Grammar Basics: Verbs

For the previous “Grammar Basics” article, we focused on nouns – you can check it out here. Today, we’ll have a look at “verbs.” 

Verbs describe a physical (run, jump, talk) or mental (think, confuse, guess) action or a state of being (to exist, to live, to be).

With a noun or pronoun (which primarily functions as “subject”), verbs tell us what the subject does or performs. The combination of a subject and a verb builds the very basis of a sentence – “I am.” is, in fact, the shortest grammatically correct sentence in the English language. Even though that might sound easy to understand, there are, however, a couple of things you have to keep in mind, especially if you’re currently trying to learn English. So, let’s get going, shall we?

How To Recognize A Verb

When children learn the basics of grammar rules in school, they often refer to verbs as “doing-words.” And this makes complete sense since verbs tell us what someone or something does. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a real action taking place, f.e. “jump,” “run,” “shout,” etc., but it can also be non-action states of sense, thought, emotion, and being (“love,” “think,” “smell,” “ask,” “be,” etc.). 

Verbs always come right after a noun or pronoun, which inevitably acts as the sentence’s subject then. 

go to the park.

John bakes a cake.

The dog barks loudly.

They talked about their life goals.

The horse loves apples.

If you’re still unsure of recognizing the verb in longer sentences, you can either ask yourself, “Can I do ____?” (and replace “do” with the potential verb) or “What is happening?” You can also try to shorten up the sentence until there’s just the subject and verb left.

Let’s have another look at the previous examples:

I go to the park.
(What is happening? “Go” is happening –> I go.)

John bakes a cake.
(Can I do what John does? Can I bake a cake? Yes, you can bake a cake (and you should also eat the cake afterward).)

The dog barks loudly.
(What is happening? The dog barks.)

They talked about their life goals.
(Shortening the sentence: They talked.)

The horse loves apples.
(Can I do that? Can I love apples?)


We’ve already covered the specific tenses (past, present, and future) in the English language. Time is significant when using verbs since we always want to know when something is happening. 

The basic forms of verbs are:

  • Present Tense
    • Present Simple:
      • I talk to my friends.
    • Present Continuous/Progressive:
      • I am talking to my friends.
    • Present Perfect:
      • I have talked to my friends.
    • Present Perfect Continuous/Progressive:
      • I have been talking to my friends.
  • Past Tense
    • Past Simple:
      • I talked to my friends.
    • Past Continuous/Progressive:
      • I was talking to my friends.
    • Past Perfect:
      • I had talked to my friends.
    • Past Perfect Continuous/Progressive:
      • I had been talking to my friends.
  • Future Tense
    • Future Simple 
      • I will talk to my friends.
      • I am going to talk to my friends.
    • Future Continuous/Progressive
      • I will be talking to my friends.
    • Future Perfect:
      • I will have talked to my friends.
    • Future Perfect Continuous/Progressive:
      • I will have been talking to my friends.

Types of Verbs

Again, we know that verbs tell us what someone or something does. Like many things in life, it’s more complex than that, so we prefer to put verbs into specific groups (we’ll list only the most common groups here, however). 

  • Regular Verbs 
    • they change and add “-ed” or “-d” at their end in their “Past Simple tense” and “Part Participle” form:
      • –> talk, talked, has talked
      • –> play, played, has played
      • –> bake, baked, has baked
  • Irregular Verbs
    • they completely change their base form in Past Simple tense and Part Participle:
      • –> tell, told, has told
      • –> go, went, has gone
      • –> see, saw, has seen
    • some irregular verbs won’t even change at all (unlike regular verbs)
      • –> cut, cut, has cut
      • –> quit, quit, has quit
      • –> read, read, has read
  • Linking Verbs
    • they build a link between the subject and another noun or adjective to add more information
      • –> He seems frightened.
      • –> They sound worried.
      • –> Peter remained silent.
      • –> The steak tastes like styrofoam.
      • –> I feel awful about lying to them.
  • Transitive Verb
    • they direct a subject’s action to another object for a sentence to make sense
      • –> The children kicked the football.
      • –> He impressed the princess.
      • –> She plays the violin.
  • Intransitive Verb
    • they don’t need another object and can stand alone with their subject to make sense
      • –> They danced.
      • –> She eats.
      • –> The baby cries.
  • Infinitive Verb 
    • Infinitive verbs are a combination of a verb’s base form and the word “to” in front of it:
      • to have
      • to be
      • to eat
      • to think
      • to sleep
    • ironically, they don’t act as a verb but as a noun (object or subject in a sentence), adjective, or adverb
    • it’s usually standard for infinitive verbs to stand right after a common verb
      • She failed to finish the race.
      • He appears to be confused by her questions.
      • Peter and Mary decided to get married in Spring.
      • can’t afford to spend any more time on this project.
      • They deserve to know the truth.
  • Auxiliary Verb
    • also known as “helping verbs,” they are combined with common verbs to show their tense, ask a question, or emphasize a statement: “be,” “have,” and “do.”
      • Sophie is going to the park.
      • They are leaving the party.
      • Do you want something to drink?
      • Please, do tell me what you want from me now.
      • have watched this movie already.
  • Modal Verbs
    • Modal verbs belong to “Auxiliary verbs.” However, their primary purpose is to emphasize a possibility, expectation, obligation, and ability
    • Typical modal verbs are: can, could, must, may, might, ought to, shall, should, will, would
      • may need your help later.
      • They ought to do their homework before they leave for the party.
      • Will you finally be quiet?!
      • You should read this new article here!
      • Can you hand me the scissors, please?