What is a verb?

  • A verb is the word or words in a sentence that show action, or tell you what the subject of the sentence is doing.

  • There are different kinds of verbs, including dynamic (or action) verbs, stative (or state) verbs and modal verbs.

  • Verbs also tell you something about when an action is happening.

A yoga instructor explains how she uses verbs in her classes.

Dynamic verbs

You may have heard a verb described as a 'doing' word: he walks; Ben is trampolining; the dog wagged its tail. The words in bold are all examples of dynamic verbs.

Stative verbs

Stative verbs show a state of being, or emotion, or express a less physical action: students are in the hall; the dog likes its food; Shona understood the lesson.

Notice that verbs can be in the past, present or future tense:

I stretched (past); I stretch (present); I will stretch (future).

He thought of an idea (past); he thinks of an idea (present); he will think of an idea (future).

Modal verbs

A modal verb is a type of auxiliary verb ('auxiliary' just means 'supporting', or 'helping') used to show how certain or necessary something is. Examples of modal verbs are can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, and would.

Students may wear uniform suggests a degree of choice.

Students must wear uniform means that they are required to; no choice about it!

As modal verbs are supporting verbs you will always need another verb to go with them.

Using verbs in creative writing

Choose your verbs carefully in writing.

Saying that a character's expression narrows, creases or frowns might reveal more about that character than simply describing a facial movement.

Verbs can be a powerful way to affect the reader’s attitude towards the subject being written about.

Activity - verbs

Verb quiz

Test you knowledge of verbs with this quick quiz.

Where next?

Discover more about this topic from around Bitesize.

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Modal verbs
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