Verb  – Introduction

Verb is defined as a part of speech or a word class that defines an action performed or a state of being of the noun or pronoun of the sentence. Unlike other parts of speech, a verb is a necessary part of every sentence. Without it, no sentence can have a meaning.

Verbs are the largest class of words of the English language. Since verbs, unlike other parts of speech is present in every sentence of speech, we can use it to determine various aspects of the sentence.

At the end of the article, the reader will be able to:

  • Learn the different forms of a verb
  • Understand different criteria of classification of a verb, and accordingly apply it to the verbs of a sentence
  • Understand the applications of the verb and determine the aspects based on the verb forms

Different forms of Verbs

Every verb has a basic form called the root form. It is from this root form that we derive other forms of the same verb to be used in different sentences. The form of a verb generally changes with the voice and tense of the sentence.

The root form of the verb is used directly with first person, second person and third person plural subjects in a sentence in the simple present tense.

  • We represent the plaintiffs of this class-action lawsuit. (First person plural subject)
  • You take the east entrance and meet me at the lobby. (Second person subject)
  • The bikers stop by this place every Saturday. (Third person plural subject)

There exists a different root form of the verb for third person singular subjects.

  • He represents the plaintiffs of this class-action lawsuit. (Third person singular subject)
  • Sheetal shows up at that gate every day at 8.45 AM. (Third person singular subject)

As the tense and the voice changes, different forms of the same verb are used together with other verbs (also called helping verbs). These other arrangements depend on three major forms of the verb: simple past, past participle and present participle.

  • He represented the plaintiffs of this class-action lawsuit. (Simple Past form)
  • Sheetal showed up at the gate on time. (Simple Past form)
  • She was achieving the targets way before the deadline. (Present Participle form)
  • Marcus will be expecting a mail by the end of this week. (Present Participle form)
  • I have attached the supporting documents with the application. (Past Participle form)
  • You have burned the only piece of evidence we had. (Past Participle form)

Notice how the general past participle forms of verbs end in ‘–ed’ and present participle forms end in ‘-ing’. Do they always follow the generalization?

We discuss the formation of different verbs and their usage in the applications of verbs.

Also Read: Stative Verbs

Classification of Verbs

There are different bases of classification of verbs, which can be explained below:

Valency of the Verb

What is the valency of a verb?

Objects, unlike verbs are not a compulsory part of speech of a sentence. On most occasions, a verb does not need an object. On some occasions, a verb refers to more than one object.

Valency is basically the number of objects that a subject refers to, via the verb of the sentence. Based on the valency of the verb, it is classified as intransitive, transitive or ditransitive. We’ll see a few examples:

  • The invigilator has arrived. (‘has arrived’ addressing no object – Intransitive verb)
  • You might have to wait. (‘might have to wait’ addressing no object – Intransitive verb)
  • We have to attempt the preliminary test and final examination. (‘have to attempt’ addressing one object – Transitive verb)
  • Upon failing the dope test, Brad had to lose his boxing title. (‘failing’ and ‘had to lose’ addressing one object each – Transitive verbs)
  • Would you pass Dean the pack? (‘Would pass’ addressing two objects – Ditransitive verb)
  • Somebody send HQ a situation report! (‘send’ addressing two objects – Ditransitive verb)

Transitive literally means the act of transfer. A transitive verb is the one that makes the subject refer to an object, as we have already seen in all the examples we’ve taken up in the previous sections. Thus a transitive verb needs an object, while an intransitive verb doesn’t.

ditransitive verb however addresses two objects, one direct and one indirect. We have already learned direct and indirect objects as nouns.

Thus, the valency of any verb in the English language can be one (intransitive verbs, only subject), two (transitive verbs, one subject and one object) or three (ditransitive verbs, one subject and two objects).

READ ALSO:  Latest English Idioms in Use

Different forms of Verbs

A verb takes four different forms to show the status of completion or progress. Let us discuss them individually.

Root form

The Root form of the verb is the original form of the verb used in Simple tenses. Root form by itself gives no indication of the tense of the verb and is used to express the Simple Present Tense (except for the third person singular, which we will learn in the article on Simple Present Tense)

All the other forms of the verb are derived from the root form in expressing various tenses in the active and passive voice.

The root form of the verb is used with modals and as an infinitive. Modals in every tense bring down the verb to its root form. The root form in this case is called as the partial infinitive.

  • could retrieve the application from the docket.
  • We will pitch our idea tomorrow.
  • They might win this contest if that strategy is executed.

Another form of the above case with the preposition to, is called the full infinitive. Some examples include:

  • have to reprimand him for indiscretion.
  • The band is expected to be here in a few minutes.
  • This council moves to immediately resume the project.

Some cases of the infinitive where it acts as the noun phrase of the sentence is called as a gerund. Note the examples below:

  • To err is human, to forgive, divine.
  • To be or not to be, that is the question to be.
  • To win this contest will be his greatest challenge.

Simple Past form

The Past form is used to express the verb in the simple past tense. The past form is generally expressed by adding the suffix ‘-ed’ to the root form of the verb.

The Past form is used exclusively for the Simple Past Tense. Note the examples below:

  • You overshot the daily limit.
  • They overcame all the difficulties.
  • We performed the experiments satisfactorily.
  • The mayor took care of the situation.

Present Participle form

The Present Participle form or the continuous form is used to show all forms of progressive tenses. The Present participle form is used to indicate that the action indicated by the verbs are still in progress. Let us look at a few examples:

  • You are overshooting the daily limit.
  • They had been overcoming all the difficulties.
  • We were performing the experiments satisfactorily.
  • The mayor will be taking care of the situation.

The Present Participle form is expressed by adding the ‘-ing’ suffix to the root form of the verb.

Past Participle form

The Past Participle form is used to express the complete execution or occurrence of the verb in any tense. The Past Participle form is used to show all forms of Perfect tenses. Let us take a few examples:

  • You have overshot the limit.
  • They had overcome all the difficulties.
  • We have performed all the experiments satisfactorily.
  • The mayor will have taken care of the situation.

The Past Participle form is generally expressed by adding the ‘-ed’ suffix to the root form of the verb. Do they always follow the generalization?

Regularity of Verbs

In the previous section, we raised a question on the present and past participle forms of verbs. Let us rephrase the question.

Is every verb consistent with the general present and past participle forms of verbs?

The answer is no. Most verbs aren’t. Which makes the consistency a criteria of classification, based on which we classify verbs as regular or irregular verbs.

Every Simple Past and Past Participle form of Regular verbs obey the general spelling rules.

  • travelled to the United Kingdom now. (Simple Past form ends in ‘-ed’)
  • have travelled to 7 nations in the last 12 months alone. (Past Participle ends in ‘–ed’)
  • The papacy expected you to come sooner. (Simple Past form ends in ‘-ed’)
  • The papacy had expected you at the conclave by now. (Past Participle ends in ‘–ed’)
  • The board concluded that you’re delusional. (Simple Past form ends in ‘-ed’)
  • The board will have concluded that you’re delusional. (Past Participle ends in ‘–ed’)

Irregular verbs are those whose at least one of Simple Past and Past Participle forms disobey the general spelling rules.

  • sent the cookies to the address specified. (Simple Past form does not end in ‘-ed’)
  • have sent the cookies to the address specified. (Past Participle does not end in ‘–ed’)
  • brought the groceries home an hour ago. (Simple Past form does not end in ‘-ed’)
  • had brought the groceries home an hour ago. (Past Participle does not end in ‘–ed’)
  • It grew all over the place. (Simple Past form does not end in ‘-ed’)
  • It will have grown all over the place. (Past Participle does not end in ‘–ed’)
READ ALSO:  Collocations - Definition, Types and Examples

Even if there exists a present/past participle form that does follow the spelling rules and another present/past participle form doesn’t, it would be an irregular verb.

  • They lighted the place up. (Simple Past form ends in ‘-ed’)
  • They had lit the place up. (Past Participle does not end in ‘–ed’)
  • You burned the only piece of evidence we had. (Simple Past form ends in ‘-ed’)
  • have burnt the only piece of evidence we had. (Past Participle doesn’t end in ‘–ed’)
  • We mowed the lawn yesterday. (Simple Past form ends in ‘-ed’)
  • We will have mown the lawn by tomorrow. (Past Participle does not end in ‘–ed’)

Thus, in the above case, light, burn & mow would still be irregular verbs.

Different Variations of Irregular Verbs

Some irregular verbs take the suffix ‘-t’ to change into the Past and Past Participle form. Like the following examples:

  • brought the groceries home an hour ago. (Simple Past)
  • had brought the groceries home an hour ago. (Past Participle)
  • You burnt the only piece of evidence we had. (Simple Past)
  • have burnt the only piece of evidence we had. (Past Participle)

Some irregular verbs take the suffix ‘-n’ to change into the Past Participle form. Their Past forms also show a remarkable similarity. Like the following examples:

  • The organism grew quicker than we expected. (Simple Past)
  • The organism had grown quicker than we expected. (Past Participle)
  • This performance just blew my mind. (Simple Past)
  • This performance has just blown my mind. (Past Participle)

Some irregular verbs don’t change in form. Let us take a few examples:

  • put the folder back exactly where I found it. (Simple Past)
  • had put the folder back exactly where I found it. (Past Participle)
  • They cut a significant portion of his salary as a penalty. (Simple Past)
  • They have cut a significant portion of his salary as a penalty. (Past Participle)

List of Irregular Verbs

VerbSimple PastPast Participle
To AriseAroseArisen
To BeWereBeen
To BeatBeatBeaten
To BecomeBecameBecome
To BeginBeganBegun
To BendBentBent
To BetBetBet
To BreakBrokeBroken
To BringBroughtBrought
To BuildBuiltBuilt
To BurnBurned  / BurntBurned  / Burnt
To BuyBoughtBought
To CastCastCast
To CatchCaughtCaught
To ChooseChoseChosen
To ComeCameCome
To CostCostCost
To CutCutCut
To DoDidDone
To DrawDrewDrawn
To DreamDreamt  / DreamedDreamt  / Dreamed
To DrinkDrankDrunk
To DriveDroveDriven
To EatAteEaten
To FallFellFallen
To FeelFeltFelt
To FightFoughtFought
To FindFoundFound
To FleeFledFled
To ForbidForbadeForbidden
To ForgetForgotForgotten
To ForgiveForgaveForgiven
To GetGotGot  / Gotten
To GiveGaveGiven
To GoWentGone
To GrowGrewGrown
To HangHung  / HangedHung  / Hanged
To HaveHadHad
To HearHeardHeard
To HideHidHidden
To HitHitHit
To HoldHeldHeld
To HurtHurtHurt
To KeepKeptKept
To KnowKnewKnown
To LeadLedLed
To LeanLeant  / LeanedLeant  / Leaned
To LeapLeapt  / LeapedLeapt  / Leaped
To LearnLearnt  / LearnedLearnt  / Learned
To LeaveLeftLeft
To LendLentLent
To LetLetLet
To LightLitLit
To LoseLostLost
To MakeMadeMade
To MeanMeantMeant
To MeetMetMet
To OvercomeOvercameOvercome
To PayPaidPaid
To ProveProvedProved  / Proven
To PutPutPut
To QuitQuitQuit
To ReadReadRead
To RideRodeRidden
To RingRangRung
To RunRanRun
To SaySaidSaid
To SeeSawSeen
To SellSoldSold
To SendSentSent
To SetSetSet
To ShakeShookShaken
To ShineShone  / ShinedShone  / Shined
To ShootShotShot
To ShowShowedShown
To ShutShutShut
To SingSangSung
To SitSatSat
To SleepSleptSlept
To SlideSlidSlid  / Slidden
To SmellSmelt  / SmelledSmelt  / Smelled
To SpeakSpokeSpoken
To SpendSpentSpent
To StandStoodStood
To StealStoleStolen
To StickStuckStuck
To StrikeStruckStruck
To SwearSworeSworn
To SweepSweptSwept
To SwimSwamSwum
To TakeTookTaken
To TeachTaughtTaught
To TellToldTold
To ThinkThoughtThought
To ThrowThrewThrown
To UnderstandUnderstoodUnderstood
To UpsetUpsetUpset
To WinWonWon
To WriteWroteWritten

List of Regular Verbs

VerbSimple PastPast Participle
To AcceptAcceptedAccepted
To AchieveAchievedAchieved
To ActActedActed
To AdmitAdmittedAdmitted
To AffectAffectedAffected
To AgreeAgreedAgreed
To AnnounceAnnouncedAnnounced
To AnswerAnsweredAnswered
To AppearAppearedAppeared
To ApplyAppliedApplied
To ArgueArguedArgued
To ArriveArrivedArrived
To AskAskedAsked
To AttendAttendedAttended
To AvoidAvoidedAvoided
To BelieveBelievedBelieved
To CallCalledCalled
To CarryCarriedCarried
To CauseCausedCaused
To ChangeChangedChanged
To CloseClosedClosed
To CompareComparedCompared
To ConsiderConsideredConsidered
To ContainContainedContained
To ContinueContinuedContinued
To CountCountedCounted
To CoverCoveredCovered
To CreateCreatedCreated
To DecideDecidedDecided
To DefineDefinedDefined
To DetermineDeterminedDetermined
To DevelopDevelopedDeveloped
To DieDiedDied
To DiscoverDiscoveredDiscovered
To EnterEnteredEntered
To EstablishEstablishedEstablished
To ExistExistedExisted
To ExplainExplainedExplained
To FinishFinishedFinished
To FollowFollowedFollowed
To FormFormedFormed
To HappenHappenedHappened
To HelpHelpedHelped
To HopeHopedHoped
To ImagineImaginedImagined
To ImproveImprovedImproved
To IncludeIncludedIncluded
To IncreaseIncreasedIncreased
To IndicateIndicatedIndicated
To IntroduceIntroducedIntroduced
To KillKilledKilled
To LiveLivedLived
To MaintainMaintainedMaintained
To MentionMentionedMentioned
To MoveMovedMoved
To NeedNeededNeeded
To NoteNotedNoted
To NoticeNoticedNoticed
To OccurOccurredOccurred
To OfferOfferedOffered
To OpenOpenedOpened
To PassPassedPassed
To PlayPlayedPlayed
To PreparePreparedPrepared
To PreventPreventedPrevented
To ProduceProducedProduced
To ProtectProtectedProtected
To PublishPublishedPublished
To RaiseRaisedRaised
To ReachReachedReached
To ReceiveReceivedReceived
To RecognizeRecognizedRecognized
To ReduceReducedReduced
To RememberRememberedRemembered
To RemoveRemovedRemoved
To RepresentRepresentedRepresented
To RespondRespondedResponded
To ReturnReturnedReturned
To SaveSavedSaved
To SeemSeemedSeemed
To ServeServedServed
To ShareSharedShared
To SignSignedSigned
To SoundSoundedSounded
To StayStayedStayed
To StopStoppedStopped
To StudyStudiedStudied
To SufferSufferedSuffered
To SupportSupportedSupported
To TouchTouchedTouched
To TravelTravelledTravelled
To TreatTreatedTreated
To TryTriedTried
To UseUsedUsed
To VisitVisitedVisited
To WalkWalkedWalked
To WantWantedWanted
To WatchWatchedWatched
To WorkWorkedWorked
To WorryWorriedWorried

Auxiliary Verbs

Also called helping verbs, auxiliary verbs are those that generally are used in secondary status with respect to other verbs in the same sentence.

READ ALSO:  Active and Passive Uses of Participles

The three main auxiliary verbs used are dohave and be. The auxiliary verb be has various forms depending on the subject and tense, so do the verbs have and do.

There are eight main forms of the auxiliary verb be. We use them in the following examples:

  • You will be facing the final exams in a week.
  • She is playing with the senior team now.
  • They are coming to see you tomorrow.
  • am leaving this place in a few minutes.
  • Medha was running late for office.
  • Our customers have always been expecting this bug to be fixed.
  • You were working your way to be the best of the recruits.

There are three forms of the auxiliary verb do. We use them in the following examples:

  • Do you leave for court early?
  • Amy does always get in trouble. [1]
  • He did reach the hall on time. [1]

There are three forms of the auxiliary verb have. We use them in the following examples:

  • Ashish has a better solution to this problem.
  • The previous batch had performed better than the current one.
  • We have to maintain calm and think this through.

However, the above mentioned verbs can also act as standalone verbs. Observe the following examples:

  • They are the first of the visitors to this island.
  • She will be here in a few minutes.
  • You were the best of the recruits.
  • The previous batch was better than the current one.

Depending on the application, any one of these forms of the auxiliary verbs may be used.

Also Read: Auxiliary Verbs

Applications of the Verb

The rest of the study of English Grammar is based on the verb. Since they’re present in every sentence of the verb, they can be consistently used to determine various aspects of the sentence.

Speech of the Sentence

Though it is the punctuation that reveals us the nature of speech of a sentence, verbs are equally important.

  • He said to the newcomer, Will you be joining us?” (Direct Speech)
  • He asked the newcomer if he was joining them. (Indirect Speech)
  • She said, “Oh dear! The deadline has passed.” (Direct Speech)
  • She expressed her disappointment over the passage of the deadline. (Indirect Speech)

Subject and Object of a Verb

The verb of a sentence determines which of the other words or parts of speech of any sentence is the subject and the object. In any sentence, the part that performs the action (of the verb) or whose state of being is explained by the verb is the subject. In most of the sentences, the subject is mentioned and can be easily identified. The object of the sentence is the part that the verb refers to. The object is the recipient of the verb, and is the one the subject is mentioning about.

  • Madness is like gravity; all it needs is a little push. (Subject of the verb ‘is’)
  • Jensen has to be patient while addressing the board. (Subject of the verb ‘has to be’)
  • Finish your supper, kids. (Object of the verb ‘your supper’)
  • The team has to assess the situation before the World Cup begins. (Object of the verb phrase ‘has to assess)

Subjects and objects are generally nouns or noun phrases. We have already learnt about them as nouns.

Tense of the Sentence

The verb(s) of the sentence can help us in determining the tense of the sentence. The verb forms are altered to adjust to the tense of the speech.

  • He achieved the targets way before the deadline. (Simple Past tense)
  • He was achieving the targets way before the deadline. (Past Continuous tense)
  • He had achieved all the targets way before the deadline. (Past Perfect tense)
  • He had been achieving the targets way before the deadline. (Past Perfect Continuous tense)

There are three major tenses according to the verb of the sentence. If the verb refers to the same time as the statement is made (an activity or occurrence has happened/is happening now) (now, today, generally, as we speak, etc.) then the verb is in the present tense. If the verb refers to a time before (an activity or occurrence happened/was happening before) the statement is made (yesterday, many years ago, long back, before) then the verb is in the past tense. If the verb refers to a time after (an activity or occurrence will happen/will be happening soon/later) the statement is made (tomorrow, thereafter, upcoming, etc.) then the verb is in the future tense.

Based on the form of the verb, the tense of a sentence can be in the Past, Present or Future tense, each having four subtypes like the example above.

Phrases and Clauses

The presence of a verb can help us distinguish between a phrase and a clause. Phrases are those which do not have a subject and don’t carry a verb (unless it is a verb phrase). A clause will have a subject and a verb and can act like a standalone sentence, or may need another standalone clause.

  • He performed brilliantly. (Independent clause)
  • He performed so brilliantly that the audience was left dumbstruck. (Dependent clause)
  • He performed at the south side auditorium. (Preposition phrase)

Voice of the Sentence

The verb(s) of a sentence determines the voice of a sentence. Here, active voice is where the subject is the executioner of the verb, while passive voice is where the subject is the recipient of the verb.

  • They considered him to be an incorruptible officer. (Active Voice)
  • He was considered to be an incorruptible officer. (Passive Voice)
  • She has been interviewing candidates all day long (Active Voice)
  • The candidates are being interviewed all day long (Passive Voice)

The voice of a sentence is altered for smooth reading of formal conversations.

Identification of a Verb

 If a word is a verb:

1.  It can be stated in the third person singular verb form:

 2.  It can be formed with an –ing ending.

 3.  It can be used with a modal verb.
Example: Is the word dance a verb?

1.  It can be used in the third person singular: He dances so well.

2.  It can be formed with an –ing ending: The couple was dancing perfectly in the competition.

3.  It can be used with a modal: They could dance all night if they didn’t have work in the morning.

 The answer to all of these is ‘yes‘. The word ‘dance’ is a verb.


This completes the basic idea of verbs of a sentence, its different forms, types and applications. The idea of a verb can also be extended to phrases and subordinate clauses which we will study with the other subordinate clauses.


[1] Different forms of the auxiliary verb do are either omitted or combined with the main verb during writing. For example:

  • Amy does always get in trouble.

It is generally written as:

  • Amy always gets in trouble.

Also, note the following sentence:

  • He did reach the hall on time.

It is generally written as:

  • He reached the hall on time.

While both the forms are grammatically correct, the general forms are more popularly used now.

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below to subscribe to our newsletter