There are various types of verbs and verb forms that you need to understand in order to successfully use the English Language.
Read through the page or click on the verb type in the box to go to the explanation of that particular verb. The types are:
Most people often tend to think of verbs as 'action words' or 'doing words' as this is usually how they are first learned at school.
Many do express actions in relation to the subject of the sentence (e.g. jump, walk, draw) but others express things such as mental conditions (e.g. love, believe, doubt), existence (e.g. exist, become) and relationships (e.g. determine, depend).
And other types of verbs are not directly related to expressing what the subject is doing, instead possibly being used to add more information to a main verb or noun. Or they may be used to form adjectives and nouns.
Where verbs come in a sentence depends on what types of verbs they are. Take a look at the following text. The verbs are highlighted in blue:
Jack said that he wanted to see me, but I am not sure whether to believe him. To make him really understand how I feel I think I should have a talk with him as soon as possible.
Usually every sentence must have one verb. Some types of verbs (the main verb) follow after the subject but as you can see from the example above, they can vary in their positions depending on the type of verb it is.
The first types of verbs are main verbs. Main verbs are finite, which means they have a subject and a tense form.
The general structure of a clause is that it has a subject and a main verb, which can take various forms, such as the past, present, or future tense.
A main verb (also known as principle verb, primary verb, or lexical verb) is the most important verb in the sentence.
It can be recognised as it comes after the subject:
This type of verb can be an action or stative verb, meaning it expresses the action or state of the subject of the sentence. It can also be a copular (linking) verb. It will also be transitive or intransitive.
These types of verbs are the primary way that main verbs can be distinguished. Action verbs (also knows as dynamic verbs) express something the subject does.
In contrast to this, state verbs (also known as stative verbs) express a state of mind or mental process.
The main differences are set out below.
Main action verbs express what the subject can do, and so are dynamic.
They can be used in any tense.
State verbs express a state of mind, such as an opinion, emotion, sense or preference.
They cannot be used in the continuous tenses:
Learn more about Stative Verbs >>>
As well as action and state verbs, main verbs can also be copular verbs, also commonly known as linking or complementary verbs. These types of verbs are a subset of state verbs as they are ways in which to express a state of being.
The main purpose of them is to identify the subject, in which case they are followed by a noun or noun phrase:
Or to describe the subject, in which case they are followed by an adjective or adjective phrase:
Copular verbs cannot be used alone and need a subject complement (i.e. we can't say 'He seems' or Peter was').
Learn more about Copular Verbs >>
Transitive and intransitive verbs are types of action verbs, though linking verbs are also intransitive verbs.
It's not possible to tell whether a verb is transitive or intransitive just by looking at the verb. It would need to be worked out from the context of the sentence.
These types of verbs require a direct object after them to complete their meaning.
Without the direct object, they would not make sense:
Intransitive Action Verbs:
These are action verbs that do not need a direct object after them.
They make sense alone or with a complement:
Intransitive Linking Verbs:
Linking (Copular) verbs are also intransitive, and these need a noun or adjective complement:
Learn more about transitive and intransitive verbs >>
These are verbs that take two objects: a direct object and an indirect object.
The direct object is the noun that directly receives the action of the verb while the indirect object is the noun that answers questions about the direct object, such as to whom, for whom, or for what?
Learn more about ditransitive verbs >>
The second types of verbs are auxiliary verbs. They are used to add functional or grammatical meaning to other verbs. So rather than being main verbs, they may be used with a main verb in order to change its function or meaning.
Auxiliary verbs are also know as helping verbs. The two main types of auxiliary verb are:
Be, do, have and will are three auxiliary verbs that have a variety of functions.
The first of these is to make the various tenses. The key ones used are:
Here are some examples:
These auxiliaries are then moved around to make Questions and Negative Forms. We make questions by moving the first auxiliary verb to the start of the clause:
Negative forms of sentences are made by adding not or 'nt to the first auxiliary:
Since the affirmative forms of the present simple and past simple don't have auxiliaries, we use the following auxiliary verbs to make questions and negative forms:
Here are some examples:
We also use these types of verbs to make the Passive Voice:
As modal verbs are auxiliary verbs, they again have to be used along with a main verb, not on their own.
Modal verbs are followed by the main verb in the infinitive form (see below for infinitive verbs). Here are the main modal verbs with an example and their function:
These types of verbs can also make questions. In this case they come before the subject:
As noted above modal verbs are used with the infinitive for of the verb which is discussed next.
Learn more about modal verbs >>
'Used to' is also a modal verb but a ‘marginal’ modal verb as it is only used in the past tense. It's therefore only used with the auxiliary verb did for negatives or questions. It's used to talk about past habits or states that are no longer true.
The third types of verbs are infinitives.
It was explained above that main verbs are finite, which means they have a subject and a tense form. However, infinitives are non-finite as unlike main verbs they:
These are the base form of a verb and their form is the same as the base form of the present simple that follows I, you, we and they.
This illustrates this difference:
Main Verb (present simple):
I like my Doctor.
Main Verb + Infinitive:
I like to see my Doctor regularly
'See' is the same as the base form of the present simple (i.e. I see, you see etc) but it is not being used as part of the present simple tense ('like' is the verb with the tense i.e. the main verb).
There are two types of infinitive:
They have a variety of uses, but these are some of the common uses with examples:
One way we use the bare infinitive (no 'to') is after the auxiliaries (do, does, did) in questions and negatives when making the present or past simple tenses:
We also use them after some verb + object combinations, such as 'make' and 'let' and perception verbs:
We can though also use the -ing form after these verbs of perception (e.g. ...coming in).
We also use the bare infinitive after why...? and why not...?:
And we use it after try and, come and, and go and:
Another grammatical class are -ing forms of verbs. They are verbs that end in -ing. For example: eating, drinking, sleeping.
Their main uses are:
Although -ing forms of verbs can be considered as one grammatical class, they are also often considered as two separate classes:
The -ing form of the verb can function as a noun, and when it does this is is called a gerund.
Here are the ways that gerunds are used:
Present participles have various functions but there are two main ones. One is as adjectives and the other is to form the continuous or progressive tenses.
Adjectives can be spotted as they come before the noun. Forms of -ing in the continuous tenses are evident as they are used with an auxiliary verb such as 'be'.
Multiwords verbs are types of verbs that are created by combining a verb (e.g. come, go, give, look, take) with an adverb and/or a preposition (e.g. back, off, away, out, on).
They are also known as phrasal verbs, prepositional verbs, or phrasal-prepositional verbs, depending on how they are constructed.
They can be a main verb (i.e. have a subject and verb that takes a tense) but they can also be infinitive:
They are treated as a unique grammatical class because when combined they function as inseparable parts of a single unit. In other words, the words have to be placed together to give their particular meaning.
Here are some examples of each. Note that in some cases the phrasal verb can broken up by the direct object.
Phrasal verbs are formed by combining a main verb and an adverb particle.
Some of the most common adverb particles used to form phrasal verbs are: at, around, down, away, off, in, on, over, out, round, over, up:
View some more Phrasal Verb Examples >>
Prepositional verbs consist of a verb and a preposition:
Phrasal-prepositional verbs are formed with a verb, a particle and a preposition:
These types of verbs consist of a verb, a particle and a preposition.
Learn more about Multi-word Verbs >>
The types of verbs we have looked at on this page are:
Some of these are specifically verbs but some, such as present participles and gerunds, are formed from verbs.
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