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]
- 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.