Verbs: what are they?



As you may remember from grade school English grammar lessons, a verb is a word that expresses actions (i.e., to do), states of being (i.e., to be), or possession (i.e., to have). In this section we will look at the various types of verbs and their function; in the next section we will examine tenses and conjugation in detail.





Irregular vs Regular Verbs


Before discussing tenses and time aspects of verbs, students should be made aware of the two categories of verbs:


  1. Regular (i.e., talk, laugh, punch, kick, call, cry, etc.)
  2. Irregular (i.e., make, run, drink, eat, fall, bring, think, etc.)


The difference between regular and irregular verbs is the pattern they follow when they are conjugated into the past tense:


1. Regular: add “-ed” or “-d”


  • talk > talked
  • laugh > laughed
  • punch > punched
  • kick > kicked
  • call > called
  • cry > cried


2. Irregular: various forms


  • make > made
  • run > ran
  • drink > drank
  • eat > ate
  • bring > brought
  • think > thought


Types of Verbs


1. Auxiliary verbs: These are used in conjunction with main verbs in affirmative sentences, negative sentences, and question formation (be, do, have, shall, should, will, would, can, could, may, might, must, and ought to). For example:


Auxiliary verb | main verb


  • I am | going home. (affirmative)
  • They do not | know what they are doing. (negative)
  • Could you | give me a ride? (question)


2. Main verbs: These can stand alone in a sentence (“He exercises,” “They left,” etc.), or express the main idea when there is more than one verb in the sentence (“She went running,” “We haven’t seen them today,” etc.). Some verbs can be used as both auxiliary and main verbs, such as “have” and “do” (“Did you do your homework?” “You have enough toys!” etc.). Other examples of main verbsinclude:


  • “I ran 10 miles today.”
  • “He did give her a bouquet of flowers this morning.”
  • “The teacher punishedus because we were whispering in class.”



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