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Verbs: Using Words to Act and Be

It’s incredibly easy to forget the various parts of speech in English, especially if you’re a native speaker. After all, you’ve been learning the different categories since birth. In this article, you’re going to find the answer to the question, “what is a verb?” Soon, you’ll understand the fundamentals of this important part of speech.

Quick tip: After you finish reading this article, check out BibMe’s grammar checker. It’ll search for and correct common mistakes in your next English paper.

When you’ve finished learning about verbs, check out our other pages: adjectives and adverb.

What is a Verb?

A very simple definition is that verbs are action words or words that discuss states of being. However, there are a few things to learn in order to really understand what that means. Let’s break it down.

Sometimes, the action you take is physical. In this case, you use a physical word to describe the action. Here are a couple examples:

  • I rode my bike to school.
  • Let’s swim in the ocean.

On the other hand, sometimes an action takes place in your mind. In this case you use mental words instead of physical ones. See if you can tell the difference between these examples and the ones above:

  • I understand what you mean.
  • Ben forgot where he put his research paper.

In addition to physical and mental words, there’s a third verb form: the state of being. But unlike the two other types, this form has nothing to do with expressing action.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The state of being form is about inaction. That’s why these words are also known as inactive words. Click here to learn more.

At this point, you might be saying to yourself, “Okay, that definition is easy to understand. But here’s another pressing question…”

What’s the Subject Verb Agreement Rule?

Quick tip: Are you planning to reference this article for a school project? Make sure you cite your sources! Learn how to make citations by reading these guides on MLA format and APA format before continuing. Now, back to the lesson…

In every sentence there’s a person, place, thing, or idea that’s acting or in a state of being. This is the foundation of the agreement rule.

When you write a present tense sentence in English, your subject and verb must agree. But they’ll only agree if the singular or plural action words match with their singular or plural noun counterpart.

Oddly enough, these words agree by being different. For example, look at this sentence:

The bird eats chia seeds.

When the noun phrase (the bird) is singular, the action word (eats) is singular too. Yes, you’re reading that right; a singular action word always ends with the letter s, whereas a singular noun does not. Here’s the same sentence, but this time using the plural form:

The birds eat chia seeds.

In this example, both words are plural and in agreement. Plural nouns gain the letter s, while plural action words drop theirs. As both the action word and the noun are plural, it follows the agreement rule.

So, when does the agreement rule apply? Well, you follow it in these situations:

  • In present tense sentences.
  • When the noun comes after certain states of being words like in the sentences:

    • My friend is talking to me.
    • My friends are talking to me.
  • When using a personal pronoun that isn’t I or you.

    • She runs outside.
    • They run outside. Woohoo!

Note: Woohoo! is not a verb. It’s an interjection.

Breaking All the Rules

Now that you understand this rule, let’s end on irregular verbs. Many action words follow a standard pattern when you switch tenses. Here’s what it looks like:

Jump

  • Present Tense: Jumps
  • Past Tense: Jumped
  • Present Participle: Jumping

Irregular words don’t care about the rules and instead do their own thing. Let’s look at the tenses of the irregular word sing:

Sing

  • Present Tense: Sings
  • Past Tense: Sang
  • Present Participle: Singing

There are many irregular words with unique patterns to learn. As you can see, some words just break all the rules, which makes language exciting. But that doesn’t mean you should break the rules too. Instead, learn about APA, MLA, and more styles of citing sources for your upcoming homework assignment.

Looking for more? Take a peek at some of our other grammar pages: Preposition, Conjunction, and Determiner.