Identifying Verbs and Adverbs

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  • 1. IDENTIFYING VERBS AND ADVERBS In this session, you will learn how to identify • Verbs, helping verbs, and main verbs • Verb phrases and verb "to be" phrases • Modals • Adverbs. Introduction Every sentence must be a complete thought. That is, every sentence must have an action and some noun or pronoun doing the action. If there is no action, there can be no doer of the action. Let's call the doer of the action the subject, and let's call the action the verb. So once again, if there is no verb in the sentence, there can be no subject. Without a verb, then, there can be no complete thought. Look at this group of words: The man on the chair Do you see that this group is not a complete thought? The group doesn't make sense because we have no verb in the group of words. What we have is an incomplete thought. Compare the group of words above with the following group: The man sat on the chair. We added an action, a verb. "Sat" gives the group of words a verb, so we can say that this group of words is a complete thought (a sentence). Can you see the importance of verbs in your writing? Now let's look at a few important facts about verbs. Verbs Verbs are words that indicate the action happening in the sentence. All verbs happen at an indicated time: present, past, or future time. The time at which a verb happens is indicated by the tense of the verb. Only the present and the past tenses consist of one-word verbs. All other tenses are made up of verb phrases; that is, verbs consisting of two or more words. In verb phrases, the last word must be a participle. Verb Phrases Any verb--single-word verb or verb phrase--must tell the action and the tense. If a verb is made up of a single word, that single word must tell the tense and the action. Because there is only one word, that one word is the MAIN VERB. If a verb is made up of two words or more (verb phrase), the last word in the phrase tells the action, making the last word in the phrase the main verb. All the words before the last word tell the tense or condition of the last word. The last word in a verb phrase and the one word in a single-word verb are the main verbs. For example, in "Mr. Jackson runs his business in a most efficient manner," the verb consists of one word--runs. So runs is the main verb; it not only tells the action (running) but also tells the tense (present).
  • 2. In "The girls should have asked for directions," the verb consists of three words--should have asked. Thus, "should have" tells the condition and tense; and "asked," a past participle, tells the action. "Should" is a special word--a MODAL--that we discuss later. Verb To Be The most common of all verbs is the verb "to be." A verb to be indicates a state of existence. "I am; so, in this case, I exist." Am is one form of the verb to be. Listed below are the present and past tenses of the verb to be. PRESENT PAST Today, I am ill. Yesterday, I was ill. Today, you are ill. Yesterday, you were ill. Today, she is ill. Yesterday, she was ill. Today, we are ill. Yesterday, we were ill. Today, you are ill. Yesterday, you were ill. Today, they are ill. Yesterday, they were ill. The present participle is "being." The past participle is "been." So any verb phrase that ends in "being" or "been" is a verb to be phrase. A few verb to be phrases are shown below. "Is being, are being; was being, were being" are verb to be phrases. "Have been, had been; should have been, may have been" are verb to be phrases. Helping Verbs We use a few verbs to complete verb phrases--to give the main verbs additional tenses, conditions, or qualifications. We call these few verbs helping verbs because they "help" the main verb to convey its meaning. Some texts call these verbs auxiliary verbs. Here is a list of these helping verbs, divided into present tense and past tense. PRESENT TENSE PAST TENSE am was is was are were do did does did has had have had The verbs listed above can be either main verbs or helping verbs. They are main verbs when they are single- word verbs. However, none of the verbs in the list are participles; so none can be the last word in a verb phrase.
  • 3. Thus, the verbs cannot be main verbs in a verb phrase. But the verbs can become helping verbs when they are used before the main verb in a verb phrase. Note: The verb "to have" is an irregular verb; its past tense and its past participle are identical but are not formed by the addition of "ed." So don't become confused; the verbs listed above in the PAST TENSE column are really past tenses, not past participles. Let's have a look at the conditions under which the same verbs can serve as main verbs and as helping verbs. Main Verbs In "The cat has five kittens," "has" is the lone verb; so "has" is the MAIN VERB. Thus, "has" tells both the tense and the action. In "He has been waiting a long time," "has been waiting" is a verb phrase. "Has" is neither a lone verb nor the last word in the verb phrase; thus, "has" is a HELPING VERB; it tells only the condition, the qualification, or the tense. "Been" is also a helping verb because it is not the last word in the phrase either. The action that the verb is indicating is the action of "waiting" because "waiting" is the main verb--the last word in the verb phrase. A Short Review All tenses except present and past consist of verb phrases. All verb phrases are constructed from parts of verbs. All verb phrases consist of a main verb and at least one helping verb. Some verbs can function as helping verbs and also as main verbs. The "ing" forms of all verbs are the present participles. The "ed" forms of regular verbs are the past participles. The one word in a one-word verb is the main verb. The last word in a verb phrase is the main verb. In a one-word verb, the one word indicates the tense and the action. In a verb phrase, the main verb names the action. A participle may function as a main verb in a verb phrase. A participle may not act as a one-word verb.
  • 4. Modals In addition to the helping verbs we've just mentioned, we use several other "words" to help verb phrases convey their intended meaning. These "words" are called modals. Modals are not verbs by themselves but are always a part of a verb phrase. They never act as main verbs. When modals are part of a verb phrase, they are always the first word in the phrase. Here is a list of the modals in their present and past tenses. PRESENT TENSE PAST TENSE can could may might shall should will would must must A modal can never be anything but a helping verb. So whenever you see a modal, you can be sure you have a verb phrase. Participles You saw that neither the past participle nor the present participle can be a one-word verb. But participles can be main verbs in verb phrases. Participles can not be verbs unless they have "helping verbs" We cannot write "We seen that movie" because "seen" is a participle of the verb "to see." And participles must have at least one helping verb if they are to be verbs. So we can fix the sentence by giving "seen" a "helping verb." "We have seen that movie." The sentence is now correct because "have" is a helping verb in the verb phrase "have seen," in which "seen" is a participle indicating the action. Adverbs Just as adjectives make nouns and pronouns more exact, more lively, more exciting, adverbs make verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs more exciting. An adverb is a word which describes or modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. Function By adding an adverb to a verb, adjective, or another adverb, we change the intensity of the verb, adjective, or adverb because the adverb adds more information. Examples "The car ran." Add an adverb to the verb "ran." "The car ran roughly."
  • 5. "The bright sun blinded us." Add an adverb to the adjective "bright." "The extremely bright sun blinded us." "The parcel arrived late." Add an adverb to the adverb "late." "The parcel arrive too late." Notice how additional information is added by the adverbs.
  • 6. Follow-up Exercise Analyze the function of the words and then select the incorrect statement. 1. Susan laughed and said she was trying to help. A. Laughed is a verb. B. Said is a verb. C. Was is a verb. D. Help is a verb. 2. The running boy soon reached his home and hurried to his room. A. Running is a verb. B. Soon is an adverb. C. Reached is a verb. D. Hurried is a verb. 3. The driver was nervous and asked us to assist with the injured passenger. A. Was is a verb. B. Was is a verb to be. C. Asked is a verb. D. Injured is a verb. 4. The marchers were suddenly confronted by the police. A. Were is the main verb. B. Suddenly is an adverb. C. Confronted is the main verb. D. Were confronted is the complete verb phrase. 5. My younger brother will not become a good doctor. A. Will is a modal. B. Become is the main verb. C. Will not become is the complete verb phrase. D. Will become is the complete verb phrase. 6. He is always asking to be treated as someone special. A. Is is a helping verb. B. Is always asking is the complete verb phrase. C. Is asking is the complete verb phrase. D. Is is a verb to be. 7. The moon was slowly setting behind the darkening mountain. A. This sentence contains a verb to be as a helping verb. B. This sentence contains a correct two-word verb phrase. C. This sentence contains a correct three-word verb phrase. D. This sentence contains a helping verb and a main verb.
  • 7. 8. Failing is often the case. A. This sentence contains a correct one-word verb. B. This sentence contains a correct two-word verb phrase. C. Is is the correct main verb. D. Failing is a gerund. 9. The clerk is selling those tickets at the wrong price. A. This sentence contains a correct two-word verb phrase. B. This sentence contains a correct one-word verb. C. Is is a helping verb. D. This sentence contains a helping verb and a main verb. 10. The report will not please the board of directors. A. This sentence contains a correct two-word verb phrase. B. This sentence contains a correct one-word verb. C. This sentence contains a modal and a main verb. D. The main verb is please. 11. Many of the candidates had not been asked to donate towards the election costs. A. Had been asked is the complete verb. B. Had been asked to donate is the complete verb. C. Had is a helping verb. D. Been is a helping verb. 12. Many surprises had been planned for the victory party. A. Had been planned is the complete verb phrase. B. Had is a helping verb. C. Been is a modal. D. Been is a helping verb. 13. The game should have been postponed because of field conditions. A. The complete verb contains a modal. B. This sentence contains a four-word verb phrase. C. This sentence contains a modal and two helping verbs. D. This sentence contains three helping verbs and a modal. 14. The selection of the winner did not surprise the convention. A. The complete verb contains a helping verb. B. The complete verb is did surprise. C. The complete verb is did not surprise. D. The complete verb is a two-word verb phrase. 15. The team captain might have shown more optimism the night before the big game. A. The complete verb contains a modal. B. The complete verb contains a helping verb. C. The complete verb is a three-word verb phrase. D. The main verb is have.
  • 8. 16. The slowly rising sun warmed the nearly frozen hikers. A. Slowly is an adverb modifying an adjective. B. Rising is an adverb modifying an adjective. C. Nearly is an adverb modifying an adjective. D. Frozen is an adjective modifying a noun. 17. The truly grateful girl accepted the gift graciously. A. Truly is an adverb modifying an adjective. B. Grateful is an adjective modifying a noun. C. Graciously is an adverb modifying an adjective. D. Graciously is an adverb modifying a verb. 18. That reliable bus always leaves quite punctually at noon. A. Always is an adverb modifying a verb. B. Quite is an adverb modifying an adverb. C. Punctually is an adverb modifying an adjective. D. Punctually is an adverb modifying a verb. 19. The spectators watched and hoped as their devastated team tried to score. A. Watched is a verb. B. Hoped is a verb. C. Devastated is a verb. D. Tried is a verb. 20. Abel has never been eager to help others. A. The complete verb is has never been eager. B. The complete verb is a verb to be phrase. C. The complete verb contains a helping verb. D. The main verb is been.