Verb Types in English

Cheerful group work
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This guide provides a look at common verb structures and patterns used in English. Each structure is explained and an example of correct usage is given.

Verb Structures and Patterns Guidelines

Verb TypeExplanationExamples
IntransitiveAn intransitive verb does not take a direct objectThey're sleeping.
They arrived late.
TransitiveA transitive verb takes a direct object. The direct object can be a noun, a pronoun or a clause.They bought the sweater.
He watched them.
LinkingA linking verb is followed by a noun or adjective which refers to the subject of the verb.The meal looked wonderful.
He felt embarrassed.

Verb Patterns

There are also many verb patterns which are common in English. When two verbs are used, it is especially important to notice which form the second verb takes (infinitive - to do - base form - do - verb ing - doing).

Verb PatternStructureExamples
verb infinitiveThis is one of the most common verb combination forms. Reference list of: Verb + InfinitiveI waited to begin dinner.
They wanted to come to the party.
verb + verb+ingThis is one of the most common verb combination forms. Reference list of: Verb + IngThey enjoyed listening to the music.
They regretted spending so much time on the project.
verb + verb+ing OR verb + infinitive - no change in meaningSome verbs can combine with other verbs using both forms without changing the basic meaning of the sentence.She started to eat dinner. OR She started eating dinner.
verb + verb ing OR verb + infinitive - change in meaningSome verbs can combine with other verbs using both forms. However, with these verbs, there is a change in the basic meaning of the sentence. This guide to verbs that change meaning provides explanations of the most important of these verbs.They stopped speaking to each other. => They don't speak to each other anymore.
They stopped to speak to each other. => They stopped walking in order to speak to each other.
verb + indirect object + direct objectAn indirect object is usually placed before a direct object when a verb takes both an indirect and direct object.I bought her a book.
She asked him the question.
verb + object + infinitiveThis is the most common form when a verb is followed by both an object and a verb. Reference list of: Verb + (Pro)Noun + InfinitiveShe asked her to find a place to stay.
They instructed them to open the envelope.
verb + object + base form (infinitive without 'to')This form is used with a few verbs (let, help and make).She made her finish her homework.
They let him go to the concert.
He helped him paint the house.
verb + object verb+ingThis form is less common than verb object infinitive.I observed them painting the house.
I heard her singing in the living room.
verb + object + clause with 'that'Use this form for a clause beginning with 'that'.She told him that she would work harder.
He informed him that he was going to resign.
verb + object + clause with 'wh-'Use this form for a clause beginning with wh- (why, when, where)They were instructed where to go.
She told me why she had done it.
verb + object + past participleThis form is often used when someone does something for someone else.He had his car washed.
They want the report finished immediately.