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Verbs: Definition and Examples

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Every sentence needs a verb—a word that describes an action or state of being. Here’s a quick guide on this part of speech and how to use them.

Every sentence requires at least one verb.
Every sentence requires at least one verb.
What Are Verbs?
  • A verb is the action word of a sentence but can also describe a state of being.
  • There are a seemingly endless number of verbs, but a few examples are (to) jump, (to) sat, (to) walked—and the less obvious: (to) be, can, and, will.
    • The kids will jump on the trampoline.

Verbs are as essential to a sentence as bread is to a sandwich. Without verbs, sentences wouldn’t be, well, sentences! This quick guide will teach you the basics about these vital words.

What Is a Verb?

A verb is one of the eight parts of speech (a category which words fall under, depending on their function within a sentence). Verbs are one of the most important parts of speech because every sentence requires at least one verb. A few examples of verbs are:

  • sing, explore, dance, walk, trot, suspect, say, change, will, can, be

Below, we’ll briefly define a few different types of verbs and provide examples.

How To Identify A Verb

To identify a verb, figure out what action is taking place.

  • My bird escaped from its cage.

In this sentence, escaped is the action and therefore the verb.

However, verbs can be more than just action words. Memorizing the different forms of to be can also help you identify verbs in a sentence.

Additionally, you can use the process of elimination by determining which words are nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.

What Are the Verb Tenses?

Verb tenses indicate when the action took place. It can be either the past, present, or future.

Verb Tenses
Simple Past
Yesterday, I practiced after school.
Past Perfect
I had practiced for three years before my first recital.
Past Continuous
I was practicing yesterday when you called.
Past Perfect Continuous
I had been practicing throughout all of high school before I got accepted to The Julliard School.
Simple Present
I practice every day.
Present Perfect
I have practiced a lot to become as good as possible.
Present Continuous
I am practicing right now.
Present Perfect Continuous
I have been practicing since I was two years old.
Simple Future
Tomorrow, I will practice before class.
Future Perfect
I will have practiced for at least 10,000 before I become the world’s greatest pianist.
Future Continuous
I will be practicing at that time.
Future Perfect Continuous
I will have been practicing for four hours before tonight’s talent show.

Please note that the continuous tense is the same as the progressive tense.

As shown in the last example from the table above, verbs can contain more than one word. Will, have, been, and practicing are all verbs. Other multi-word verbs include:

  • Phrasal verbs: I gave away the kitty
  • Prepositional verbs: I can always count on my best friend.
  • Phrasal-prepositional verbs: My daughter looks up to Malala.

Verbs Are Vital

Verbs are complex words. It’s important to reiterate that the above explanation is just a brief introduction to this multifaceted part of speech. Referring back to this quick guide plus using LanguageTool as your writing assistant is the perfect way to make sure you familiarize yourself with these essential words.

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