A definition of descriptive verbs with examples

Descriptive Verbs And Vivid Verbs

Among the vast array of verbs available in the English language, two categories stand out for their ability to bring depth and color to our writing and speech: descriptive verbs and vivid verbs.

Learning about these verbs and how to use them effectively can unlock new levels of expressiveness for English language learners and creative writing students alike. But what are descriptive verbs and vivid verbs, and how are they different?

Below we will aim to answer these questions and provide a list of descriptive verbs and a list of vivid verbs you can use to make your English writing and speaking more expressive, precise, and exciting. We will also provide some tips on how to use descriptive and vivid verbs effectively and suggest some practice activities that you or your students can do. First, let’s take a look at what descriptive verbs are.

What Are Descriptive Verbs?

Descriptive verbs provide more detailed or vivid information about the action being performed. Instead of using more common or generic verbs, descriptive verbs can give a clearer picture of the intensity, manner, or specific way an action takes place.

Descriptive Verb Example

For instance, consider the common verb “walk.” By replacing “walk” with a more descriptive verb, we can convey more about the way someone is walking:

  • He strolled into the room. (This suggests a casual, relaxed manner.)
  • She sprinted to the finish line. (This indicates a high speed and intensity.)
  • The cat crept around the yard. (This suggests a cautious, stealthy approach.)

Descriptive verbs give the reader or listener a better understanding of the situation, setting, character’s mood, and other nuances that make a story or explanation more engaging and vivid. They help writers “show” what’s happening rather than “tell.”

What Are Vivid Verbs?

Vivid verbs, much like descriptive verbs, are action words that create a clear, detailed, and often sensory-rich image in the reader’s or listener’s mind. They are used to deliver more specific and lively descriptions of actions, often replacing more common or vague verbs. By employing vivid verbs, writers can paint a clearer picture of what is happening in the story, poem, or description.

Vivid Verb Example

Consider these examples of common verbs, followed by their more vivid counterparts:

  1. “Walk” can be replaced with “strut,” “march,” or “scuttle,” each giving a slightly different image of the action.
  2. “Said” can become “whispered,” “murmured,” “shouted,” “declared,” or “muttered,” again providing a more specific description of how the words were spoken.
  3. “Look” might become “gaze,” “peer,” “ogle,” “glance,” or “stare,” each conveying a different intensity or manner of looking.

Vivid verbs not only make writing more interesting, but they can also give insight into the character’s emotions, attitudes, or physical condition. They help bring a piece of writing to life.

Descriptive Verbs Vs Vivid Verbs

The terms “descriptive verbs” and “vivid verbs” are often used interchangeably. They both refer to the idea of using more specific, illustrative, and dynamic action words to make writing more engaging and expressive. They aim to provide a clearer picture of the action, mood, intensity, or manner in which something is being done.

That said, one could make a minor distinction between the two in terms of degree. While all vivid verbs are descriptive, not all descriptive verbs are necessarily vivid. A descriptive verb provides more detail than a generic verb, but a vivid verb takes this a step further, often evoking sensory details or strong images.

For example, consider these three sentences:

  1. He ate the sandwich.” (generic verb)
  2. He devoured the sandwich.” (descriptive verb)
  3. He wolfed down the sandwich.” (vivid verb)

“Eat” is a generic verb, “devour” is a more descriptive verb that indicates eating quickly or greedily, and “wolfed down” is an even more vivid verb that creates a strong, almost wild image in the reader’s mind. In practice, however, the distinction between descriptive and vivid verbs is rarely made, and the terms are frequently used to mean the same thing.

Descriptive Verb List With Example Sentences

To help you get a sense of what descriptive verbs are and how to use them, here’s a list of 50 descriptive verbs together with example sentences:

Descriptive VerbExample Sentence
WhisperShe whispered a secret into his ear.
ShoutThe coach shouted instructions from the sideline.
StrollThey strolled through the park hand in hand.
RunHe runs every morning before breakfast.
GazeShe gazed out the window at the falling snow.
GlareHe glared at the person who cut in line.
NodShe nodded in agreement with his statement.
SighHe sighed in relief after finishing the test.
LaughThey laughed at the comedian’s jokes.
CryThe baby cried for its mother.
GrinHe grinned upon receiving the good news.
FrownShe frowned at the taste of the medicine.
CheerThe crowd cheered when the team scored.
ScreamThey screamed on the roller coaster ride.
ClapWe clapped enthusiastically for the performers.
BlinkHe blinked in surprise when she said yes.
GlanceShe glanced at her watch, realizing she was late.
WaveHe waved goodbye from the train window.
MunchShe munched on an apple during break.
SipHe sipped his coffee while reading the newspaper.
StareThe children stared in awe at the fireworks.
GraspShe grasped the handle firmly.
LeapThe frog leaped into the pond.
SwerveThe car swerved to avoid the deer.
DashHe dashed out the door to catch the bus.
SlurpThey slurped their soup noisily.
SnoreHe was snoring loudly, keeping everyone awake.
SquintShe squinted to see the sign in the distance.
ScowlHe scowled at the mention of his rival’s name.
FlutterThe bird fluttered its wings before taking off.
SlamShe slammed the door in anger.
ChuckleHe chuckled at the memory of the old joke.
DoodleShe doodled on her notebook during the lecture.
GulpHe gulped down his drink quickly.
HumShe hummed her favorite tune while cooking.
SkipThe child skipped happily down the path.
PeepThe chick peeped out from its shell.
PonderHe pondered over the question before answering.
ShiverThey shivered in the cold winter wind.
SmirkHe smirked when he saw his plan working.
SnuggleShe snuggled into the warm blanket.
ThumpHis heart thumped loudly as he asked her out.
TrembleShe trembled with fear in the dark room.
WhisperHe whispered the answer to his friend.
YellThe referee yelled to stop the game.
ZipHe zipped up his jacket before stepping outside.
WinkShe winked at him
Descriptive Verb List With Example Sentences

Vivid Verb List With Example Sentences

Here’s a list of 50 vivid verbs together with example sentences:

Vivid VerbExample Sentence
AdmonishShe admonished him for his reckless driving.
BlunderHe blundered into the room, tripping over a chair.
CanvassThe team canvassed the area, searching for clues.
DevourThe lion devoured its prey.
EmbezzleThe accountant was caught embezzling funds.
FathomI cannot fathom why she acted that way.
GrumbleHe grumbled about having to work late.
HoverThe helicopter hovered over the scene.
InfuriateHis arrogance infuriated her.
JeerThe crowd jeered at the opposing team.
KindleHis speech kindled a sense of hope in the audience.
LungeThe cat lunged at the mouse.
MusterHe mustered the courage to speak in front of the crowd.
NurtureShe nurtures a love for art in her students.
ObscureThe fog obscured the road.
PesterThe children pestered their mother for sweets.
QuellThe police quelled the protest.
RummageShe rummaged through her purse for her keys.
SnickerThe kids snickered at the clown’s antics.
TrudgeHe trudged through the snow towards home.
UnravelThe detective unraveled the mystery.
VexHis constant chatter vexed her.
WhittleHe whittled a small toy from a piece of wood.
Xerox (copy)He xeroxed the report for all his colleagues.
YankHe yanked the door open.
ZigzagThe rabbit zigzagged to avoid the predator.
AmbushThe soldiers ambushed the enemy at dawn.
BristleShe bristled at his rude comment.
CavortThe children cavorted in the park.
DwindleHis savings dwindled after he lost his job.
EavesdropHe eavesdropped on their conversation.
FlinchShe flinched at the sight of the snake.
GallopThe horse galloped across the field.
HurtleThe car hurtled down the highway.
IncinerateThe document was incinerated to destroy evidence.
JostleThey jostled for space in the crowded train.
KneadThe baker kneaded the dough.
LamentHe lamented the loss of his friend.
MeanderThe path meandered through the forest.
NibbleShe nibbled on a piece of cheese.
OscillateThe pendulum oscillated back and forth.
PlungeHe plunged into the cold water.
QuakeShe quaked in fear during the storm.
RevereThey revered the wise old man.
SquabbleThe siblings squabbled over the last piece of cake.
TraipseShe traipsed around the city, exploring new sites.
UndulateThe dancer’s body undulated to the rhythm of the music.
VenerateThey venerate their ancestors with special rituals.
WritheHe writhed in pain after the fall.
YodelThe mountaineer yodeled across the valley.
ZestShe zested the lemon for the cake recipe.
Vivid Verb List With Example Sentences

Tips for Using Descriptive and Vivid Verbs Effectively

Descriptive and vivid verbs are powerful tools for enriching your language, but like any tool, they must be used wisely. Here are some tips for effectively integrating these verbs into your writing and speech.

Understand the Context

The first rule of using descriptive and vivid verbs effectively is to ensure they are suitable for the context. A scientific report might not be the best place for extremely vivid verbs, while a horror story could truly benefit from them. Consider your audience, the purpose of your writing, and the tone you wish to convey.

Don’t Overuse

While these verbs can add richness to your writing, be careful not to overuse them. Like any stylistic device, when overdone, they can become overwhelming and detract from the content of your writing.

Choose Precision Over Complexity

Aim for precision when selecting your verbs. A common mistake is to choose a ‘big’ or ‘complex’ word thinking it sounds more intelligent or advanced. In reality, the best word is often the simplest one that accurately conveys your meaning.

Use them to Show, Not Tell

Descriptive and vivid verbs are excellent tools for the ‘show, don’t tell’ principle in writing. Instead of telling your readers that a character is angry, show them through the character’s actions. Maybe the character “snaps” a pencil in half or “storms” out of the room.

Keep a Thesaurus Handy

A thesaurus can be a writer’s best friend when it comes to finding the perfect verb. However, make sure to fully understand any new word, its connotations, and its typical use before including it in your writing.

Practice, Practice, Practice

As with any aspect of language learning, the key to mastery is practice. The more you read, write, and engage with the English language, the more comfortable you will become with using descriptive and vivid verbs.

Practice Activities for Teachers and Students

Practicing the use of descriptive and vivid verbs can be a fun and engaging way to enrich language skills. Whether you’re a teacher looking for classroom activities or a student seeking to improve your writing, these practical exercises can help you master these versatile verbs.

For Teachers:

Verb Replacement Activity: Give your students a paragraph or a short story that uses very basic verbs. Ask them to replace these basic verbs with more descriptive or vivid verbs that they think will make the story more engaging. This can be done individually, in pairs, or as a group.

Creative Writing Prompt: Provide a writing prompt and instruct students to write a short story or description focusing on the use of descriptive and vivid verbs. This will not only get their creative juices flowing but also provide them with an opportunity to practice their use of these verbs.

Spot the Verb Game: Create a game where students need to identify descriptive and vivid verbs from a passage or a book excerpt. The student who finds the most verbs wins. This will encourage students to pay closer attention to the language in different texts.

For Students:

Daily Journaling: Writing daily in a journal can significantly help in improving your use of descriptive and vivid verbs. Every day, write about your experiences, thoughts, or even describe scenes from a book or a movie, making sure to include descriptive and vivid verbs.

Rewrite a Scene: Choose a scene from your favorite book, and rewrite it using as many descriptive and vivid verbs as you can. This will not only improve your verb usage but also enhance your understanding of how professional writers use these verbs.

Vocabulary Lists: Make a habit of creating vocabulary lists of descriptive and vivid verbs. Try to learn a new verb every day and use it in a sentence. Over time, this will help you build an impressive arsenal of powerful verbs.

Related Resources

Thanks for reading! I hope you now have a better understanding of what descriptive verbs and vivid verbs are and how you can use them to make your English communication more expressive, precise, and engaging. Before you go, check out these related resources that you might find useful:

Verbs Of Perception
Imperative Verbs
Stative Verbs
Analytical Verbs
Irregular Verbs