What is a Verb? How Many Types of Verbs are There in English?

What is a verb?

The verb is the word used to describe an action, being, or a situation or experience. For example: come, go, take, see, play, walk, run, etc.

The verb is said to be the most important word in an English sentence. Because no sentence can be written in English without Verb.

verb-and-its-types
Verb and its Types

How many types of verbs are there?

Verbs can be divided into three main parts based on function. They are:

  1.  Finite verb
  2. Non-finite or Infinitive verb
  3. Auxiliary verb

1. -Finite verb:

The verb which has its own subject in the sentence or clause, which can be changed in different tenses by making necessary changes, and which changes its form with the change of the subject of the sentence is called a Finite verb.

Then it is understood that in order for a verb to be a finite verb, it must have three qualities. These are:

  • The verb will have its own subject.
  • If necessary, the sentence can be changed to different Tenses by changing the form of the verb.
  • The verb will change its form if necessary due to a change in the subject of the sentence.

If a verb does not have the above features, it will never be a Finite verb.

Example:

  • I go there to see a tiger. [In this sentence, there are two verbs, ‘go’ and ‘see’. The verb ‘go’ has its own subject which is ‘I’, but the verb ‘see’ does not have any subject of its own. That is why ‘go’ is the Finite verb.]
  • I went there to see a tiger. [In this sentence, the verb ‘go’ has been used in the past form ‘went’ to make a sentence of Past Indefinite tense. In this way, by changing the form of the verb, sentences of different tenses can be made].
  • He goes there to see a tiger. [In this sentence, ‘es’ has been added with the verb ‘go’ because the subject is in the Third Person singular number. That is to say, the verb ‘go’ has changed its form due to the change of subject].

Notice again:

  • They plan to go there. [In this sentence, the verb ‘plan’ has its own subject, but the verb ‘go’ has not. So, the verb ‘want’ is the Finite verb.]
  • They planned to go there. [In this sentence, the verb ‘plan’ has been used to the past form to make a Past Indefinite Tense. So, the verb ‘want’ is the Finite verb.]
  • He plans to go there. [In this sentence, ‘s’ has been added with the verb ‘plan’ because the subject is in the Third Person singular number. That is to say, the verb ‘plan’ has changed its form due to the change of subject. So, the verb ‘plans’ is the Finite verb.]

Then it is understood that a particular verb can be used as a Finite verb or Non-finite or any other type of verb, and it depends on the use of the verb in the sentence. Here, the verb ‘go’ once is used as a Finite verb and again it is used as a Non-finite verb or any other type of verb.

What is the main function of a Finite verb?

The main or only function of a finite verb in a sentence or clause is to help form different tenses. No verb other than the finite verb has the power to form a tense or to change the sentence into different tenses. Once you understand this, you can easily understand which verb is a finite verb in a sentence.

How does a Finite verb work in sentences?

A finite verb can work in three different ways in a sentence or phrase. They are:

  • As a dynamic or action verb
  • As a stative verb
  • As a linking verb

-As a Dynamic or Action verb:

A finite verb can act as a dynamic verb. The verbs that describe an active physical or mental function, and that can be used in continuous tenses to show ongoing action are called Dynamic or Action verbs.

Example:

  • The boy reads a book.
  • The players are playing on the field.
  • I am writing an application for a job.

Dynamic verbs are of two types. They are:

  • Transitive verb
  • Intransitive verb

-Transitive verb:

The verb that requires a noun or a pronoun as an object (verb) after the verb to express the full meaning of the sentence is called a transitive verb.

Example:

  • William sent me an email from the USA.
  • My father will give me a gift on my birthday.
  • Mark gave him a flower.

-Intransitive verb:

The verb that does not have a noun/pronoun as an object, but uses adverb or prepositional phrase to express the full meaning of the sentence is called an intransitive verb.

Example:

  • Vanessa sang beautifully at the party.
  • My friend will arrive tomorrow.
  • William lives here.

Can a verb be both Transitive and Intransitive?

There are considerable numbers of verbs that can be used as transitive and intransitive verbs. Whether a verb is transitive or an intransitive is to be judged by looking at how that verb has been used in that sentence. If a verb is used with a noun/pronoun, e.g, with an object, then that verb will be a transitive verb. On the other hand, an intransitive verb will never take an object. But interestingly enough most of the verbs can play the role of a transitive and intransitive verb.

Example:

  • Transitive: William is singing a song.
  • Intransitive: William will be singing at the party.
  • Transitive: William reads a poem.
  • Intransitive: William reads silently.
  • Transitive: Mark plays football.
  • Intransitive: Mark is playing in the field.

-As a Stative verb:

A stative verb is also a finite verb. The verbs that describe the state of being or having without describing any active physical or mental activity are called Stative verbs. Stative verbs are not usually used in the continuous tense because they describe a state or situation rather than an action.

So, what we have learned about stative verbs is that:

  • stative verbs generally describe a state rather than an action
  • stative verbs are not usually used in the present continuous form.

The verbs, which can be used as stative verbs, are:

abhor, appear, believe, concern, cost, desire, dislike, doubt, envy, fear, forget, forgive, have, hear, hate, imagine, know, like, love, mind, mean, need, owe, prefer, realize, remember, see, smell, taste, seem, understand, want, wish, etc.

Example:

  • Incorrect: I am loving you very much.
  • Correct: I love you very much.
  • Incorrect: They are seeing the tigers in the zoo.
  • Correct: They see the tigers in the zoo.

Remember: Some stative verbs such as: see, hear, have, feel, taste, smell, etc. are used to express perception or feeling. These verbs can also be used in the continuous form in different meanings.

Example:

  • See (meaning ‘to meet’): I am seeing my friends later this month.
  • Have (meaning ‘to eat’): Now they are having lunch.
  • Think (meaning ‘mental activity): I am thinking about my future.

-As a Linking verb:

A linking verb can also act as a finite verb. The verbs that have the feature of creating a link or relationship between the subject and the complement are called the Linking verbs. As a complement of a linking verb, only a noun or an adjective can be used. No other part of speech can play the role of a complement with a linking verb.

The function of a linking verb is to describe the subject. No other verb has this kind of feature.

Example:

  • Vanessa is a pretty girl.
  • Honey tastes sweet.
  • Mark is a doctor.
  • Flora looks sad.

What are the verbs that can be used as a linking verb?

When the verb ‘be’ is used as the main verb in a sentence, it is used as a linking verb. There are other verbs that can be used as linking verbs. They are: appear, become, fall, feel, get, go, grow, keep, look, prove, read, remain, run, seem, sell, smell, sound, stay, taste, turn, etc.

2. – Non-finite verb:

The verb in a sentence that does not have its own subject, and which cannot change its form to form sentences of different tenses is called a non-finite verb.

Then it is understood that in order for a verb to be a non-finite verb, it must have at least two qualities. These are:

  • This form of the verb will have no subject of its own.
  • If necessary, the sentence cannot be changed to different Tenses by changing this form of the verb.

If a verb does not have the above two features, it will never be a Non-finite verb.

Example:

  • I am going there to meet my friend. [‘to meet’ has no subject of its own, and it cannot be changed into past form.]
  • Reading the book, I shall go there. [‘Reading’ has no subject of its own, and it cannot be changed into past form.]
  • Writing is a good practice for improving your handwriting. [‘Writing’ has no subject of its own, and it cannot be changed into past form.]

Types of the non-finite verb:

There are three types of non-finite verbs. They are:

  • Infinitive
  • Participle
  • Gerund

– Infinitive:

An infinitive is a basic verb form with ‘to’ before it and generally functions like nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. The main function of an infinitive is to express the opinion, action, and purpose of an object.

Example:

  • They decided to play cricket.
  • Then they planned to swim in the nearby river.
  • I would like to thank you for what you have done for me.
  • To work out in the morning is good for health. (Functioning like a noun and acting as the subject of the verb ‘is’.)

Other examples with explanation:

  • I go there to see a tiger. [In this sentence, there are two verbs, ‘go’ and ‘see’. The verb ‘go’ has its own subject which is ‘I’, but the verb ‘see’ does not have any subject of its own. That is why ‘go’ is the Finite verb. On the other hand, ‘to see’ has no subject of its own. Which is why ‘to see’ is an infinitive.]
  • I went there to see a tiger. [In this sentence, the verb ‘go’ has been used in the past form ‘went’ to make a sentence of Past Indefinite tense. In this way, by changing the form of the verb, sentences of different tenses can be made. On the other hand, there is no scope of making a past form of the verb ‘to see’].
  • He goes there to see a tiger. [In this sentence, ‘es’ has been added with the verb ‘go’ because the subject is in the Third Person singular number. That is to say, the verb ‘go’ has changed its form due to the change of subject. On the other hand, there is no change in the verb ‘to see’].

– Participle:

The present participle and past participle forms of verbs that do not have their subjects of their own and which do not have any role in changing tenses are called participle.

Example:

  • That is an interesting story.
  • Going there I talked to him.
  • I saw him reading a story.

– Gerund:

The present participle form of verbs that are used as the subject of a verb, or an object of a verb, or an object of a preposition is called a gerund.

Example:

  • Writing emails is a good form of communication.
  • My mother likes cooking.
  • I had a great love for reading novels.

3. – Auxiliary verb:

The verbs that help the main verb to form tenses and sometimes help express the mood of the speaker are called auxiliary verbs.

Auxiliary verbs are of two types. They are:

  • Primary auxiliary
  • Modal auxiliary

-Primary auxiliary:

The verbs that help the main verb to form tenses, and help to make a sentence negative and interrogative are called primary auxiliary.

In total, there are three primary auxiliaries. They are: Do, be, and have.

Example:

  • I have got good marks in the exam.
  • Do you like watching TV serials?
  • He is reading a novel.

-Modal auxiliary:

The verbs that help the main verb to express the speaker’s attitude are called modal auxiliary verbs.

The words used as modal auxiliary verbs are: Shall, should, can, could, may, might, ought, ought to, will, would, must, etc. Using one of these verbs a speaker can express the following attitude.

  1. Permission: May take your pen?
  2. Ability: I can do this work.
  3. Obligation: You always should obey your parents.
  4. Prohibition: You must not go there.
  5. Advice: You should study attentively.
  6. Possibility: It may rain tomorrow.
  7. Probability: They might come to attend the party.

Rezaul Karim

Hi, my name is Rezaul Karim. I am an English teacher and founder of LearnEnglishWithRezaul.com. I work with non-native English learners to help them understand English grammar from basic to intermediate. I also help them improve their conversation skills, and communication ability and reduce their accent. I hope you may like my posts on this website, and if you really really feel that this page/website is useful for English learners, please happily share it for others to know.

Leave a Reply