the verb is king in English. The shortest sentence contains a verb. You can make a one-word sentence with a verb, for example: “Stop!” You cannot make a one-word sentence with any other type of word.

Verbs are sometimes described as “action words”. This is partly true. Many verbs give the idea of action, of “doing” something. For example, words like run, fight, do and work all convey action.

But some verbs do not give the idea of action; they give the idea of existence, of state, of “being”. For example, verbs like be, exist, seem and belong all convey state.

A verb always has a subject. (In the sentence “John speaks English”, John is the subject and speaks is the verb.) In simple terms, therefore, we can say that verbs are words that tell us what a subject does or is; they describe:

  • action (Ram plays football.)
  • state (Anthony seems kind.)

There is something very special about verbs in English. Most other words (adjectives, adverbs, prepositions etc) do not change in form (although nouns can have singular and plural forms). But almost all verbs change in form. For example, the verb to work has five forms:

  • to work, work, works, worked, working

Of course, this is still very few forms compared to some languages which may have thirty or more forms for a single verb.


Verb is The part of speech (or word class) that describes an action or occurrence or indicates a state of being.

There are two main classes of verbs:

1.       the large open class of lexical verbs (also known as main verbs or full verbs–that is, verbs that aren’t dependent on other verbs).

Lexical verbs is any verb in English that is not an auxiliary verb.

Examples and Observations:

  • “Examples of lexical verbs are arrive, see, walk, copula be, transitive do, etc. They carry a real meaning and are not dependent on another verb. In addition to a lexical verb, the VP [verb phrase] may contain auxiliaries. Auxiliaries depend on another verb, add grammatical information, and are grouped together with the lexical verb in a Verb Group.”

2.       the small closed class of auxiliary verbs (also called helping verbs). The two subtypes of auxiliaries are the primary auxiliaries (be, have, and do), which can also act as lexical verbs, and the modal auxiliaries (can, could, may, might, must, ought, shall, should, will, and would).

Auxiliary verbs is a verb that determines the mood or tense of another verb in a verb phrase. Also known as a helping verb. Contrast with lexical

Verb Classification

We divide verbs into two broad classifications:

1. Helping Verbs / AUXILIARY VERBS

Imagine that a stranger walks into your room and says:

  • I can.
  • People must.
  • The Earth will.

Do you understand anything? Has this person communicated anything to you? Probably not! That’s because these verbs are helping verbs and have no meaning on their own. They are necessary for the grammatical structure of the sentence, but they do not tell us very much alone. We usually use helping verbs with main verbs. They “help” the main verb. (The sentences in the above examples are therefore incomplete. They need at least a main verb to complete them.) There are only about 15 helping verbs.

Helping verbs have no meaning on their own. They are necessary for the grammatical structure of a sentence, but they do not tell us very much alone. We usually use helping verbs with main verbs. They “help” the main verb (which has the real meaning). There are only about 15 helping verbs in English, and we divide them into two basic groups:

Primary helping verbs (3 verbs)

These are the verbs be, do, and have. Note that we can use these three verbs as helping verbs or as main verbs. On this page we talk about them as helping verbs. We use them in the following cases:

  • be
    • to make continuous tenses (He is watching TV.)
    • to make the passive (Small fish are eaten by big fish.)
  • have
    • to make perfect tenses (I have finished my homework.)
  • do
    • to make negatives (I do not like you.)
    • to ask questions (Do you want some coffee?)
    • to show emphasis (I do want you to pass your exam.)
    • to stand for a main verb in some constructions (He speaks faster than she does.)

Modal helping verbs (10 verbs)

We use modal (A verb that combines with another verb to indicate mood or tense) helping verbs to “modify” the meaning of the main verb in some way. A modal helping verb expresses necessity or possibility, and changes the main verb in that sense. These are the modal verbs:

  • can, could
  • may, might
  • will, would,
  • shall, should
  • must
  • ought to

Here are examples using modal verbs:

  • I can’t speak Chinese.
  • John may arrive late.
  • Would you like a cup of coffee?
  • You should see a doctor.
  • I really must go now.

2. Main Verbs / LEXICAL VERBS

Now imagine that the same stranger walks into your room and says:

  • I teach.
  • People eat.
  • The Earth rotates.

Do you understand something? Has this person communicated something to you? Probably yes! Not a lot, but something. That’s because these verbs are main verbs and have meaning on their own. They tell us something. Of course, there are thousands of main verbs.

In the following table we see example sentences with helping verbs and main verbs. Notice that all of these sentences have a main verb. Only some of them have a helping verb.

helping verb main verb
John likes coffee.
You lied to me.
They are happy.
The children are playing.
We must go now.
I do not want any.

Helping verbs and main verbs can be further sub-divided, as we shall see on the following pages.

sources : internet (forget the site)


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