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A Summary of Verbs

We’re going to return to verbs in more detail below, but now let’s summarize what you’ve learned. For right now, you need to remember that all verbs break down into five groups.

A Summary of Verbs

 Verbs break down into five groups:

1. action transitive verbs, which can form a direct relationship with a noun, called a direct object,

2. action intransitive verbs, which cannot stick directly to a noun and need the help of a preposition,

3. the verb to be, which as a main verb links a grammatical subject to an adjective, another noun, or a phrase, and as an auxiliary verb forms the progressive tense and the passive voice, and

4. linking verbs, which link a grammatical subject to an adjective, another noun, or a phrase.

The fifth group comprises the:

5. auxiliary verbs, which join with main verbs to form tenses; ask questions; create negatives; and show various conditions, abilities, and obligations.

We also explored four forms of the verb:

1. Infinitive Verb. The infinitive form of the verb is the word you would ordinarily look up in the dictionary (write). We use the base infinitive, without the word to, to form many of the tenses. The one-word present tense (I write, you write) uses the infinitive, the sole exception being third-person singular, which adds an ‑s, ‑ies, or ‑es (he or she writes) The past tense has its own form (wrote). Then we form the future tense by joining the base infinitive with shall (England, though many Brits now use will for all persons) or will (America) (you will write, she will write).

The base infinitive also joins with auxiliary verbs to show various conditions, orders, grants of permission, negations, and many other states of verbs (you should write, you used to write, she ought to write).

Put the word to in front of the infinitive, and you have what we think of as the infinitive form of the verb. The infinitive does not specify any finite time dimension or any specific person performing the action of the verb or any particular number of people performing the action. The infinitive can join with other words and form what’s called an infinitive phrase, which can act as a noun (He wanted to write a grammar book), an adjective (The hardest book to write is a grammar book), or an adverb (To write a grammar book, you must practice your skills as a writer and be a little bit crazy).

2. Finite Verb. The finite form of the verb is the verb appearing in its conjugated states. The finite verb reveals when something happens (tense), who’s doing it (person), how many are doing it (number), and the nature of the statement (mood). We saw that our language provides six major tenses (present, past, future, present perfect, past perfect, and future perfect) and six additional progressive tenses to show an ongoing action (present progressive, past progressive, future progressive, present-perfect progressive, past-perfect progressive, and future-perfect progressive). We also saw how to conjugate those verbs that are regular (they form their past tense and past participle the same way, usually by adding ‑ed) and those that are irregular (they use different words for their past tense and past participle).

3. Present Participle. Every verb has a present participle. To form it, add ‑ing. You might have to drop an ending silent ‑e (writing) or double up an ending consonant (occurring) (check the dictionary). The ‑ing verb shows up in verb conjugation when it joins with the verb to be to form the six progressive tenses (We are writing a grammar book). But the ‑ing verb does far more when it forms a phrase. It acts as a noun (gerund) (Writing a grammar book was fun), as an adjective (The guy writing the grammar book is nuts), or sometimes as an adverb (He went nuts writing a grammar book). It also serves as a one-word adjective (The grammar book won the writing award).

4. Past Participle. Every verb also has a past participle. For the regular verbs, add ‑ed (or sometimes ‑d or ‑t). Sometimes you must double up an ending consonant (occurred) (check the dictionary). For irregular verbs, complete this sentence and you’ll discover the past participle: I have [insert verb] (written). If you do not know the past participle, check the dictionary, which will list the past tense first, the past participle second, and the present participle third. The past participle also shows up in verb conjugation, but it serves not one role like the present participle, but two roles. It joins the verb to have and forms the perfect tenses (He has written the grammar book). It joins the verb to be to form the passive voice (The grammar book was written by me). Further, as we saw with the infinitive and the present participle, the past participle forms the past-participial phrase, which can act only as an adjective (Written in 2001, the grammar book sold millions of copies). The past participle also serves as a one-word adjective (the written agreement).

This section has been no cakewalk. I realize that. So if you remain confused about verbs, I have a suggestion: Read the above material again. To become a member of The Writers’ Club, you must understand verbs.

So let’s look a bit more at verbs and see what functions they perform in our language.

Hard Copy

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Next: Verbs – What They Do

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