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Verbs: Types and definitions (with examples)

Verbs: Types and definitions (with examples)

Do you ever read a story, pause halfway, and wonder to yourself: ‘Why does the writing feel so stale?’

Nothing’s happening. Every sentence is just lying there on the page - motionless. Lifeless, almost. More often than not, what the story needs is some movement and vitality. It needs some action to keep the reader hooked. In short, the story needs some verbs.

In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at the different types of verbs and how you can spruce up your writing by tossing some action into the mix.

What’s A verb

Let’s start with the definition: What’s a verb? Simply put, a verb is a word that describes an action, an occurrence, or a state of being. 

Every sentence needs at least one verb. Without one, a sentence is incomplete and fragmented at best. With the exception of imperative sentences (commands), a sentence should always have a subject to carry out the action.

Sometimes, verbs can act as ‘helper verbs’ to alter the tense of another verb. In other instances, these helper verbs can turn a positive statement into a negative one with words like not and never.

In short, we need verbs to understand what’s happening. Without good verbs, our sentences would feel stiff and awkward.

Types Of Verbs

Dynamic Verbs

Dynamic verbs, also known as action verbs, are words that describe actions or activities that someone or something does. They show actions that can be seen, heard, felt, or imagined. They add movement and energy to a sentence by showing what's happening.

For example, verbs like run, jump, sing, and dance are dynamic verbs because they describe actions that we can visualise or experience.

However, verbs can also be used to describe actions that take place within our minds. They’re what we commonly refer to as ‘process verbs’, which could be used to describe actions of transition. 

For example, verbs like grow, become, and better are process verbs because they describe a transition or change of state.

Stative Verbs

Stative verbs, also called state-of-being verbs, are words used to express states, conditions, emotions, or qualities that don't involve a physical action. Think of them as the opposite of dynamic verbs. Instead of describing action, these verbs show us how someone or something is.

For example, verbs like be, seem, like and feel are stative verbs because they describe states of existence, emotion, or perception.

When using stative verbs, do note that you can only use them in simple and perfect tense. Stative verbs can never be used in the continuous tense.

However, this gets complicated at times as depending on how they’re used, certain verbs can be either dynamic or stative.

Here are a few examples:

Dynamic: She's having a party tonight.
Stative: She has a beautiful garden.

Dynamic: I saw a shooting star last night.
Stative: I see what you mean.

Dynamic: She smelled the flowers in the garden.
Stative: The soup smells delicious.

Dynamic: He tasted the new dish.
Stative: The cake tastes amazing.

Dynamic: She's thinking about her future.
Stative: I think that's a good idea.

As you can see, these verbs can change their meaning depending on whether they are describing an action or a state. In dynamic usage, they describe actions or activities, while in stative usage, they describe emotions, perceptions, qualities, or conditions.

Auxiliary Verbs

Auxiliary verbs, also known as helping verbs, are words that work together with other verbs to create various tenses, moods, voices, and aspects in a sentence. They ‘help’ the main verb by providing additional information about the action or state being described. Auxiliary verbs don't typically carry the main meaning of the sentence; instead, they assist in forming the sentence's structure.

Common auxiliary verbs in English include be, have and do. These verbs are often used with other verbs to indicate actions that happened in the past, are happening right now, will happen in the future, or to form questions and negatives.

Modal Auxiliary Verbs

Modal auxiliary verbs, often simply called modal verbs, are a special type of auxiliary verbs used in English. They work alongside main verbs to express various attitudes, possibilities, obligations, and permissions.

Modal verbs add nuances to the meaning of a sentence by indicating the speaker's intention, the likelihood of an action, or the necessity of something happening.

Common modal verbs in English include can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, must and ought to.

Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are phrases that include a main verb along with one or more extra words, like prepositions or adverbs. These extra words change the meaning of the main verb in a way that might not be obvious.

Let's take the verb 'get' for example. When used with different prepositions, get forms many different phrasal verbs.

Eg. She gets along with her coworkers very well.
Eg. It took her a while to get over the flu.
Eg. He managed to get through all his exams this semester.
Eg. I have to get up early for work tomorrow.
Eg. Even with financial difficulties, they somehow manage to get by.

Other Examples

Break down
She broke down in tears after hearing the news.

Come across
I came across an interesting book at the library.

Give up
He gave up smoking last year.

Look back on
As she looks back on her childhood, she realizes how much she's grown.

Put up with
I can't put up with the noise from the construction site next door.

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