Explanation

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.

Irregular verbs form their past tense typically by a change of vowel (e.g. break-broke, see-saw, eat-ate). 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.

Main verb or auxiliary verb?

Is the highlighted verb a main verb or an auxiliary verb?

Y2 GPaS Test: Identify the verbs

Find the main verbs in a range of examples

Identify the main verb in each of the following examples. Click on the word (or words) to select or deselect them.

Y2 GPaS Test: Present or past tense?

In each of the following examples, indicate whether the highlighted verb is in present or past tense:

Y6 GPaS Test: Forms of 'be'

Select the correct form of be:

Y6 GPaS Test: Forms of 'be': Advanced

Select the correct form of be:

Y6 GPaS Test: Identify the modal verbs

Find the modal verbs in a range of examples

Identify the modal verbs in each of the following examples. Click on the word (or words) to select or deselect them.

Y6 GPaS Test: Identify the verbs

Find the verbs in a range of examples

Identify the verbs in each of the following examples. Click on the word (or words) to select or deselect them.

Y6 GPaS Test: Noun or verb?

In each of the following examples, indicate whether the highlighted word is a noun or a verb:

Y6 GPaS Test: Present or past tense?

In each of the following examples, indicate whether the highlighted verb is in present or past tense:

Y6 GPaS Test: Select the verb form

Select the correct verb form for each example.

Clauses

Clauses are considered to be very important units in the study of language. But what is a clause? What makes it different from a word, a phrase, or a sentence? Why are clauses so important?

A clause is a powerful structure because it can express a whole situation. Here’s an example:

Grammatical functions in the clause

The description of word classes, phrases, and clauses in terms of their structure is part of the study of form. We now turn to the study of grammar from the perspective of function: this notion refers to what words, phrases and clauses do as units of language.

Verb phrases

The National Curriculum does not recognise verb phrases as such. Instead, the notion of clause is defined as "a special type of phrase whose head is a verb".

Here at Englicious we use the term 'verb phrase' in a slightly different way. For us verb phrases are phrases whose Head word is a verb, called the main verb (sometimes also called a lexical verb).

A verb phrase includes a single main verb, either:

Verbs

Verbs have traditionally been described as ‘doing words’ or ‘action words’. This works well for some verbs, like sprint, chatter, eat. Here are some sentence examples with verbs which describe actions:

Verbs: Auxiliary verbs

A key distinction in the word class of verbs is between main verbs (also called lexical verbs) and auxiliary verbs:

Verbs: Modal verbs

Modal auxiliary verbs (or modals for short), as the name suggests, are a kind of auxiliary verb. They have most of the attributes of auxiliary verbs. They are a closed class that is identifiable as a short list, and they convey particular types of meaning.

Here is a table which lists the most important modal verbs (also called the core modals). It shows most of them in pairs as present and past tense forms, which makes them easier to remember.

Verbs: Nonfinite and finite

Verbs can be divided into finite and nonfinite forms. Finite verbs carry tense. So, past and present tense verb forms are finite. Nonfinite verbs do not carry tense, and do not show agreement with a Subject. Put differently, they are not 'limited' by tense or agreement.

The infinitive form of a verb is nonfinite. It is the form which follows to:

Verbs: Tense

Tense is a grammatical notion that refers to the way in which a language encodes the real world notion of time. Typically this is done through endings on verbs called inflections. Verbs are the only word class that can carry tense inflections (though they don't always do so). Verbs that carry a tense ending are called finite verbs.

Auxiliary verbs

What is an Auxiliary verb?

In this short video, we explain look at a special set of verbs, called auxiliary verbs.

Verbs

What is a verb? Is it right to call them 'doing words'?

In this short film, Professor Aarts shows the problems with defining verbs as 'doing words' and explains that English has no future tense.

»

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