Learn English Verbs


Let's learn English verbs. And as usually, let's start from the beginning.

Check out our new series of illustrated workbooks:
Stories and Exercises to Practice the Perfect Tenses

Stories and Exercises to Practice the Progressive Tenses


What is a verb?

A verb is a word, or a group of words, which describe an action or a state.
For example:

sing
What is a verb?


drive


Example of a verb


write

example of a verb: write


Now, sing, drive and write are all verb because they are actions. But a verb can also be a state.

For example:

love

Love is a state, and a verb


know

Know is a state, and a verb


have

Have is a state, and a verb

Love, know and have are not actions, they are states. And they are verbs too.

A verb can be a word, or a group of words.
For example, in the sentence "I will win this time!", the verb is made of 2 words.

The word "verb" originally comes from the Latin word verbum, which means "word".

Person

First person, second person, third person

Another important subject that will help you learn English verbs is the subject of person.

Now, what do we mean by that?

Each action (or state) has someone connected with it. In other words: Who? Who is doing it? Or, who is in that state?

We call it the "person."

When the verb shows an action or a state of the person speaking, we say the verb is in the first person.

In the following sentences the verbs are in the first person:

I go to school.

I like pasta.

We drink water.


When the verb shows an action or a state of the person you are speaking to, we say the verb is in the second person.

In the following sentences the verbs are in the second person:

You look pretty.

You sleep too much.

You play golf.


When the verb shows an action or a state of someone else, which is not present, we say the verb is in the third person.

In the following sentences the verbs are in the third person:

He is a good guy.

She has a garden.

It works fine.

They sing together.


Of course, just because we call it a "person" it does mean it has to be a real person! The action can be connected to an object, an animal, etc.

For example: The phone rings.

"Rings" is a verb in the third person.

Tense

English tenses

In addition to person, each verb also has a certain time. In other words, when does it happen? Past, present or future? Is it complete or in progress? We call this the tense of the verb.

For the complete, step by step, guide of English Tenses visit this section.

In short, English has 12 different tenses, which show when the action or state take place.

In the following sentences the verbs are in the PAST tense:

In 1999 I lived in Toronto.

Yesterday we met on the beach.

He left an hour ago.


In the following sentences the verbs are in the PRESENT tense:


They visit us often.

I feel great.

You have a car.


In the following sentences the verbs are in the FUTURE tense:

The cat will catch the mouse.

Father will be here soon.

We will come to the party.


Sometimes just saying when the action or state take place is not enough. We might also want to mention whether the action is complete, or in progress. This is called the aspect.

In other words, a verb can indicate any of the following:
1) When the action takes place, with no additional information.
2) When the action takes place, and that it is in progress.
3) When the action takes place, and that it is complete.
4) When the action takes place, that it was in progress and that it is finally complete.
12 English tenses

Now, don't faint just yet! Some examples follow...

1) When + no additional data (simple tenses):

Kate walked home.
(only shows when: in the past, no extra data)

Kate walks home every day.
(only shows when: in the present, no extra data)

Kate will walk home tonight.
(only shows when: in the future, no extra data)


2) When + in progress (progressive tenses):

Yesterday at 5 o'clock Kate was walking home.
(shows when: in the past, and also indicates the action was in progress)

Kate is walking home right now.
(shows when: in the present, and also indicates the action is in progress)

Tonight at 9 o'clock Kate will be walking home.
(shows when: in the future, and also indicates the action will be in progress)


3) When + completion (perfect tenses):

Kate had already walked before 8 o'clock.
(shows when: before something in the past, and also indicates the action was complete)

Kate has walked for a long time.
(shows when: before the present, and also indicates the action is complete)

By midnight, Kate will have walked home.
(shows when: before the future, and also indicates the action will be complete)


4) When + in progress + completion (perfect progressive tenses):

Kate had been walking for 2 hours before she got home.
(shows when: before something in the past, and also indicates the action was in progress and later it was complete)

Kate has been walking for 2 hours.
(shows when: before the present, and also indicates the action was in progress and now it is complete)

By the time Kate gets home, she will have been walking for 2 hours.
(shows when: before the future, and also indicates the action will be in progress and then it will be complete)

Learn English Verbs – Final Words

English verbs are an important part of English. Learn English verbs well, and you are well on your way to mastering the English language.

But how can you do that?

In order for you to learn English verbs, you first need to understand the basics of the subject, like the ones we covered in this section.

Then you should practice them until you know them very well.

Continue that way and gradually increase your vocabulary. Learn English verbs that are new to you and practice them in real life sentences!

Boy writing happily

Your Next Steps

  1. If you wish, you can REREAD this Learn English Verbs section

  2. Study the complete step by step guide of English Tenses

  3. Learn about regular verbs ("worked") and irregular verbs ("ate")

  4. Learn about stative verbs ("love") and dynamic verbs (action verbs) ("break")

  5. Learn the differences between gerunds ("walking") and infinitives ("to walk"), and when to use each of them

  6. Learn the English modal verbs (can, could, may, might, must, ought to, shall, will and would)

  7. Learn the difference between main verbs ("go"), auxiliary verbs (helping verbs) ("are") and compound verbs ("are going")

  8. Learn about English linking verbs ("seem")

  9. Learn the difference between English transitive verbs ("drink") and intransitive verbs ("stand")

  10. Learn about English phrasal verbs ("run into")

  11. Get help in teaching helping verbs

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