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10.04: Verbs

  • Page ID
    25430
    • Alexandra Glynn, Kelli Hallsten-Erickson & Amy Jo Swing
    • North Hennepin Community College & Lake Superior College

    Once you locate the subject of a sentence, you can move on to the next part of a complete sentence: the verb. A verb is often an action word that shows what the subject is doing. A verb can also link the subject to a describing word. There are three types of verbs that we see in sentences: action verbs, linking verbs, and helping verbs. Action verbs and linking verbs can be the main verbs (governing verbs) of a sentence. Helping verbs are not.

    Action verbs

    A verb that connects the subject to an action is called an action verb. An action verb answers the question, “What is the subject doing?” In the following sentences, the subject is bold and the verb is italicized.

    The dog barked at the runner.

    The man gave a speech about greenhouse gases.

    Linking verbs

    A verb can often connect the subject of the sentence to a describing word. This type of verb is called a linking verb because it links the subject to a describing word. In the following sentences, the subject is bold and the verb is italicized.

    The coat was old and dirty.

    The clock seems slow.

    If you have trouble telling the difference between action verbs and linking verbs, remember that an action verb shows that the subject is doing something, whereas a linking verb simply connects the subject to another word that describes or modifies the subject. A few verbs can be used as either action verbs or linking verbs.

    Action: The boy looked for his glove.

    Linking: The boy looked tired.

    Although both sentences use the same verb, the two sentences have completely different meanings. In the first sentence, the verb describes the boy’s action. The verb, in this case, takes an object, which in this sentences is “glove.” Some verbs take objects. Some verbs do not. In the second sentence, the verb describes the boy’s appearance. It says, in essence, boy=___.

    Helping verbs

    A third type of verb you may use as you write is a helping verb. Helping verbs are used with the main (or governing) verb to indicate a mood or tense. They are usually a form of be, do, or have. The word can is also used as a helping verb. In the following sentences, the subject is in bold, the helping verb is underlined, and the verb is italicized.

    The restaurant is known for a variety of dishes.

    She does speak up when prompted in class.

    We have seen that movie seventeen times.

    She can tell when someone walks on her lawn.

    Propositional phrases

    Sometimes prepositional phrases will throw off your hunt for subjects and verbs when you're trying to determine if a sentence is complete. A prepositional phrase begins with prepositions, like in, on, under, near, by, with, and about, and they often include nouns (remember: a noun is a person, place, thing, or idea). For example:

    Under the moon

    By the bodega

    In love with you

    In these prepositional phrases, the preposition is in bold.

    When you’re looking for the subject or verb in a sentence, it will never be in the prepositional phrase. Check out the following sentence:

    Charles wandered through the aisles in the hardware store on the corner.

    This sentence has three prepositional phrases:

    through the aisles

    in the hardware store 

    on the corner

    Whew! So, if you cross out all those prepositional phrases in the sentence, finding the subject and verb is easy:

    Charles wandered through the aisles in the hardware store on the corner.

    All of this explanation of the simple sentence is to help you spot and avoid some of the most common errors in writing: run-on and sentence fragments.

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