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16.2: Verbs

A verb is the main word in the predicate of a sentence. The verb beginning the predicate will be an action, a helping, or a linking verb.

  • Action verbs denote movement.
    Example: Josh threw the ball. Jason kicked the football.
    Action verbs can usually be seen but not always.
    Example: Paul daydreamed during English class.
  • Linking verbs connect the subject to either an adjective or a noun (phrase)
    Examples: Jill was serious. (Serious is an adjective.) Jamal is a student. (“A student” is a noun phrase.)
  • Linking verbs link the relationship between the subject and the rest of the sentence. This type of verb explains the connection between the subject and its complement. The most common linking verb is “to be” and its forms: am, is, are, were, being, might, etc. True linking verbs are any form of “be” and act as the main verb in a sentence.
  • Helping verbs start the predicate and assists another verb.
    Example: Laktfi is helping Jane with her homework.
am been does may
is be didd might
are have shall must
was has will can
were had should could
being do would  
  • Words like was can be either linking verbs or helping verbs depending on what follows.
    Examples: Charisma was happy. (Was is a linking verb because happy is an adjective). Charisma was missing her mother. (Was is a helping verb because it is assisting the word missing).

Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

Label the underlined verb as either action, helping, or linking.

  1. John is going to need help with his homework. _____________
  2. Susan was trying to help him. ______________
  3. Bill thinks he knows everything. _____________
  4. Richard is happy watching the classroom activities. ___________
  5. Rashid runs from class the minute the bell rings. __________

Tips on Verb Use

  • Verbs need to agree with their subjects in number (singular or plural) and in person (first, second, or third). Find the verb and ask “who or what” is doing the action of that verb.
  • Verbs need to agree with compound subjects. To make verbs agree with their compound subjects, edit as follows:
    Incorrect: A pencil, a backpack, and a notebook was issued to each student.
    Corrected: A pencil, a backpack, and a notebook were issued to each student.
  • Verbs will never agree with nouns that are in prepositional phrases. To make verbs agree with their subjects, edit as follows:
    Incorrect: The direction of the three plays are the topic of my talk.
    Corrected: The direction of the three plays is the topic of my talk.
    The subject of my talk is “direction”, not “plays”.
  • In the English language, verbs usually follow subjects. But when this order is reversed, the writer must make the verb agree with the subject, not with a noun that happens to precede it. Edit as follows:
    Incorrect: Beside the house stands sheds filled with tools.
    Corrected: Beside the house stand sheds filled with tools.
    Because the subject is “sheds”; it is plural, so the verb must be” stand.” 

Verb Tenses

Tense in a verb helps to show when the action expressed by a verb takes place. The three simple tenses are the present tense, past tense, and future tense.

  • Present tense expresses an unchanging, repeated, or reoccurring action or situation that exists only now. It can also represent a widespread truth.
    Examples: The mountains are tall and white. (Unchanging action) Every year, the school council elects new members. (Recurring action) Pb is the chemical symbol for lead. (Widespread truth)
  • Past tense expresses an action or situation that was started and finished in the past. Most past tense verbs end in -ed. The irregular verbs have special past tense forms which must be memorized.
    Examples: W.W.II ended in 1945. (Regular -ed past tense) Ernest Hemingway wrote “The Old Man and the Sea.” (Irregular form)
  • Future tense expresses an action or situation that will occur in the future. This tense is formed by using will or shall with the simple form of the verb.
    Example: The speaker of the House will finish her term in May of 2012.
  • The future tense can also be expressed by using am, is, or are with going to.
    Example: The surgeon is going to perform the first bypass in Minnesota.
  • The present tense form can also be used with an adverb or adverbial phrase to show future time.
    Example: The president speaks tomorrow. (Tomorrow is a future time adverb.)
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