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2.13: Verbs: Introduction and Overview

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    Introduction to Verbs

    The verb is the core (center, foundation) for the English sentence. We cannot have a sentence without a verb. When trying to decide if a sentence is complete and correct, we usually look for the verb first. Verbs are so important, we can even have sentences that are only one word--the verb...

    • Study!
    • Help!
    • Eat!

    Action Verbs

    Some people say the verb is the part of the sentence that shows an action. Do all of these words show action?

    • Tornado
    • Wave
    • Windy


    In fact, these words are nouns (tornado, wave) and an adjective (windy), even though they show activity

    Which of these words show action? Which are verbs?

    • Think
    • Understand
    • Show
    • Laugh


    All these words are verbs. Some are about activity (show, laugh) and some are not (think, understand)

    So what makes a word a verb?

    • A verb shows tense (time)
      • Past--flew
      • Present--flies
      • Future--will fly
    • A verb shows aspect
      • Simple--flew, flies
      • Continuous--is flying, was flying
      • Perfect--has flown, had flown

    Verbs in Past Tense

    One way to decide if a word is a verb is to look at the changes you can make to the word. Can you add -ed for past? Does the word change to show past tense?

    Which of these words can show past tense by changing form or adding -ed?

    • Tornado
    • Windy
    • Think
    • Understand
    • Show
    • Laugh
    • Wave
    • Fly


    • Tornado (noun--no change)
    • Windy (adjective--no change)
    • Think (verb--thought)
    • Understand (verb--understood)
    • Show (verb--showed)
    • Laugh (verb--laughed)
    • Wave (noun--no change)
    • Fly (verb--flew)


    Verbs use auxiliaries to make questions and negatives and to show different voices and aspects. The auxiliaries are: "be," "do," and "have," plus modals. "Do," "be," and "have" can also change tense...

    • Do, does, did
    • Have, has, had
    • Be, am, is, are, was, were

    We use "do" to make questions and negatives in the simple aspect

    • Simple present:
      • EX: Do you want a souvenir?
      • EX: I do not want a souvenir
    • Simple past:
      • EX: Did you visit the art museum?
      • EX: I did not visit the art museum

    We use "be" to make the continuous aspect

    • Present continuous:
      • EX: She is picnicking at the park
      • EX: Are they flying a kite?
      • EX: No, they aren't flying a kite
    • Past continuous:
      • EX: We were sunbathing at the beach

    Remember, verbs in the continuous aspect always use "be." If you see -ing without "be," it's a gerund

    We use "have" to make the perfect aspect

    • Present perfect:
      • EX: Have you visited downtown San Diego?
      • EX: That family has immigrated to El Cajon
    • Past perfect:
      • EX: We had already seen the zoo

    Reading Exercise

    Now that you know what a verb is, try finding the verb in these sentences

    • The weather today is cool and breezy
    • East County, San Diego offers activities like hiking, camping, and mountain-biking
    • Last week, we went to the zoo and the park
    • Immigrants contribute many cultural benefits to our community
    • Julian, CA, has a variety of restaurants


    • The verb is "is"
    • The verb is "offers"
    • The verb is "went"
    • The verb is "contribute"
    • The verb is "has"

    2.13: Verbs: Introduction and Overview is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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