Parts of Speech: Verbs: All the Right Moves

Verbs: All the Right Moves

Verbs are words that name an action or describe a state of being. Verbs are seriously important, because there's no way to have a sentence without them.

While we're on the topic, every sentence must have two parts: a subject and a predicate.

  • A subject tells who or what the sentence is about. The subject is a noun or a pronoun.
  • A predicate tells what the subject is or does. The verb is found in the predicate.

There are four basic types of verbs: action verbs, linking verbs, helping verbs, verb phrases.

You Could Look It Up

Verbs are words that name an action or describe a state of being.

Strictly Speaking

The action of an action verb can be a visible action (such as gamble, walk, kvetch) or a mental action (such as think, learn, cogitate).

Quoth the Maven

To determine if a verb is transitive, ask yourself, “Who?” or “What?” after the verb. If you can find an answer in the sentence, the verb is transitive.

Action Verbs: Jumping Jack Flash

Action verbs tell what the subject does. For example: jump, kiss, laugh.

  • The mobsters broke Irving's kneecaps.
  • Some people worry about the smallest things.

An action verb can be transitive or intransitive. Transitive verbs need a direct object.

  • The boss dropped the ball.
  • The workers picked it up.

Intransitive verbs do not need a direct object.

  • Who called?
  • Icicles dripped from his voice.

Chain Gang: Linking Verbs

Linking verbs join the subject and the predicate. Linking verbs do not show action. Instead, they help the words at the end of the sentence name and describe the subject. Here are the most common linking verbs: be, feel, grow, seem, smell, remain, appear, sound, stay, look, taste, turn, become.

Although small in size as well as number, linking verbs are used a great deal. Here are two typical examples:

Quoth the Maven

To determine whether a verb is being used as a linking verb or an action verb, use am, are, or is for the verb. If the sentence makes sense with the substitution, the original verb is a linking verb.

  • The manager was happy about the job change.
  • He is a fool.

Many linking verbs can also be used as action verbs. For example:

  • Linking: The kids looked sad.
  • Action: I looked for the dog in the pouring rain.

Mother's Little Helper: Helping Verbs

Helping verbs are added to another verb to make the meaning clearer. Helping verbs include any form of to be. Here are some examples: do, does, did, have, has, had, shall, should, will, would, can, could, may, might, must.

Verb phrases are made of one main verb and one or more helping verbs.

  • They will run before dawn.
  • They do have a serious problem.


Identify each of the verbs in the following sentences. Remember to look for action verbs, linking verbs, and helping verbs.

  1. A group of chess enthusiasts had checked into a hotel.
  2. They were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories.
  3. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse.
  4. “But why?” they asked as they moved off.
  5. “Because,” he said, “I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer.”


  1. had checked
  2. were standing, discussing
  3. came, asked, disperse
  4. asked, moved
  5. said, can't stand, boasting

One more time, with gusto! Underline the verbs in each of these sentences.

  1. I can please only one person per day. Today is not your day.
  2. I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
  3. Tell me what you need, and I'll tell you how to get along without it.
  4. Accept that some days you are the pigeon and some days the statue.
  5. Everybody is somebody else's weirdo.
  6. I don't have an attitude problem; you have a perception problem.
  7. Last night I lay in bed looking up at the stars in the sky, and I thought to myself, where the heck is the ceiling?
  8. My reality check bounced.
  9. On the keyboard of life, always keep one finger on the escape key.
  10. Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience.


  1. can please, is
  2. love, like, make, fly
  3. tell, tell, get
  4. accept, are
  5. is
  6. don't have, have
  7. lay, looking, thought, is
  8. bounced
  9. keep
  10. argue, drag, beat
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style © 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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