Mentor Josephan's English Verbs Primer
Verbs are the most important component of any sentence. These words talk about the action or the state of any noun or subject. This means that verbs show what the subject is doing or what is the state or situation of the subject.
The verb is king in English. The shortest sentence contains a verb. You can make a one-word sentence with a verb, for example: “Stop!” You cannot make a one-word sentence with any other type of word.
Verbs are sometimes described as “action words”. This is partly true. Many verbs give the idea of action, of “doing” something.
For example, words like run, fight, do and work all convey action.
But some verbs do not give the idea of action; they give the idea of existence of, state of, “being”.
For example, verbs like be, exist, seem and belong all convey state of being or existence.
A verb always has a subject. In the sentence “John speaks English”, John is the subject and speaks is the verb. In simple terms we can say that verbs are words that tell us what a subject does or is.
Action (Ram plays football.)
State of being (Anthony seems kind.)
Linking (Pasta taste good.)
Imagine that a stranger walk into your room and says:
People must. (people must what?)
The Earth will. (The Earth will what?)
These are not complete sentences. They do not make sense
There is something very special about verbs in English. Most other words (adjectives, adverbs, prepositions etc) do not change in form (although nouns can have singular and plural forms). But almost all verbs change in form.
For example, the verb to work has five forms:
To work, work, works, worked, working
We divide verbs into two broad classifications:
Primary helping verbs (3 verbs)
These are the verbs be, do, and have. Note that we can use these three verbs as helping verbs or as main verbs. For now, we talk about them as helping verbs. We use them in the following cases:
to make continuous tenses (He is watching TV.)
to make the passive (Small fish are eaten by big fish.)
to make perfect tenses (I have finished my homework.)
to make negatives (I do not like you.)
to ask questions (Do you want some coffee?)
to show emphasis (I do want you to pass your exam.)
to stand for a main verb in some constructions (He speaks faster than she does.) (she does -speak faster)
Modal helping verbs (10 verbs)
We use modal helping verbs to “modify” the meaning of the main verb in some way. A modal helping verb expresses necessity or possibility, and changes the main verb in that sense.
These are the modal verbs:
can, could I can run very fast -- I wish I could run very fast
may, might May I come with you? -- I might let you come with me if you give me a kiss.
will, would Will you give me your love? -- I would, if you were not so mean to me.
shall, should How shall I kiss you? -- You should kiss me with all your heart.
must You must think you are so handsome. - There must be something you like about me.
ought to You ought to be humbler. -- I ought to be, but I’m not.
Now imagine that the same stranger walks into your room and says:
I teach. (You teach what?) -- I teach English
People eat. (What do people eat?) -- People eat at restaurants.
The Earth rotates. (What about the Earth rotates?) -- The Earth rotates around
Transitive and intransitive verbs
A transitive verb takes a direct object: Somebody killed the President. I saw an elephant. We are watching TV. He speaks English.
An intransitive verb does not have a direct object: He died. I failed. You stop. He shouts.
Many verbs, like speak, can be transitive or intransitive. Look at these examples:
Considered alone, a linking verb does not have much meaning. It “links” the subject to what is said about the subject. Usually, a linking verb shows equality or a change to a different state or place. Linking verbs are always intransitive (but not all intransitive verbs are linking verbs).
Mary is a teacher. (mary = teacher)
Tara is beautiful. (tara = beautiful)
That sounds interesting. (that = interesting)
The sky became dark. (the sky > dark)
The bread has gone bad. (bread > bad)
Dynamic and Stative verbs
Some verbs describe action. They are called “dynamic”, and can be used with continuous tenses.
Dynamic verbs (examples): hit, explode, fight, run, go
I always hit the ball. Did the bomb explode? I like to fight. I cannot run. Please go.
Other verbs describe state (non-action, a situation). They are called “Stative”, and cannot normally be used with continuous tenses
Stative verbs (examples): be, like, love, prefer, wish, impress, please, surprise, hear, see, sound, belong to, consist of, contain, include, need, appear, resemble, seem.
Please be good. I like you. Do you love me? I prefer you. For what will I wish? Impress me. Please me. Surprise me. Can you hear? Do you see? I like the sound. Who does this belong to? What does this consist of? What does this contain? Include this. Understand my need. Appear interested. Resemble something? How does it seem?
Regular and irregular verbs
This is more a question of vocabulary than of grammar. The only real difference between regular and irregular verbs is that they have different endings for their past tense and past participle forms. For regular verbs, the past tense ending and past participle ending is always the same: -ed. For irregular verbs, the past tense ending and the past participle ending is variable, so it is necessary to learn them by heart.
Regular verbs: base, past tense, past participle
look, looked, looked -ex- Look at him. I looked at him. He looked good.
work, worked, worked -ex- Work with me. You worked with me. She worked there.
Irregular verbs: base, past tense, past participle
Let’s buy some food. I bought the food yesterday, The food was cut yesterday.
Let’s cut the bread. I cut the bread yesterday. Yesterday the bread was cut.
Let’s do this. We did this already. That was done yesterday.
Well, there you have it, English verbs in a nutshell. So, here is my recommendation on getting this primer to become part of your active English speaking - Read a lot with a focus on word form; and, Write, Write, Write, with someone to critically review your writing.
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