to describe obligations: for example, saying “we have to go now” means that there is an obligation or requirement to go.

Furthermore, when used in questions “have you finished?” can show someone is wondering if something has been done yet.

Finally, when “have” is combined with another verb (like ‘had better’ or ‘would have’), a different meaning can be expressed such as expectation or emphasis. To summarize, there are many various forms of “to have” that all bring their nuances to sentences and conversations!

What is a Finite Verb?

Understanding the difference between finite and non-finite verbs is a key component of mastering English grammar. A finite verb can take on a tense, such as past, present or future. Finite verbs also indicate when an action takes place by changing its form.

  • An example of this could be the verb “to walk” – in the present simple tense it appears as “walk”, in the past simple as “walked”, and in the future simple it changes to “will walk”.
  • Other examples of finite verbs include “run”, “jump” and “eat”.

Together these all make up an important building block of language that allows us to communicate efficiently and accurately in our everyday lives.

Understanding Finiteness

Understanding finiteness may seem like a daunting prospect, but gaining an appreciation of the concept is relatively simple. Finiteness is thus the quality of being finite or limited; almost anything can offer us this insight. For example, when considering a nature-sculpted object like a snowflake, its finite shape reveals to us that nothing perfect is permanent – no matter how intricate or beautiful something might be, there will always be an end in sight for it.

Similarly, when focusing on something man-made like literature, we observe works will never be infinite as they are often subject to revision rather than endless expanse. Ultimately, when studying finiteness it provides us with strong indications of the fragility of life and the reality that everything must conclude at some point – no matter how far away that end may seem at times.

The Role of Agreement in Grammar

Agreement in grammar helps to form the basic structures of sentences by enabling subject-verb, pronoun-antecedent and noun-adjective alignment. It ensures that what’s being communicated is comprehensible—grammatical agreement always has a purpose.

  • For example, take a look at the simple sentence “She eats pizza.”

For the understanding of this sentence to remain consistent throughout different contexts, she must always be singular and pizza must always be plural; when you change either one of those parts of speech, the entire meaning changes. Knowing about the agreement and its importance can help us make sense of why we have grammatical rules in the first place!

Understanding Non-Finite Verb Forms

Non-finite Verb Forms are verb forms that don’t show tense or the time when an action happened. Common examples include present participles, like “running” and past participles, like “sung.” Non-finite Verb Forms can also be infinitives, which act as nouns and usually begin with ‘to.

Examples of infinitives would be “to eat” and “to talk.” Finally, some verbs use a non-finite form to refer to actions not connected in time to other actions.

For example: “hanging clothes up on the line,” in which case the infinitive form is just being used as an adjective describing what you’re doing. Understanding non-finite verb forms is key to unlocking deeper language understanding.

Using Special Verbs to Express Ideas

Special verbs are essential tools for expressing ideas clearly and concisely.

These special verbs indicate whether something is possible, necessary, or even likely to happen. For instance, when talking about someone’s chances of success we might say “he could pass the test” or conversely “he must pass the test”.

Similarly auxiliary verbs such as ‘have’ and ‘be’ can also help convey an idea. In this case we might say “he had passed the test” which tells us that he already achieved the desired outcome or “he is passing the test” which implies that he is still working on it. Regardless of the verb used, it’s important to choose one that accurately expresses your intended meaning.

What are Suppletive Verbs?

Suppletive verbs are used to form more complex verb tenses than those that have regular endings. They occur when an entirely different verb is used as part of a verb phrase to give it the desired meaning. Examples include the English irregular verbs: be, do, and have which are used in progressive forms such as “He has been talking,” or “She is doing her homework.

They can also appear in instances of two-word verbs such as “She put out the fire” and can even be found in archaic expressions such as “Shalt thou not go?” In each case, a special verb is needed to achieve the intended communication instead of depicting regular patterns of language. The study of suppletive verbs can help linguists to understand language change over time and how new words get added or discarded on their paths to becoming part of our everyday speech.

The Difference Between Conjugation and Agreement

Conjugation and agreement are two common yet distinct language concepts. Conjugation is the process of changing a verb’s form to match its subject to express tense or person. An example of conjugation is the word “go,” which can be conjugated to “went” when talking about past tense.

Agreement, on the other hand, is when certain words in a sentence need to agree with other parts of a sentence such as pronouns, nouns and adjectives. An example of agreement would be saying “they are” instead of “they is.”

Both conjugation and agreement are important components of written language, but they refer to very different aspects; whereas a verb may need to be conjugated for it to accurately express time or person, certain words in a sentence have to agree with each other for the sentence itself to be grammatically correct.

Differences Between Main Verbs and Auxiliary (Helping) Verbs

Main verbs and auxiliary (or helping) verbs are both crucial components of the English language. While they can seem similar, there are several distinct differences between the two. Main verbs are independent; they ultimately create meaning in a sentence by expressing an action or a state of being.

Auxiliary verbs, on the other hand, exist only to provide additional context to main verbs, such as adding emphasis to their meaning or indicating when the action occurs in time.

  • Examples of auxiliary verbs include “be” (is, am), “have” (has), “do” (did), and modal auxiliaries such as will, may, must, and should – all of which enhance the context of main verbs to give sentences greater precision and clarity.

Without both main and auxiliary verb forms together, complete thought would be impossible.


Verbs are essential tools for expressing yourself in English. Understanding the different types of verbs and how to use them correctly is an important part of speaking and writing effectively. Action verbs express physical or mental activities while linking verbs connect a subject with its predicate.

Auxiliary (helping)verbs provide additional meaning to other words within a sentence, regular verb forms follow specific rules when conjugated, and irregular verb forms require memorization due to their unpredictable changes in spelling or pronunciation when conjugated. With practice, you can become more comfortable using all these types of verbs accurately!


What are the different types of verbs?

The most common types of verbs are action verbs, linking verbs, auxiliary (helping) verbs, regular verbs, and irregular verbs. Action verbs describe the physical or mental activities of a subject. Linking verbs connect the subject to its predicate. Auxiliary (or helping) verbs help form tenses or voices for other verb forms. Regular verbs take a regular -ed ending in the past tense and can be both transitive and intransitive. Irregular verbs have an unpredictable spelling pattern for their past tense form and can also be both transitive and intransitive.

How do I use each type of verb correctly?

When using action verbs, you need to make sure that they accurately describe what is happening in the sentence. For example, if a person is running, you would use the verb “run” instead of another verb like “walk.” Linking verbs are used to connect the subject to its predicate, such as in the sentence “He is my friend.” Auxiliary verbs help form tenses or voices for other verb forms and need to be placed before the main verb in a sentence. Regular verbs take a regular -ed ending in their past tense form and can be either transitive or intransitive. Irregular verbs have an unpredictable spelling pattern for their past tense forms and can also be both transitive and intransitive.

Why are verbs so important?

Verbs are incredibly important because they provide clarity when it comes to communicating in written English. By using the correct verb forms, you can make sure that your sentences are clear and easily understood by readers. Furthermore, verbs provide energy and movement to a sentence, making it more interesting and engaging for readers. Without verbs, written language would be much less vibrant and dynamic. Verbs help bring our ideas to life on paper!

What examples of verbs can I use?

Some common examples of verbs include: run, walk, eat, drink, smile, think, jump, swim, write, read and dance. These are just a few examples – there are many more out there for you to explore! Remember that each type of verb has its own unique rules when it comes to being used correctly in a sentence.

By understanding the types of verbs and how to use them correctly, you can improve your writing significantly! Knowing how to use verbs is an essential skill for any English language learner, so make sure to practice using different verb forms regularly. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be expressing yourself fluently in no time!

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