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Verb: Definition, Important Types and Terminology for Beginners

Verbs play the most important role in the formation of English sentences.

There are so many different types of verbs that students are often confused about which category of verbs means what. A sound knowledge of the terminology for different types of verbs used in basic English grammar and the basic types of verbs helps the students to study the tenses, voices and direct and indirect speeches etc easily. Before we study tenses, voices and narration, it is, therefore, essential to be familiar with certain types of verbs frequently mentioned by teachers in class.

Verbs: Verbs are the words that denote actions or states of being. In other words, verbs denote what the subject is or is doing.

 1. Main Verbs or Principal Verbs:

Action words are called main verbs or principal verbs. They are so called because they express meaning without the help of auxiliary or helping verbs. Main verbs play the most important role in English sentence construction. Most of the English verbs are main or principal verbs. Main verbs are of two types. 1. Action or Physical verbs and 2. Non Action or Non Physical Verbs. Action verbs or physical verbs involve some tangible physical action. We can see such physical actions. Examples include come, go, play, run, eat, work, write, drive etc. Non action or non physical verbs do not involve any physical action. The actions are of mental nature. We understand that there is some action but we can't see the action. Examples of non action verbs are see, hear, think, feel, believe, understand, know, love, hate etc. The only difference between physical and non physical verbs is that one denotes physically tangible action and the other physically non tangible action. Non physical verbs can be further divided into verbs of feeling, verbs of sense, verbs of thinking and knowing etc.

2. Auxiliary Or Helping Verbs:

Auxiliary verbs help the main verbs to express their meanings. They are used in the formation of negative and interrogative forms, active and passive voice, different tense forms etc. Some of these auxiliaries are also used to express possibility, duty, obligation etc. There are twenty four auxiliary verbs in total. They are am, is, are, was, were, shall, should, will, would, can, could, may, might, must, have, has, had, do, does, did, ought ( to ), dare, need and used to. These auxiliaries are further divided into two classes namely primary and modal auxiliaries. Forms of be, have and do verbs are called primary auxiliaries and the rest are treated as modal auxiliaries.

3. Be, Have and Do Verbs:

These verbs have already been included in the list of twenty four auxiliaries. Am, is, are, was, were, shall be, will be, have been, has been, had been, shall have been, will have been are the different forms of be verbs. Have, has, had, shall have and will have are the different forms of 'have' verbs. Do, does and did are the forms for the 'do' verb.

4. Finite and Non Finite Verbs:

Finite verbs are those verbs that change their forms according to the number and person of subjects.


I am a boy.

He goes to school.

They play football.

She works hard etc.

Here the verb forms, am, goes, play and works have been used in agreement with the number and person of their subjects. But non finite verbs don't change their forms according to the number and person of subjects. Infinitives, participles, gerunds and verbal nouns are called non finite verbs. Let us look at the types of non finite verbs next.

5. Infinitives:

Simply put, infinitives are the verbs with 'to' before them. Examples: I went there to study. He is about to die. We'll go to buy vegetables now. To study, to die and to buy are infinitives for they don't change their forms in agreement with their subjects. They have the same forms in all tenses. The difficulty in identifying infinitives is that many infinitives have their 'to' hidden. The  Study of rules and practice makes it clear. Verbs that come after please, let, make, shall, should, can, may, had better, had sooner are some of the infinitives where 'to' is hidden. Examples: Please (to) go there. We let them (to) go. I can (to) do the work. I had better (to) go there.

6. Gerunds: Gerunds are the verbs in their ing forms. They are used as subjects and objects in sentences. 

Examples :

Reading is my hoby.

I like playing.

7. Present Participles:

Present Participles are the verbs in their ing forms with auxiliaries before them. They are used in the continuous tenses.


I am writing.

He is playing.

They were running.

We shall be leaving.

8. Past Participles:

Past Participles are the third form of verbs in the table of conjugation of verbs. They are mostly used with perfect tenses.


Go - went - gone.

Do - did - done.



Hurt-hurt-hurt etc.

Here gone, done, played, run and hurt are the past participles.

9. Weak Verbs or Regular Verbs:

Weak verbs or regular verbs form their past and past participle by adding d, ed or t.

Examples :

Walk - walked - walked.

Look - looked - looked.

Play - played - played.

Learn - learnt - learnt etc

10. Strong Verbs or Irregular Verbs:

Strong verbs or irregular verbs form their past and past participles without following any regular pattern or rule.

Examples :

Awake - awoke - awoken.

Arise - arose - arisen.

Begin - began - begun.

Cut - cut - cut etc

11. Transitive and Intransitive Verbs:

Transitive verbs have an object.


I play football.

He eats rice.

Intransitive Verbs have no object.


Birds fly.

He cries.

12. Phrasal Verbs or Group Verbs:

When a verb combines with a preposition or an adverb to indicate a new meaning, it ]is called a phrasal verb or group verb. 


Call in, call on, deal in, deal with, get in, look down upon, run over, die of etc.

13. Linking verbs:

When a verb doesn't show any action, it just links or connects the subject with the rest of the sentence, it is called a linking verb. All auxiliaries function as linking verbs when they are used without main verbs. Verbs like become, seem, appear, sound etc also function as linking verbs.


He is a good boy.

We are poor.

She became a doctor.

It appears true.

Your decision sounds wise.

14. Quasi Passive Verbs:

There are a few English verbs like read, write, smell, taste, sell, print, milk, build, feel etc which can be used in the active voice with the meaning of passive voice, that is, they are active in form but passive in meaning. Such verbs are called quasi passive verbs.


The book reads well.

This pen writes well.

The flower smells sweet.

Honey tastes sweet.

Rice sells cheap today.

The book is printing.

The cow is milking.

The house is building.

The bed cover feels smooth.

15. Introductory, Introducing Or Reporting Verbs:

These verbs are used to introduce or report the actual words of the speaker in the direct speech.


He said, "I shall go".

He exclaimed, "Alas! She is dead".

Said and exclaimed are the examples of introducing or reporting verbs.