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Five Kinds of Verbs - An Overview

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  Ed Good  —  Grammar Tips
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F. Scott Fitzgerald is quoted as saying, “All fine prose is based on the verbs carrying the sentence.”

Let’s look back and make certain we all understand the five kinds of verbs. Broadly, we have two groups of main verbs, action and no-action, which further break down into four types of main verbs.

Action Verbs

1. Transitive verbs are those action verbs that can have a noun attached directly to them, as in write book, hit ball, or answer questions.

2. Intransitive verbs are those action verbs that cannot attach directly to a noun; they need the help of a preposition, as in walk to the store, comply with the regulations, proceed with the inquiry.

No-Action Verbs

3. The verb to be can serve either as a main verb or as an auxiliary verb. When it acts as a main verb, it typically couples a grammatical subject with an adjective (predicate adjective), as in John is big or The sunset is beautiful. Or it couples a grammatical subject with another noun (predicate noun), as in Mary is president or War is hell.

Or it might couple a grammatical subject with a phrase, as in

The book is on the table


He is from the South.

When it acts as an auxiliary verb, the verb to be forms the progressive tense, as in We are studying grammar, or the passive voice, as in The ball was hit by John.

4. Linking verbs are non-be verbs that link a grammatical subject to an adjective (Watermelon tastes good), to a noun (She seems an honest woman), or to a phrase (He looks out of sorts).

Those are the four types of main verbs: (1) action transitive, (2) action intransitive, (3) no‑action to be, and (4) no‑action linking.

5. The fifth kind of verb is not a main verb, but an (5) auxiliary verb, also called a helping verb. It does not form a sentence all by itself. Instead, it hooks up with a main verb and helps it show various tenses or conditions or states, as in By the time I arrived, he had completed the assignment.

Now it’s time to take a look at the various forms of a verb, particularly its infinitive, finite, and two participial forms.

Hard Copy

You may download our entire discussion of the Parts of Speech. Simply download the Grammar eBook Understanding the Parts of Speech.


Previous: Auxiliary Verbs - Called “Helping Verbs” Next: Four Principal Parts or Forms of Verbs

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