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What is a verb?


Verbs are the action words in a sentence that describe what the subject is doing. Along with nouns, verbs are the main part of a sentence or phrase, telling a story about what is taking place. In fact, without a verb, full thoughts can’t be properly conveyed, and even the simplest sentences, such as Maria sings, have one. Actually, a verb can be a sentence by itself, with the subject, in most case you, implied, such as, Sing! and Drive!


When learning the rules of grammar, schoolchildren are often taught that verbs are ‘doing’ words, meaning they signify the part of the sentence which explains the action taking place: He ran away, she eats chocolate cake on Sundays, the horses gallop across the fields. Ran, eats and gallop are the ‘action’ parts of those sentences, thus they are the verbs. However, it can be confusing because not all verbs are easily identifiable as action: I know your name, Jack thought about it, we considered several applications. These are non-action verbs, i.e. those that describe a state of being, emotion, possession, sense or opinion. Other non-action verbs include include love, agree, feel, am, and have.


How to Recognize a Verb


As you can see from the examples above, one clue to help you recognize a verb is its location compared to the subject. Verbs almost always come after a noun or pronoun. These nouns and pronouns are referred to as the subject.  The verb thought comes after the noun Jack, so the action Jack (subject) was taking was thinking (verb).


  1. Mark eats his dinner quickly.
  2. We went to the market.
  3. You write neatly in your notebook.
  4. They thought about all the prizes in the competition.

Here are some other ways to recognize verbs in a sentence:


  1. If you’re not sure if a word is a verb, ask yourself, “Can I do ______?”

Can I think, wonder, walk, yawn? Yes, so these are verbs.


  1. You can also ask, ”What is happening?”


In the sentence Mark eats his dinner quickly, what is happening? Eating is happening, so eating is the verb.

In the sentence They thought about all the prizes what is happening? Thought (thinking) is happening, so thought is the verb.