What is a verb?
A verb is one of the main parts of a sentence or question in English.
In fact, you can’t have a sentence or a question without a verb! That’s how important these “action” parts of speech are.
The verb signals an action, an occurrence, or a state of being. Whether mental, physical, or mechanical, verbs always express activity.
Physical Verbs – Definition and Examples
Physical verbs are action verbs. They describe specific physical actions. If you can create a motion with your body or use a tool to complete an action, the word you use to describe it is most likely a physical verb.
Physical Verb Examples
The physical verb examples in the following sentences are in bold for easy identification.
- Let’s run to the corner and back.
- I hear the train coming.
- Call me when you’re finished with class.
Mental Verbs – Definition and Examples
Mental verbs have meanings that are related to concepts such as discovering, understanding, thinking, or planning. In general, a mental verb refers to a cognitive state.
Mental Verb Examples
The mental verb examples in the following sentences are in bold for easy identification.
- I know the answer.
- She recognized me from across the room.
- Do you believe everything people tell you?
States of Being Verbs – Definition and Examples
Also known as linking verbs, state of being verbs describe conditions or situations that exist. State of being verbs are inactive since no action is being performed. These verbs are usually complemented by adjectives.
States of Being Verb Examples
The state of being verbs in the following sentences are in bold for easy identification.
- I am a student.
- We are circus performers.
- Please is quiet.
Types of Verbs
How many types of verbs are there? In addition to the main categories of physical verbs, mental verbs, and state of being verbs, there are several other types of verbs. In fact, there are more than ten different types of verbs that are grouped by function.
List of all Verb Types
Action verbs express specific actions, and are used any time you want to show action or discuss someone doing something.
Transitive verbs are action verbs that always express doable activities. These verbs always have direct objects, meaning someone or something receives the action of the verb.
Intransitive verbs are action verbs that always express doable activities. No direct object follows an intransitive verb.
Auxiliary verbs are also known as helping verbs, and are used together with a main verb to show the verb’s tense or to form a question or negative.
Stative verbs can be recognized because they express a state rather than an action. They typically relate to thoughts, emotions, relationships, senses, states of being, and measurements.
Modal verbs are auxiliary verbs that are used to express abilities, possibilities, permissions, and obligations.
Phrasal verbs aren’t single words; instead, they are combinations of words that are used together to take on a different meaning to that of the original verb.
Irregular verbs are those that don’t take on the regular spelling patterns of past simple and past participle verbs.
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Verb Tense Consistency
There are three main verb forms for showing time or tense:
does not use auxiliary verbs
refers to specific time period during which
something happened and is over
something will happen
Simple present (action goes on now): I sit
Simple past: (action happened and is over): I sat
Simple future (action will happen): I will sit
- uses have, has, or had as auxiliary verb
- allows action to continue over time
Present perfect (action happened and may still be going on): I have sat
Past perfect (action happened before something happened in the past): I had sat
Future perfect (action will be considered in the future, by which time it will have already happened): I will have sat
- uses is, are, was, or were as auxiliary verb with -ing ending on main verb
- focuses on Â“progressÂ” of action
Present progressive (action is in progress right now): I am sitting
Past: progressive (action was in progress in the past): I was sitting
Future progressive (action will be in progress in the future): I will be sitting
Each of the above tenses denotes a specific time for an action or event to take place. Writers should be careful to use the exact tense needed to describe, narrate, or explain.
In general . . .
Do not switch from one tense to another unless the timing of an action demands that you do.
Keep verb tense consistent in sentences, paragraphs, and essays.
Verb tense consistency on the sentence level
Keep tenses consistent within sentences.
Do not change tenses when there is no time change for the action.
Since there is no indication that the actions happened apart from one another., there is no reason to shift the tense of the second verb.
Note another example.
The above sentence means that Mary walks into a room at times. The action is habitual present. The second action happens when the first one does. Therefore, the second verb should be present as well.
Change tense only when there is a need to do so.
Usually, the timing of actions within a sentence will dictate when the tense must change.
The first action will take place in the future; therefore, the second one will as well.
The second action took place in the past; the first action occurred before the past action. Therefore, the first action requires the past perfect tense (had + verb).
Verb tense consistency on the paragraph level
Generally, establish a primary tense and keep tenses consistent from sentence to sentence.
Do not shift tenses between sentences unless there is a time change that must be shown.
PRESENT TENSE PARAGRAPH
All actions in the above paragraph happen in the present except for the future possibility dependent upon a
present action taking place: " If a cat sees the bird, the catwill kill it."
PAST TENSE PARAGRAPH
All of the actions in the above paragraph happen in the past except for the possibility dependent upon
one action taking place: "If a cat saw the bird, the cat would kill it."
Verb tense consistency on the essay level
1. Use present tense when writing essays about
- your own ideas
- factual topics
- the action in a specific movie, play, or book
YOUR OWN IDEAS
ACTION IN A SPECIFIC MOVIE OR BOOK
NOTE: When quoting from a work, maintain the present tense in your own writing, while keeping the original tense of the quoted material.
EXAMPLE (quoted material is shown in blue)
2. Use past tense when writing about
- past events
- completed studies or findings, arguments presented in scientific literature
EXAMPLE - PAST EVENT
Note the justified use of present tense in the last sentence (shown in blue).
EXAMPLE - SCIENTIFIC STUDY
3. Use future tense when writing about
- an event that will occur in the future.
EXAMPLE - FUTURE EVENT
Remember . . .
Change tense ONLY when something in the content of your essay demands that you do so for clarity.
Note how the following example incorporates tense change as needed to clarify several time periods.