Verbs are a part of speech that is essential to the construction of a sentence. Without a verb, a sentence cannot be complete. Besides the verbs already dealt with, there are other types of verbs used in the grammatical makeup of a sentence. There are classes of verbs that have different names but perform more or less the same functions; for example, auxiliary verbs and helping verbs. There are also different categories of verbs but have significant differences in their usage in the English language; for example, finite verbs and nonfinite verbs.
The other types of verbs include causative verb, catenative verb, compound verb, dynamic verb, and primary verb. But presented here are action verb, helping verb, main verb, and stative verb.
An action verb expresses the physical or mental action of the subject of a sentence.
- An action verb is used for an action that has happened, or is still taking place at the time of speaking, or is done habitually.
- He cycled to the shopping mall.
- He is cycling to the shopping mall.
- He cycles to work.
- John read the newspaper.
- John has read the newspaper.
- The Queen will meet the President.
- The Queen will be meeting the President.
- My father owns that building.
Not: My father is owning that building.
- That book belongs to me.
Not: That book is belonging to me.
The main (action) verbs in a sentence, on their own, cannot adequately express the intended meaning with regards to the time at which an action happens. They need the helping verbs, sometimes called auxiliary verbs, to convey more precise meaning. As their name implies, helping verbs help the main verbs by specifying whether an action is in progress (continuous tense) or has completed (perfect tense). Helping verbs also help to express an idea such as possibility or obligation that is not expressed by the main verb.
Examples of helping verbs: be (am, is, are, was, were, being, been), have, has, had, do, does, and didExamples of modal helping verbs: can, could, may, might, will, would, shall, should, must and ought to
Helping verbs precede main verb to form tenses.
Helping verbs include modal verbs or modal helping verbs. Modal helping verbs help to express an idea such as ability, necessity, obligation, permission, possibility, probability, suggestion.
A main verb does not always need a helping verb to form a verb phrase. It can stand alone in a complete sentence. However, the helping verb is needed if the main verb ends in –ing. The main verb always follows the helping verb.
- She smiles at me.
(Without helping verb)
- The sun rises in the East.
(Without helping verb)
- She is smiling at me.
(Main verb smiling ends in -ing, so helping verb is must be used.)
- The dogs were chasing him down the street.
(Main verb chasing ends in -ing; helping verb were is used.)
Helping verbs (in bold) are used in questions and negative sentences.
Main verbs also called lexical verbs are those verbs that can stand alone without the help of another verb to complete a sentence. They can also be used with a helping verb or auxiliary verb. A main verb expresses the action or state of being of the subject. When expressing an action, a main verb is an action verb. When it expresses the subject’s state of being, it takes a different name of linking verb. Every sentence must have a main verb, without which a sentence is incomplete and thus, meaningless. Most verbs are main verbs and any verb in a sentence that is not an auxiliary verb is a main verb .The main verb can be in the present or past tense forms.
Use of action verb as main verb
Use of linking verb as main verb
Conjugation of main verb
Main verbs can be transitive verbs which have direct objects, or intransitive verbs which take no direct object. The main verb changes in form (conjugates) to agree with the subject in number (singular and plural), person (first person, second person, third person) and tense.
Main verb used with auxiliary verb
Main verbs are used with the auxiliary verbs in questions, negative statements, tenses, and passive sentences.
- When are you coming again? (Auxiliary and main verbs)
- Have you been there before? (Auxiliary and main verbs)
- You have not (haven't) paid your share of the bill.
- She is not (isn't) going to reply to his letter.
- Police have been investigating the complaints. (Present perfect tense)
- They were sailing along the coast when it happened. (Past continuous tense)
- He was stung by a bee.
- The detainees have been tortured.
A stative verb or state verb is a non-action verb. It does not refer to an action, activity, or event. It describes the condition of someone or the state they are in. Most stative verbs are used in the simple present or simple past tense, and are not used in the continuous tenses (present and past). A stative verb is the opposite of a dynamic verb. Some examples of stative verbs are appear, be, believe, hate, know, like, love, need, own, remember, seem, understand and want.
Examples of stative verb
Differences between stative verb and action verb
The differences between these two classes of verbs are: a stative verb describes a state that has no beginning or end and continues over a period which can be a long one. An action verb describes an activity that continues for a limited amount of time, and has a beginning and end.
- I like flying my kite.
(The verb like is a stative verb. It indicates a state of feeling that lasts a long time or even a lifetime.)
- I am flying my kite.
(The verb phrase am flying is an action verb. It shows an action that does not last long but for a period of time only, such as: I stop flying my kite when it rains or when it gets dark.)
Stative verb not used in continuous tense
The stative verb is not normally used in the continuous tense
- The two neighbours hate the sight of each other.
Not: The two neighbors are hating the sight of each other.
- She believes in animal ghosts.
Not: She is believing in animal ghosts.
- We like the beautiful scenery but dislike the local people staring at us.
Not: We are liking the beausitufl scenery but are disliking the local people staring at us..
Stative verb used in continuous tense
Stative verbs, however, may be used in the continuous tense provided they refer to feelings that last briefly.
- We are liking what we are doing.
- I am regretting now what I did just now.
- We are wishing the rain stops suddenly.
- As usual, he is being provocative.
State verb and action verb
Some verbs can be both state verbs and action verbs. They are used in the continuous tense when describing an action.
- I see you are very happy with your new glasses. (Stative)
- The doctor is not seeing any more patients. (Action)
- We have two dogs, one cat, and a goldfish. (Stative)
- What are we having for dinner tonight? (Action)
- She thinks you are getting the wrong idea about her. (State)
- I am thinking of quitting smoking. (Action)
- She looks gorgeous in this new dress. (State)
- She is looking at a dress on sale. (Action)
(For more on state verbs, see List 4 - Verbs: Different Verb Types.)