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. The different forms of verbs will be shown in appendix B.

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.

A 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).

Regularity of the Verb

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 Past and Present participle form of Regular verbs obey the general spelling rules.

  • I am travelling to the United Kingdom now. (Present Participle ends in ‘-ing’)
  • I have travelled to 7 nations in the last 12 months alone. (Past Participle ends in ‘–ed’)

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

  • I am sending the cookies to the address specified. (Present Participle ends in ‘-ing’)
  • I have sent the cookies to the address specified. (Past Participle does not end in ‘–ed’)

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.

  • You have burned the only piece of evidence we had. (Past Participle form)
  • You have burnt the only piece of evidence we had. (Another Past Participle form)
  • You are burning the only piece of evidence we had. (Present Participle form)

Thus, in the above case, burn would still be an irregular verb.

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.

The three main auxiliary verbs used are do, have 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.
  • I 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. We learn more about auxiliary verbs in appendix C

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.

Conclusion

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.

Notes

[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.