Grammar: Action or State of Being

Table of Contents | Introduction | About the Author

A verb is a term used to describe the activity within a sentence whether it indicates movement or merely presence. Those verbs which indicate movement are called action verbs. Those that merely show presence are designated linking verbs.

When a verb and another word are compressed, they create a contraction. Usually contractions consist of the verb plus "not," "will," "have," "is," or "are." Contractions are indicated with the use of an apostrophe in the place of the missing letter or letters. can't

Verbs may be transitive, or transferring action to a noun, or intransitive, with no transfer. They may be described as active, where the subject is performing the action, or passive, where the subject is receiving the action.

The mood of a verb consists of the indicative (indicating a fact or probability), subjunctive (indicating an improbability), and imperative (command). While the subjunctive is of major significance in many languages, it is falling into archaic usage in English.

Verbs consist of two parts: main and helping verbs. Helping verbs generally are derivations of "to be" verbs.

All forms of a verb are created using one of the three principal parts. Principal parts are the present (or present infinitive), past, and past participle. Generally, the past and past participle have "ed" endings. Past participles of irregular verbs sometimes have different endings. When verbs end in "ing," they are designated present participle. The infinitive form of a verb consists of "to" and the verb with no additional endings. The perfect infinitive is created by adding "to have" to the past tense of the verb.


Tenses of verbs designate the time in which the action occurs. To conjugate a verb is to show all its possible tense forms dependent upon time and person.

The basic tenses indicate past (walked), present (walk), and future (will/shall walk). Within these categories, there are sub-categories of emphatic (do/did walk), progressive (am/was walking), and perfect (have/had walked) as well as historical past.

Persons consists of first (I), second (you), third (he/she/it), and plurals of each (we/you/they). Third person generally requires an "s" on the end of the verb in present tense and at the end of the auxiliary verbs in the other tenses. First person future has historically required "shall" rather than "will," but that designation is no longer carefully followed.

While many verbs follow these descriptions, many others, designated irregular verbs, do not.

Verbs which are not used to show action, but instead have other uses, are called verbals. They consist of gerunds when the verb is used as a noun (ends in "ing"), participles when it is used as an adjective, or infinitive which is used as noun, adjective, or adverb. Each of these may also be part of a verbal phrase which may have modifiers, objects, or predicates.

Some verbs are troublesome in form and definition. They are: learn/teach, let/leave, lie/lay, may/can, rise/raise, and sit/set

Susan Lake and Associates small logo