Verbs are one of the two essential parts of a sentence, along with nouns. You need both a noun and a verb to make a complete sentence.
In this article, we’ll explain what is a verb and how a verb functions in a sentence. You’ll also get to practice determining what the verb in a sentence is and what the different types of verbs are.
What Is a Verb: Verb Definition
Verbs are action words. They are used to express an action (like run, jump, hide, dance) or a state of being (like is, was, will be).
Verbs are a necessary part of a sentence. Without a verb, a sentence is not complete.
There are three main types of verbs: action verbs, linking verbs, and helping verbs.
What Is a Verb: Verb Types
Let’s take a deeper look at the three different types of verbs.
#1: Action Verbs
An action verb expresses an action: mental or physical. An action verb explains what the subject of a sentence is doing (or has done).
There are two types of action verbs: transitive and intransitive.
A transitive action verb is followed by a noun that’s receiving the action.
Example: I fed my dog.
The verb in the sentence is “fed.” The “dog” is the one receiving the action. In this example, the dog is the direct object because it’s directly receiving the action.
Transitive action verbs can also be followed by an indirect object.
Example: I gave my dog a kiss.
The verb in this sentence is “gave.” What was given is the “kiss,” which is the direct object. The kiss was given to the dog, which is the indirect object.
An intransitive action verb has no direct object. An intransitive verb can be followed by an adverb (or an adverbial phrase), but it will never have a direct object.
Example: My dog runs.
The verb in this sentence is “runs.” It doesn’t have a direct object.
Example: My dog runs quickly.
The verb in this sentence is “runs.” The adverb “quickly” tells more about how the dog runs.
Action verb examples:
- My cousin went home.
- I showed the video to my mom.
- Rose ran into the store.
#2: Linking Verbs
A linking verb is a verb that links the subject of a sentence to a noun or adjective that gives more information about the subject.
Example: My brother is a college student.
The subject of the sentence is “my brother.” The linking verb “is” links the subject to the additional information — that my brother is “a college student.”
The most common linking verbs are the forms of “to be,” such as am, is, are, was, were, etc.
Other verbs can be linking verbs, too.
Example: My sister feels sad.
The linking verb “feels” gives more information about the subject “my sister.”
Linking verb examples:
- My sister looked exhausted after her performance.
- Nick fell silent when he read the letter.
- The pizza tastes delicious.
- My cat is playful.
#3: Helping Verbs
As their name indicates, helping verbs are used to help the main verb. Helping verbs are used to express tense or to add emphasis to a sentence.
Example: I am eating cake tonight.
In this sentence, the helping verb “am” assists the main verb “eating.” The helping verb “am” indicates that the pizza eating is happening right now (so it expresses tense). It can also be used to add emphasis: adding italics (“I am eating pizza tonight”), for example, indicates the importance of the choice.
Helping verb examples:
- To be: am, is, are, was, were, be, been
- To have: have, has, had
- To do: do, does, did
- ought to
What's a Verb: Example Questions
Let’s practice. In the following examples, identify the verb and the type of verb it is.
You should go home and lie down.
Verb: “should go”
Verb Type: Helping
The verb in the sentence is “should go.” “Should go” is a helping verb because it gives information about tense, while also adding emphasis to what the subject (“you”) needs to do.
The food smelled rotten after it was left out all night.
Verb Type: Linking
“Smelled” is a linking verb because it provides more information about the subject, “food.” It links the subject to the part of the sentence that gives more details.
The students jumped at the chance for a break.
Verb Type: Action
The verb in the sentence is “jumped.” It expresses what the students are doing.
Final Thoughts: Verb Definition
What are verbs? Verbs are action words. There are three types of verbs: action, linking, and helping.
Verb sentences can do many things. because there are multiple verb meanings. Action verbs explain what the subject of the sentence is doing. Linking verbs link the subject of a sentence to a noun or adjective that gives more information about the subject. Helping verbs assist the main verb in the sentence.
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Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.