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The Verb

A noun or a pronoun, no matter how many modifiers it may have, cannot make a sentence. The noun or pronoun must act in some way, or something must be said about it. The part of speech that performs this function is the verb.

What is a Verb?

A verb is a word that expresses action or otherwise helps to make a sentence.

There are three main types of verbs: Action Verbs, Linking Verbs and Helping Verbs.

Action Verbs

Words such as do, come, go and write are action verbs. Sometimes action verbs express an action that cannot be seen: believe, remember, know, think and understand.

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

There are two large classes of action verbs – transitive and intransitive.

A verb is transitive when the action it expresses is directed toward a person or thing named in the sentence. The action passes from the doer (the subject) to the receiver of the action (the object)


Jane ate the apple. (The action of the verb ate is directed toward apple. The subject is Jane and the object is apple)

John threw the ball. (The action of the verb threw is directed toward ball. The subject is John and the object is the ball)

A verb is intransitive when it expresses action (or helps to make a statement) without reference to the object.


The children behaved very well.
The bus arrived on time.

The same verb may be transitive in one sentence and intransitive in another.


She speaks English. (Transitive – the object is English)
She speaks fluently. (Intransitive – there is no object)


Linking Verbs

Some verbs help to make a statement, not by expressing an action but by serving as a link between two words. These verbs are called linking verbs.

The most commonly used linking verbs are forms of the verb be.

Some forms of the verb be are:



has been


shall be

have been


will be

had been


should be

shall have been


would be

will have been


could be

should have been


can be

would have been



could have been

Another two common linking verb are become and seem.


His name is James. (is joins name with James)
Andy could have been a dentist. (could have been joins Andy with dentist)
The soup smells good. (smells joins soup with good).
The light remained green. (remained joins light with green)


Some linking verbs can be used as action verbs as well.

For example














The stew tasted good. (linking verb)
Paul tasted the stew. (action verb)

How can we tell when a verb is an action verb or a linking verb?

If we can substitute the verb with is/are/am and the sentence still sounds logical then it is a linking verb.


“The stew tasted good” can be changed to “The stew is good”. (Tasted is then a linking verb.)

“Paul tasted the stew” cannot be changed to “Paul is the stew” (Tasted is then an action verb.)


Helping Verbs or Auxiliary Verbs

Helping verbs (also called auxiliary verbs) work together with the main verb as a unit. There are two main groups of helping verbs: Primary Helping Verbs and Modal Helping Verbs.

Primary Helping Verbs

The primary helping verbs includes the

  • different forms of the word be
  • do, did, does
  • has, have, had


She is leaving. (is - the helping verb, leaving - the main verb)

I have finally finished my work. (have - the helping verb, finished - the main verb)

Modal Helping Verbs

Modal helping verbs are used to ‘modify’ the meaning of the main verb in some way.

The modal verbs include:

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


Can she help us? (can - the helping verb, help - the main verb)

She will be leaving soon. (will be - the helping verb, leaving - the main verb)

What is the difference between a linking verb and a helping verb?

Linking verbs joins the subject with the rest of the sentence whereas helping verbs are used with another verb


The pillow is soft. (is is a linking verb because it joins pillow and soft)

The train should be arriving soon. (should be is a helping verb that is used with the main verb arriving).



Verbs. What are they? How do we use them? How do they change form according to the nouns? Find out how it all works!

This short video shows how helping verbs are used with main verbs.

This video lists the modal verbs and briefly explains their use.


You can use the Mathway widget below to practice Algebra or other math topics. Try the given examples, or type in your own problem. Then click "Answer" to check your answer.

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