10 Types of Verbs

This part of speech is best defined by its function rather than form

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Verbs move our sentences along in many different ways.

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A verb is customarily defined as a part of speech (or word class) that describes an action or occurrence or indicates a state of being. Understanding what a verb is can be a bit tricky, though.

Generally, it makes more sense to define a verb by what it does than by what it is. Just as the same word can serve as either a noun or a verb—"rain" or "snow," for example—the same verb can play various roles depending on how it's used.

Put simply, verbs move sentences along in many different ways. The 10 types of verbs defined here show some of their more common functions. 

Auxiliary and Lexical Verbs

An auxiliary verb (also known as a helping verb) determines the mood or tense of another verb in a phrase. In the sentence, "It will rain tonight," for example, the verb "will" helps the verb "rain" by explaining that the action will take place in the future. The primary auxiliaries are the various forms of be, have, and do. The modal auxiliaries include can, could, may, must, should, will, and would.

A lexical verb (also known as a full or main verb) is any verb in English that isn't an auxiliary verb: It conveys a real meaning and doesn't depend on another verb, such as, "It rained all night."

Dynamic Verbs and Verbs

A dynamic verb indicates an action, process, or sensation: "I bought a new guitar." A stative verb (such as be, have, know, like, own, and seem) describes a state, situation, or condition: "Now I own a Gibson Explorer."

Finite and Nonfinite Verbs

A finite verb expresses tense and can occur on its own in a main clause: "She walked to school." A nonfinite verb (an infinitive or participle) doesn't show a distinction in tense and can occur on its own only in a dependent phrase or clause: "While walking to school, she spotted a bluejay."

Regular and Irregular Verbs

A regular verb (also known as a weak verb) forms its past tense and past participle by adding -d or -ed (or in some cases -t) to the base form: "We finished the project." An irregular verb (also known as a strong verb) doesn't form the past tense by adding -d or -ed: "Gus ate the wrapper on his candy bar." 

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

A transitive verb is followed by a direct object: "She sells seashells." By contrast, an intransitive verb doesn't take a direct object: "She sat there quietly." This distinction is especially tricky because many verbs have both transitive and intransitive functions.

More Verb Functions

The previous 10 examples do not cover everything that verbs can do. Causative verbs, for example, show that some person or thing helps to make something happen. Catenative verbs join with other verbs to form a chain or series. Copular verbs link the subject of a sentence to its complement.

Then there are performative, mental-stateprepositional, iterative, and reporting verbs. Additionally, there are passive versus subjunctive moods. Though they can show tense and mood, verbs are hard-working parts of speech that you can use in your writing and speaking to make things happen in many different ways.

Source

  • Pinker, Steven. The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature. Penguin Books, 2010.