What is a verb?

Verb Meaning / Definition

A verb is a doing word that shows an action, an event or a state. A sentence may either have a main verb, a helping verb or both. In other words, a verb is a word that informs about an action, an existence of something or an occurrence. The verb is the main word in a sentence. No sentence can be completed without a verb.

The word ‘verb’ derived from the Latin word ‘verbum‘.

Types of Verbs

  1. Main Verbs (or Action Verbs)
  2. Helping Verbs
  3. Linking Verbs
  4. Transitive Verbs
  5. Intransitive Verbs

Main Verbs or Action Verbs

Main verbs or action verbs are used to express action; something that an animal, a person or a thing does. In each of the following sentences, we only have a main verb.

  • The sun shines.
  • The horse neighs.
  • The monkey jumps.

Helping Verbs

As the name suggests, helping verbs help or support the main verb.

  • We are learning about helping verbs. (are: helping verb; learning: main verb)
  • We are in the Green House Club. (are: helping verb)
  • You should complete the work by tomorrow. (should: helping verb; complete: main verb)

State of Being Verbs (Linking Verbs)

State of Being verbs state that something ‘is’. State of being verbs also known as linking verbs. Linking verbs explain a link between the subject of the sentence and a noun or adjective being linked to it.

List of Example Sentences

  • The flowers are bright.
  • Diamond is the hardest substance.
  • I feel scared.

Understanding Verbs

The words: am, is, are, was, and were, belong to the verb “to be”. We use ‘am’ or ‘was’ with the pronoun ‘I’. We use ‘is’ or ‘was’ when the subject of the sentence is singular. We use ‘are’ or ‘were’ when the subject of the sentence is plural.

List of Example Sentences

  1. I was late for school yesterday.
  2. I am twelve years old.
  3. She is a wonderful singer.
  4. These questions are difficult.
  5. He was planning to meet the doctor.
  6. The Hollywood actors are famous.
  7. They were winners last year.
  8. It is a great feeling to win the trophy.

We use ‘is‘ with singular nouns and pronouns ‘he, she, it‘.

List of Example Sentences

  1. My school is near my house.
  2. This restaurant is closing down.
  3. She is writing a postcard.
  4. Dog is a faithful animal.
  5. Ottawa is the capital of Canada.
  6. He is acting strange today.

We use ‘are‘ with plural nouns and pronouns ‘we, you, they‘.

List of Example Sentences

  1. The balloons are colourful.
  2. They are best friends.
  3. The kites are flying high in the sky.
  4. They are planning to go by train.
  5. We are going to win the match.
  6. You are writing so untidily!

We use ‘are‘ when we join two or more nouns.

List of Example Sentences

  1. John and Sam are brothers.
  2. Joseph and we are neighbours.
  3. Anne and Sue are enjoying the play.
  4. Sharon and Jenny are competing for the gold medal.
  5. Mrs. and Mr. Lee are planning to visit New Zealand.

Subject-Verb Agreement

It is very important to take care of the subject and verb agreement while framing a sentence. It is very important that a verb must be compatible and agree with its subject to make a correct and valid sentence.

Let us understand with the help of an example.

If we write:

  • Phil is playing with a ball. (Correct)!
  • Phil are playing with a ball. (Incorrect) X

In the first sentence, the subject (Phil) is singular, so we need a singular verb (is playing). The sentence is correct. In the second sentence, the subject (Phil) is singular, but the verb is plural (are playing). The sentence is incorrect.

Rules of Subject-Verb Agreement

Rule 1 – Subject-Verb agreement with a singular noun
If the subject is a singular noun or a pronoun (he, I, she, it), we must ensure that we use a singular verb to write a correct sentence.

List of Example Sentences

  1. She is playing the guitar.
  2. The postman is asking for your signature.
  3. The movie has caught everyone’s attention.
  4. Does he know the minister well?
  5. She is cheering the team.
  6. He enjoys music.
  7. My mom drives carefully.
  8. The moon revolves round the earth.
  9. Is it raining?

Rule 2 – Subject-Verb agreement with plural noun
If the subject is plural (we, they, those, you), we need a plural verb to write a correct sentence.

List of Example Sentences

  1. The boys were dancing in the corridor.
  2. The children are playing in the garden.
  3. The students were writing their exam.
  4. Two of our girls have won the quiz.
  5. We have finished our homework.
  6. Both the boys have worked hard.
  7. Philip and Luke are swimming.
  8. The teachers are correcting the answer sheets.
  9. Farmers work in the fields.

Rule 3 – Subject-Verb agreement with collective nouns
The collective nouns are considered as singular. We use singular verbs with them.

List of Example Sentences

  1. The crowd was very noisy.
  2. Our team has to win the match.
  3. The audience is having a gala time.
  4. The band is playing the school song.
  5. The choir is singing beautifully.
  6. My family is from Poland.
  7. Our cricket team is the best in the whole town.
  8. A bouquet of flowers was presented to the chief guest.

Rule 4 – Subject-Verb agreement with ‘either/or’ or ‘neither/nor’
The verb must agree with the noun or the pronoun that is closer to ‘either/or’ or ‘neither/nor’.

List of Example Sentences

  1. Neither he nor I am guilty.
  2. Neither Bob nor his friends want the party.
  3. Either you or your sister is telling a lie.
  4. Either Nancy or Mary is typing the letter.
  5. Neither Julia nor her parents know the way to the passport office.

Rule 5 – Subject-Verb agreement with indefinite pronouns
Indefinite pronouns like ‘nobody’, ‘everybody’, ‘someone’, ‘somebody’, ‘one’ are always singular.

List of Example Sentences

  1. Everybody is liking the new car.
  2. Someone is calling for you.
  3. Nobody is allowed to enter that room.
  4. Everybody likes Mrs. Ola, the new History teacher.
  5. One of the passengers was asking for tomato soup.
  6. Somebody is knocking at the door.

Rule 6
We use singular verbs for uncountable nouns.

List of Example Sentences

  1. There is sufficient food in the refrigerator.
  2. Cold weather is a problem in this part of the country.
  3. Sugar is yet to get over in the container.
  4. Salt is obtained from sea water.
  5. Milk with cornflakes is one of my favourite breakfast options.

Rule 7
A plural noun takes a singular verb when it is a name such as Paris, China, Arabian Nights, and so on.

  1. China is the most densely populated country.
  2. Norway is a very cold country.
  3. ‘The Power of Positive Talk’ is a good book.

Types of Action Verbs

There are two types of action verbs:

  1. Transitive Verbs
  2. Intransitive Verbs

Transitive Verbs

A transitive verb expresses an action directed towards a person, place or thing. The action expressed by a transitive verb passes from the doer or the subject to the receiver of the action. Words that receive the action of a transitive verb are called objects.

For example:

  1. The teacher made the question paper.
  2. Peter cut the cake.

In the above two sentences, we can see that the words in green colour ‘the question paper‘ and ‘the cake‘ complete the sense of the sentence or work as objects. The two sentences would not make complete sense without the objects.

  1. The teacher made ……………….. what? (the question paper)
  2. Peter cut ……………….. what? (the cake)

In the above sentences, the verbs ‘made‘ and ‘cut‘ are transitive verbs. A transitive verb needs a direct object to complete its meaning.

Example Sentences of Transitive Verb

  1. Birds have feathers.
  2. The teacher praised the pupil.
  3. She is eating a pear.
  4. I like English.
  5. They are playing football.
  6. The potter has made a beautiful pot.
  7. Dennis bought a bicycle.
  8. She is writing an essay.

Intransitive Verbs

A verb which does not need an object to make complete sense is called an intransitive verb. An intransitive verb expresses action (or tells something about the subject) without the action passing to a receiver or object. It can stand alone in the predicate because its meaning is complete.

Example Sentences of Intransitive Verb

  1. Mr. Becker jogs every day.
  2. The wicked hunter was hiding.
  3. Anne looks very beautiful.
  4. Mr. John speaks loudly.
  5. The ship sank rapidly.
  6. The department store opens at six o’clock.
  7. Mr. Ben is driving carefully.
  8. The wind blew strongly.

Interesting Grammar Facts about Verbs

To determine if a verb is transitive, ask yourself ‘Who?’ or ‘What?’ after the verb. If you can find an answer in the sentence, the verb is transitive.

Some verbs are always intransitive, such as: to snore or to fall. It is incorrect to say: She snores her nose.

For example: She snores a lot. In this example ‘a lot’ is not an object but an adverb. It doesn’t represent what the person snores but rather how or how much she snores.

Some verbs are always transitive, such as to recognise or to merit. It is somewhat incorrect to say: “Ah, yes, I recognise” or she certainly does merit.

Double Object

Some transitive verbs have two objects. Those things that you do for someone or you give to someone are called direct objects. The person who receives the thing is called the indirect object.

Examples of Double Object

  1. The manager gave her the money.
  2. Mother is reading Michael a story.
  3. Nancy baked a cake for me.
  4. Can you fetch me a cup and a plate?

In above examples:

  • Verbs: ‘gave, reading, baked and fetch’.
  • Indirect object: ‘her, Michael, me, me’.
  • Direct object: ‘money, story, cake, cup and a plate’.