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What Are Verbs?


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What Are Verbs?

Basics on the topic What Are Verbs?

Verbs – Definition

First, let’s have a look at the definition to answer the question ”what are verbs?”.

In English grammar, there are different types of words. One big and important group of words is verbs. There are two main kinds of verbs: action verbs and linking verbs. Let’s explore what these types of verbs do and how they differ.


Verbs appear in different tenses to describe if an action takes place now, in the future or if it took place in the past.

The verb in its base form is called the infinitive. The change in form of the verb is called conjugation.

  • Infinitive: (to) sleep
  • conjugated verbs: I sleep, you sleep, he / she / it sleeps, we sleep, you sleep, they sleep

Verbs in Sentences – How to Spot Verbs

Here are some tips for finding verbs in sentences!

  • Look for action. The verb is usually an action word that tells you what's happening in the sentence. For example, in the sentence Pip jumps on the bed every night, jump is the verb, showing the action of jumping.
  • Not all actions are very active! Words like sit, sleep or lie are verbs, even though they don’t sound like a lot of action!
  • Find the Subject. Identify the subject, which is the person or thing doing something in the sentence. The verb usually comes after the subject in sentences (although it’s in different places in questions).
  • Look for helping verbs. In some sentences, there might be more than one verb. A helping verb, like is, has, or must, can help you identify the main verb. In the sentence Pip may jump on the bed every night, the helping verb is can and jump is the main verb.

By using these tips, you'll become a pro at finding verbs in sentences!

Types of Verbs – Overview

There are a lot of different types of verbs in the English language. The overview chart below features a first look at the different types of verbs with some examples for each verb type:

Type of Verb Example
Action verbs walk, dive, drink, yawn, talk, pour, …
Linking verbs am, is, are, feel, look, …
Helping verbs be, have, can, must, may, …
Reflexive verbs myself, yourself, himself, herself, …
Phrasal verbs bring up, turn down, run out, …

Action Verbs – Examples

Action verbs show movement or change. Examples of action verbs are:

  • run
  • swim
  • eat
  • sneeze
  • sing
  • shine

They tell us what someone or something is doing.

Linking Verbs – Examples

Linking verbs connect the different parts of a sentence. Some other names for them are copular verbs, verbs of being or state verbs.

Linking verbs are often forms of the verb to be. This is an irregular verb, which means that it is a verb that doesn’t follow the usual rules of verb conjugation.

The table below features an overview of the forms of the verb to be in its different tenses and aspects. As you can see, most of them look very different from the infinitive form of to be! That’s because it’s an irregular verb.

Simple Progressive Perfect Perfect Progressive
Past was / were was / were being had been had been being
Present am / are / is am / are / is being have / has been have / has been being
Future will be will be being will have been will have been being

Many linking verbs can be replaced by a form of to be without changing the meaning of the sentence much. For example, let’s look at the sentence:

I felt tired.

You can replace the word felt with was (a form of to be) without really changing the meaning of the sentence.

I was tired.

Other examples of linking verbs are seem, taste, and smell.

Further Information on Verbs

What are Verbs? – Summary

Verbs are a special sort of words that express action in a sentence. That means verbs show you what someone or something in a sentence is doing. Verbs are modified to express different tenses and aspects.

You can find more information below about verbs in English grammar. Watch the video for a fun story about verbs for kids, print out the worksheets or complete our interactive exercises to consolidate your learning about verbs!

Quick Exercises on Verbs – Check your Understanding!

Frequently Asked Questions – What are Verbs?

What are verbs in grammar?
Can a sentence have more than one verb?
What is the difference between a transitive and an intransitive verb?
What is a subject-verb agreement?
Are modal verbs the same across all languages?
Do all languages have the same verb tenses?
When should we use the passive voice?
Can passive voice be used in all tenses?

Transcript What Are Verbs?

Koko is just settling down for a quiet afternoon with tea to paint... but what is this? Who is calling her? : "Koko, it's Pip and I'm lost, I can't see anything!" : "It's okay Pip, stay calm and tell me what you hear around you so I can help figure out where you are." : "How?" : "You can use verbs!" Let's help Pip learn What Are Verbs to tell Koko where he is! You might have heard about verbs before. Verbs are action words, that tell or show what someone or something is doing. Verbs can be used in the past to show something that already happened... the present to show something that is happening NOW... or in the future to show something that WILL happen. You can identify, or find the verb in a sentence by looking for two things. Try to find the action, or what the person is doing... and, look for a word that ends with an or , present tense verbs ALWAYS end in these. Now that we have learned a bit about verbs, let's help Pip! Pip needs to describe what he hears around him to help Koko figure out where he is. He hears a dog running. How can he describe that in a sentence to Koko? He can say 'I hear a dog running!' Which is the verb in this sentence? We can find it by two ways... one, is to find the action, or what the person or animal is DOING. What is the dog doing in this sentence? The dog is RUNNING. So the verb in this sentence is, running, or run. Next, Pip hears splashing water, as if someone is swimming in a pool. He tells Koko, 'I hear someone swimming in a pool.' What is the verb in this sentence? This time, let's find the verb by looking for the word that ends in... or . The word swimming ends with ! Let's help Pip one last time to see if Koko can figure out where he is. This time he tells Koko 'a ball bounces.' What is the verb in this sentence? Remember, you can find the verb by finding the ACTION... or looking for the ending or . The verb is BOUNCES because it's what the ball is doing, AND it ends with ! Before we see if Koko found Pip, let's review. Today we learned all about verbs! Verbs are action words that tell what someone or something is DOING. Verbs can be used in the past to show something that already happened... in the present to show something that IS happening... or in the future to show something that WILL happen. To find a verb in a sentence you can... look for the action word that shows what someone or something is doing... or by looking for the word that ends in or . Now, did Koko find Pip? : "I hear someone talking on the phone." : "Me too! Wait a second, Pip? Are you under that pile of clothes?"

What Are Verbs? exercise

Would you like to apply the knowledge you’ve learned? You can review and practice it with the tasks for the video What Are Verbs?.
  • What is a verb?


    An example of a verb is bolded below.

    The rabbit hops.

    What is the rabbit doing?


    Verbs are action words that tell or show what someone or something is doing.

  • Sentences with verbs.


    What is Amari doing in the picture?

    A verb is a word that tells what the person is doing.


    Amari runs fast.

  • What is the monkey doing?


    What is the monkey doing?

    What is the banana doing?


    The monkey eats the banana. The word eats describes what the monkey is doing. Eats is the verb.

    The banana falls on the ground. The word falls describes what the monkey is doing. Falls is the verb.

    The monkey jumps down from the tree to get the banana. The word jumps describes what the monkey is doing. Jumps is the verb.

  • What are they doing?


    What is the cat doing?

    What is Jess doing?

    What is happening with the ice cream?


    The cat is grooming. The word grooming describes what the cat is doing. Grooming is the verb.

    Jess trips over a rock. The word trips describes what Ezekiel is doing. Trips is the verb.

    The ice cream is melting. The word melting describes what the ice cream is doing. Melting is the verb.

    The child pets the dog. The word pets describes what the child is doing. Pets is the verb.

  • Can you find the verb?


    Verbs are action words that tell or show what someone or something is doing.

    What is the dog doing?

    Look for a word that ends in an -s or -ing.


    The dog is swimming in the lake.

    Swimming is the verb because it describes what the dog is doing and ends in -ing.

  • Fill in the verb.


    Use the images to help you know what the verb is.

    What are the people doing in the image?

    Here is an example of when to use -ing and -s after a verb:

    Jen is walking slowly. Jen walks slowly.


    Marlon hikes the trail.

    Emily is singing at the concert.

    Anthony walks his dog.

    Cynthia is watering her garden.