Verbs constitute one of the major word classes, including words for actions (e.g. shout, work, travel) and states (e.g. be, belong, remain). There are two main types of verb: main verbs and auxiliary verbs.

The surest way to identify verbs is by the ways they can be used: they can usually have a tense, either present tense or past tense (see also future).

  • He lives in Birmingham. [present tense]
  • The teacher wrote a song for the class. [past tense]

Verbs are sometimes called ‘doing words’ because many verbs name an action that someone does; while this can be a way of recognising verbs, it doesn’t distinguish verbs from nouns (which can also name actions). Moreover many verbs name states or feelings rather than actions.

  • He likes chocolate. [present tense; not an action]
  • He knew my father. [past tense; not an action]

Not verbs:

  • The walk to Halina’s house will take an hour. [noun]
  • All that surfing makes Morwenna so sleepy! [noun]

Verbs can be classified in various ways: for example, as auxiliary verbs, or modal verbs; as transitive verbs or intransitive verbs; and as states or events.

Be aware that in the National Curriculum a sequence of one or more auxiliaries together with a main verb are regarded as forms of the main verb. For example, have eaten is a form (the perfect form) of the verb eat, and will have been being seen is a form of the verb see. In other frameworks such sequences are regarded as verb phrases.

Nouning verbs

A quick activity looking at how some words can be both nouns and verbs

This is a simple starter activity that will help your students see how some words can function as both nouns and verbs. The activity is designed to be carried out in pairs around the class. One student be the noun and the other will be the verb. Each will need the same word list (which you can download and print below) or you can just use the word list on the screen.

Derived nouns and composition

In this activity we will look at suffixes that can change adjectives and verbs into nouns.

Derived nouns and composition: Activity 1

Complete the examples with nouns which are derived from the highlighted adjectives. The first answer is provided for you.

Anna was late. It annoyed me. → Anna's lateness annoyed me.

Jeff is shy. I didn’t notice this until the party. → I didn’t notice Jeff’s ___ until the party. I didn’t notice Jeff’s shyness until the party.

Derived nouns and composition: Activity 2

Complete the examples with nouns which are derived from the highlighted adjectives. The first answer is provided.

The peacekeeping forces withdrew. It led to civil war. → The withdrawal of the peacekeeping forces led to civil war.

Noun endings

Exploring suffixes and how they affect word class

In this activity we will look at suffixes which change verbs and adjectives into nouns. This process is a part of derivational morphology

Subject-Verb Agreement

In this lesson, students select the correct verb to compose an acceptable sentence.


  • Practise composing sentences with appropriate Subject-Verb agreement.
  • Identify acceptable patterns in Standard English.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will select the correct verb on the smart board, to construct acceptable sentences.

Subject-Verb Agreement: 'Be' verbs

really weird.

Tense and aspect in fiction

In this activity we will examine some short extracts from novels. The idea is to look at the tense and aspect forms used, and think about how they are used to unfold the action of the story.

Tense and aspect in fiction: Activity

It was after supper, and I was reading and smoking at the table. Algie was playing patience and drumming a tattoo with his fingers, and Gus was outside checking on the dogs. Suddenly he burst in. 'Chaps! Outside, quick!'

Verb endings

In this activity we will look at suffixes which change adjectives and nouns into verbs. This process is a part of derivational morphology

Verb identification

In this activity, students work through the criteria for identifying verbs.

Verb identification: Activity 1

Which words do you think are verbs?

Verb identification: Activity 2

He played cricket with Charlie.

Is played a verb?

  • Is it a doing word?
  • Can it show tense? Can you say Yesterday, I ____ed, for example?
  • Does it add -s to agree with a Subject like he or she, as in He ___s.
  • Can it take an -ing ending?

He played cricket with Charlie.

Is cricket a verb?

Verb images

This lesson asks students to think about tense and aspect, what they mean, and how else we can communicate those meanings.


  • Identify verb tense and aspect. 
  • Explain the meaning of verb tense and aspect. 
  • Use multimodal literacy skills to present information from words as pictures. 

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will be describing some pictures using language, and then drawing some pictures to describe language.

Verbs in fiction

In this lesson, students identify verbs in fictional extracts and discuss the value of choosing verbs carefully in their own writing.

Verbs in fiction: Activity

Verbs in persuasive language

In this lesson, students will analyse persuasive language in a charity appeal, and then write their own charity appeal. There is a particular focus on the way modal auxiliary verbs can be used to persuade.


  • Identify modal auxiliary verbs.
  • Analyse persuasive language.
  • Practise writing persuasively.

Lesson Plan

Activity 1

Verbs in persuasive language: Activity 1

Activity 1

Identify the modal verbs in this extract by clicking on them, then check your score at the end.

Verbs in persuasive language: Activity 3

Activity 3

Write your own charity appeal, using the source material below. It is a statement from a charity about their aims and methods. Make use of a range of persuasive devices, including modal verbs.

The "Live Not Exist" charity has been set up with the following key aims:

Finite or nonfinite?

In each of the following sentences, indicate whether the highlighted verb is finite or nonfinite.

Identify the verbs

Click on the words that you think are verbs to select or deselect them.


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