Verbs Explained: The Different Types Of Verbs In English With Examples

No matter if you’re learning or teaching English, understanding what verbs are and their role in the English language is essential. In this guide, we will explain in detail what verbs are, explore the different types of verbs, and provide numerous examples to help you understand these important words in English.

What Are Verbs

Verbs are words that describe actions, states, or occurrences in sentences. They form the main part of the predicate of a sentence and can express physical actions (run, jump), mental actions (think, imagine), or states of being (exist, appear). Verbs are essential for constructing sentences and can change form to indicate tense, mood, and aspect.

The Different Types Of Verbs

Action Verbs

Action verbs are words that express physical or mental actions performed by the subject in a sentence. They are the most common type of verb and are vital for adding vividness and specificity to writing. Action verbs can be divided into two types: transitive verbs, which require a direct object, and intransitive verbs, which do not.


  1. Run: “The dog runs across the yard.” (Physical action)
  2. Write: “She writes a letter every day.” (Physical action, with “a letter” as the direct object of the verb “writes”)
  3. Think: “They think about the future often.” (Mental action)
  4. Laugh: “He laughs at the joke.” (Physical action)
  5. Create: “The artist creates a new painting.” (Physical action, with “a new painting” as the direct object of the verb “creates”)

In these examples, the action verbs express what the subject is doing, whether it’s a visible action like running or laughing, or a mental action like thinking. They are the main words that move and give meaning to the sentence.

Linking Verbs

Linking verbs are verbs that do not express action. Instead, they connect the subject of the verb to additional information about the subject. They serve as a link between the subject of the sentence and a subject complement, which can be a noun or adjective that describes or renames the subject. Linking verbs are typically forms of the verb “to be” and other verbs that relate to the senses or states of being.

Common linking verbs include:

  • Be verbs: am, is, are, was, were, being, been
  • Sensory verbs: look, sound, smell, feel, taste, appear, seem, become, grow, turn, prove, remain, and stay.

For example:

  • “She is a doctor.” – Is links the subject (she) to her profession (doctor).
  • “The cake smells delicious.” – Smells links the subject (the cake) to its description (delicious).
  • “They became friends.” – Became links the subject (they) to the state of being (friends).

In all these examples, the linking verbs are used to describe a state or condition of the subject, not an action they are performing. They are essential in forming predicates and subject complements, providing additional details about the subject’s identity or qualities.

Auxiliary Verbs

Auxiliary verbs, also known as helping verbs, are verbs used in conjunction with main verbs to form verb tenses, voices, moods, or aspects. They are not generally used alone but are necessary for constructing the compound tenses and passive voice in sentences. Auxiliary verbs provide additional semantic or syntactic information about the main verb.

The primary auxiliary verbs in English are “to be,” “to have,” and “to do.” They help form different tenses, questions, negatives, and passive voice.

  1. To Be: am, is, are, was, were, being, been
    • Used to form continuous (progressive) tenses and passive voice.
    • Example: “She is running.” (Present Continuous tense)
  2. To Have: have, has, had
    • Used to form perfect tenses.
    • Example: “They have finished their homework.” (Present Perfect tense)
  3. To Do: do, does, did
    • Used to form negatives and questions in simple present and past, and for emphasis.
    • Example: “Do you like it?” or “I do want to go.”

In addition to these primary auxiliaries, modal verbs (can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, would) are also considered auxiliary verbs. They are used to express necessity, possibility, permission, or obligation.

  • Example: “She can play the piano.” (Here, “can” is a modal auxiliary verb expressing ability.)

Auxiliary verbs are integral to the structure and meaning of sentences, providing nuanced layers of time, mode, aspect, and voice to the actions and states indicated by the main verbs.

Transitive Verbs

Transitive verbs are action verbs that require one or more objects to receive the action they denote. These objects are necessary to complete the meaning of the verb, as they indicate who or what is receiving the action. In essence, the action of a transitive verb is “transferred” to the object.

For example:

  1. Eat: “She eats an apple.” – Eats is the transitive verb, and “an apple” is the object receiving the action.
  2. Throw: “He throws the ball.” – Throws is the transitive verb, and “the ball” is the object receiving the action.
  3. Read: “They read the book.” – Read is the transitive verb, and “the book” is the object receiving the action.

In each of these sentences, the verb requires an object (“an apple,” “the ball,” “the book”) to complete its meaning. Without the object, the sentences would feel incomplete (“She eats…?”, “He throws…?”, “They read…?”). This requirement of an object is what characterizes transitive verbs.

Intransitive Verbs

Intransitive verbs are action verbs that do not require a direct object to complete their meaning. They stand alone and do not transfer action to an object; instead, the action ends with the verb. These verbs typically indicate something that a subject does without acting upon anything else. They are complete in themselves and don’t need additional components to express a complete thought.

For example:

  1. Laugh: “The audience laughed.” – Laughed is the intransitive verb; it doesn’t need an object to make sense.
  2. Sleep: “The baby sleeps.” – Sleeps is the intransitive verb, indicating the action of the baby, but it doesn’t require an object.
  3. Arrived: “The train arrived.” – Arrived is the intransitive verb; it conveys a complete action without needing an object.

In each of these sentences, the verb expresses a complete thought without the need for an additional object. The subject (audience, baby, train) is doing the action for itself, and there’s no need to specify what or whom the action is being done to. That’s the essence of intransitive verbs: they don’t pass the action onto an object.

Stative Verbs

Stative verbs are verbs that describe a state or condition rather than an action. They typically relate to thoughts, emotions, relationships, senses, states of being, and measurements. These verbs usually do not involve an action that can be witnessed; rather, they represent a state that exists. Stative verbs are not usually used in continuous tenses (like the present continuous), as they do not describe actions that are ongoing.

Common stative verbs include:

  1. Know: “She knows the answer.” (Knowledge)
  2. Belong: “This book belongs to me.” (Possession)
  3. Love: “I love this song.” (Emotion)
  4. Seem: “It seems difficult.” (Appearance)
  5. Prefer: “They prefer coffee to tea.” (Preference)

In each of these sentences, the verb describes a state of being or condition. For instance, “knows” relates to a state of understanding, “belongs” to a state of possession, “love” to an emotional state, “seems” to a state of appearance, and “prefer” to a state of liking. These are not actions in the traditional sense but are more about existing conditions or states of mind or being. That’s the key aspect of stative verbs: they express a static condition rather than a dynamic action.

Dynamic Verbs

Dynamic verbs, also known as action verbs, are verbs that express an action or a process, indicating things that can happen, change, or be done. They are the opposite of stative verbs, which express a state or condition. Dynamic verbs describe activities that have duration and can occur over time, and they can be used in both simple and continuous tenses.

Dynamic verbs can be further categorized based on the type of action they describe:

  1. Physical Actions: These involve a physical activity that can be observed and measured.
    • Run: “She runs every morning.”
    • Jump: “The cat jumped over the fence.”
  2. Mental Actions: These involve cognitive processes and thinking.
    • Think: “He thinks deeply about the issue.”
    • Consider: “They considered all the options.”
  3. Perceptual Actions (senses): These involve actions related to the senses.
    • Look: “He looks at the painting.”
    • Listen: “She listens to music.”

Dynamic verbs are used to describe actions that are in progress or can be observed and are usually compatible with continuous tenses. For example, “She is running” or “He is thinking.” These sentences describe ongoing actions and processes, emphasizing the dynamic nature of the verbs. Dynamic verbs are integral in conveying movement, change, and action in language.

Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are expressions that combine a verb with one or more prepositions or adverbs, altering the original meaning of the verb to convey a different meaning. These verbs are unique in that the combination of words takes on a new meaning, often not directly related to the original verb. Phrasal verbs are very common in English and are essential in everyday speech and informal writing. They can be quite challenging for learners of English because the meaning of the whole phrase often cannot be deduced from the individual words.

Examples of phrasal verbs include:

  1. Give up: “He gave up smoking.” (Meaning: to quit)
  2. Look after: “She looks after her younger brother.” (Meaning: to take care of)
  3. Break down: “The car broke down on the way to work.” (Meaning: to stop functioning)
  4. Turn out: “Everything turned out to be fine.” (Meaning: to end up, to conclude)
  5. Pick up: “I’ll pick up some groceries on my way home.” (Meaning: to collect or to lift)

Each phrasal verb has a unique meaning that often cannot be predicted by the meanings of its components. They are idiomatic and need to be learned as whole expressions. Moreover, some phrasal verbs can have multiple meanings depending on the context, further adding to the complexity of their usage in the language. Understanding and mastering phrasal verbs is crucial for achieving fluency in English.

Regular Verbs

Regular verbs are verbs that follow a standard pattern of conjugation in the past tense and past participle. The majority of English verbs are regular. To form the past tense or the past participle of a regular verb, you typically add “-ed” or “-d” to the base form of the verb. This rule makes regular verbs relatively easy to use and predict.

For example:

  1. Walk: Base form – walk, Past tense – walked, Past participle – walked.
  2. Play: Base form – play, Past tense – played, Past participle – played.
  3. Clean: Base form – clean, Past tense – cleaned, Past participle – cleaned.
  4. Work: Base form – work, Past tense – worked, Past participle – worked.
  5. Call: Base form – call, Past tense – called, Past participle – called.

In each of these cases, you can see that the past tense and past participle are formed simply by adding “-ed” or “-d” to the end of the base form. This predictable pattern is what defines regular verbs. They are straightforward in terms of conjugation and are widely used in both spoken and written English. Understanding and using regular verbs correctly is essential for clear and accurate communication.

Irregular Verbs

Irregular verbs are verbs that do not follow the standard patterns of conjugation in the past tense and past participle forms. Unlike regular verbs, which form their past tense and past participle by adding “-ed” or “-d” to the base form, irregular verbs have unique forms that need to be memorized. They often undergo a vowel change, a different suffix, or a completely different word form in their past tenses and past participles.

Examples of irregular verbs include:

  1. Be: Base form – be, Past tense – was/were, Past participle – been.
  2. Go: Base form – go, Past tense – went, Past participle – gone.
  3. Come: Base form – come, Past tense – came, Past participle – come.
  4. See: Base form – see, Past tense – saw, Past participle – seen.
  5. Take: Base form – take, Past tense – took, Past participle – taken.

These examples show that there’s often little to no predictability in the formation of the past and past participle forms of irregular verbs, making them exceptions to the regular conjugation rules. Learning them typically involves memorization and practice. Irregular verbs are common in English and include many of the most frequently used verbs, so they are crucial for effective communication.