are verbs? How can they be defined or categorized? This page attempts
to answer these essential questions as clearly and concisely as
are among the essential building blocks of communication in any
language. They are one of the two essential elements
of a sentence or clause. The other is the subject.
exists in relation to a subject
It is the key and essential element of the predicate
sentence. The verb expresses an action or process undertaken by the
subject, or a
situation defining the subject.
to break, to start, to shout
: to sleep, to eat, to think
: to be, to seem, to live
Verbs in the sentence
Every sentence is made up of a subject
predicate. The predicate must contain a verb, but
can contain many other elements too (a complement, an object or more, adverbs,
circumstantial expressions, etc.). Examples:
The president sneezed
taken the wrong bag
man and the woman both forgot.
to get off the train at York.
Transitive or intransitive?
Verbs can either be transitive
A transitive verb requires an object, an intransitive verb
have an object. Some verbs can be transitive or intransitive,
depending on context.
Transitive: to build,
to employ, to like, to drop
: to sleep, to die, to fall
that can be either : to give, to burn,
Stative or dynamic?
Verbs can be either stative
Stative verbs describe a situation or state, dynamic verbs
describe a process or change of state. The two categories are
incompatible with each other.
- describing a state : to know, to lie,
to be, to like,
- expressing a change of state: to discover, to lie down,
to become, to learn
a lot of people in London.
2) My father likes
beer but not whisky.
3) The scientists discovered a new
planet on the edge of the solar system.
4) I sat
down and went
aspect, voice According to conventional modern linguistics, there are only two
tenses in English, the present and the past. Other "tenses" are verb forms created with
the help of auxiliaries and modals. As well as being a rather artificial construct, this can be very confusing for students.
Thus, for the purpose of clarity, it is more useful to use the historic
classification of tenses in English, as defined by - among others -
Samuel Johnson. Johnson listed six English tenses, each of them
with a simple and a progressive or continuous aspect.
is a table of the main tenses in English, in simple and progressive
and active and passive voices:
sample verb - to
||I am making
||I am made
||I am being made
will be making
will be made
was being made
have been making
have been made
had been making
had been made
will have made
will have been making
will have been made
Other "tenses" may exist in English for
some verbs, in specific contexts; for example we could envisage "It
will be being repaired " or "He's
been being looked after",
but forms like this are very rare. Here, nonetheless, is a plausible
example of a future progressive passive, which is hard to avoid in this
you're on holiday in Majorca,
I'll be being interviewed for that job in Glasgow.
forms in English: modality
Here is a table of modal verb forms, using the modal
forms or tenses, and notably conditionals
, are formed
with the help of modal verbs:
could, may, might, would,
, should and
. These forms
are structured in the same
way as the future or future perfect. These
are the only structures possible using modal auxiliaries !
|Modality in the present or future
||Modality in the past
must have taken
must be taking
must have been taking
must be taken
must have been taken
Verbs can be used in three different moods
is the normal mood, and is illustrated in all the examples above
is very rare in English, and is normally found only in a few
expressions, the most common of which is If I were you. See below.
is used to give orders, instructions, invitations, etc. See Imperatives
The subjunctive in English
Most English-speakers do not
know that there is a subjunctive mood in English; but there is, and
many use it quite regularly, without realising. However there is only
one context in which the subjunctive is commonly used, and that is in
the context of a hypothetical conditional statement. And of these,
there is just one expression that is used - from time to time - by most
people, and it is:
were you as in If
I were you, I'd drive more carefully.
Note that the expression is "If
were you" (a subjunctive), and not "If I
was you" (an indicative), though the second form is also
Verbs with multiple functions: be and have. See
Other verb pages : ▲The infinitive ▲ Split infinitives ▲ Present perfect or Compound past?
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