Believe it or not, without verbs Sammy Sosa and Mark Mcgwire could not conceive of playing baseball. Verbs are what allow humanity its call to action. Without verbs we could not describe how we draw, compose music or imagine even the slightest action. So verbs are a part of our basic conception of how things work. Verbs help us to describe these actions to one another. To do this effectively, they must give clear information about an action, including when it happened. The question of what action took place is covered by the verb's definition, but when that action happened is told by the verb's tense form. Someone reading your writing must know the order of events to understand them.

Verbs have some basic forms (as you can see below), although most of these forms are regular and have the same endings, some are irregular. Irregular verbs simply have different endings from regular verbs and from each other as well. You can see some examples below.

  • Present Infinitive Tense- the preposition to can be placed in front of any of these verbs to form an infinitive. Irregular verbs are indistinguishable from regular verbs at this point:

    Regular verb examples:
    assist, smile, leap, watch

    Irregular verb examples:
    be, deal, choose, awake, freeze, fly, give, go, lead, lend

  • Present Participle verbs simply add -ing to the end of the present tense verb without regard for what will become regular or irregular endings.

  • Past Tense verbs show the reader an event that has already occurred.  Regular verbs simply add a -d or -ed to their regular form:

    Regular Examples:
    assisted, smiled, leaped, watched

    Irregular Examples:
    was, dealt, chose, awoke or awakened, froze, flew, gave, went, led, lent

  • Past Participles tend to follow a similar form as the Past Tense, but in the instance of Irregular verbs do not always do so:

    Regular Examples:
    assisted, smiled, leaped, watched

    Irregular Examples:
    been, dealt, chosen, awoke or awakened, frozen, flown, given, gone, led, lent

Over 200 irregular verbs exist in English, so for obvious reasons not all of them could be listed here. Grammarians generally recommend that the irregular verbs be memorized for ease of use. However, the variety of the verbs listed should lend an idea of the variety of verb forms available in English, and a large number of resources are available. For this page, I have used the Watkins and Dillingham Practical English Handbook, 10th Ed. (1996) as my main source.

Other differences among verbs also exist. Verbs that can take objects are called transitive, and verbs that do not are called intransitive. Most verbs are transitive, but some transitives are easily confused with the intransitives.

Some Transitives: lay, set (except in rare cases), raise

  • I lay the book down. ("The book" directly relates to the verb "lay" in that it was lain down.)
  • I set my coffee on the table. ("Coffee" is directly affected by the verb "set.")
  • The necromancer raised the dead. ("The dead" directly relates to "raised.")

Some Intransitives: lie, sit, rise

  • I lie on the bed. (Notice how the object noun "bed" is within a prepositional phrase. This will be the case with every intransitive verb.)

We hope that you will take this opportunity to practice using verbs.

Please visit our page on Subject-Verb Agreement.

Created by Robert Ward