Verbs 1: Four definitions
Definition #1
• A verb is an action word. It shows the
action in the sentence.
Source: Sr. Mary Agatha, St. Gabriel’s Cath...
Definition #2
• A verb is the central unit of any sentence or
clause, and all the other words in a sentence
take grammatic...
Definition #3
• A verb is a word that characteristically is the
grammatical center of a predicate and expresses
an act, oc...
Definition #4
A definition that works is one based on structure and
function rather than meaning.
Some structural and func...
Definition #4: continued
4. Verbs occur in two main subclasses:
auxiliary and lexical (main) verbs. The
order of these aux...
Similarities in Verb Definitions
VERBS:
• Can express different ideas (actions,
states of being, occurrences)
• Can change...
Differences in Verb Definitions
MEANING BASED DEFINITIONS:
• Confusing
• Examples:
His reaction is wonderful.
Her understa...
More Differences
STRUCTURE/FUNCTION BASED
DEFINITIONS:
• provide ways to test words to see if they are
verbs.
• require ev...
An Example
A test for the past tense:
His reaction is wonderful.
– His (hised?)
– Reaction (reactioned?)
– Is (was)
– Wond...
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V1

  1. 1. Verbs 1: Four definitions
  2. 2. Definition #1 • A verb is an action word. It shows the action in the sentence. Source: Sr. Mary Agatha, St. Gabriel’s Catholic School, 1968.
  3. 3. Definition #2 • A verb is the central unit of any sentence or clause, and all the other words in a sentence take grammatical form based on how they relate to it. A verb can express action (run, live, change), or states of being (is, are) or occurrences (happen, become). Sentences can have more than one verb. A clause is a sub-unit of a sentence that has one verb. Source: The Brief Thomson Handbook (sec. 30c)
  4. 4. Definition #3 • A verb is a word that characteristically is the grammatical center of a predicate and expresses an act, occurrence, or mode of being, that in various languages is inflected for agreement with the subject, for tense, for voice, for mood, or for aspect, and that typically has rather full descriptive meaning and characterizing quality but is sometimes nearly devoid of these especially when used as an auxiliary or linking verb. Source: www.merriamwebster.com
  5. 5. Definition #4 A definition that works is one based on structure and function rather than meaning. Some structural and functional properties of verbs are: 1. If tense is marked anywhere in the clause it is marked on a verb, the first verb in the verb phrase. 2. If aspect is marked anywhere in the clause, it is marked on (and with) a verb. 3. In the present tense in a finite clause, the first verb in the verb phrase marks agreement with the subject in person and in number.
  6. 6. Definition #4: continued 4. Verbs occur in two main subclasses: auxiliary and lexical (main) verbs. The order of these auxiliaries and the main verb is fixed. 5. Only verbs can be operators. An operator precedes the subject in a yes-no question and immediately precedes the negative “not” and can contract with the negative “not.” Source: Lynn Gordon: Engl 255 Textbook
  7. 7. Similarities in Verb Definitions VERBS: • Can express different ideas (actions, states of being, occurrences) • Can change in form (past tense, agreement, etc.) • Can behave in certain ways (form questions, negatives)
  8. 8. Differences in Verb Definitions MEANING BASED DEFINITIONS: • Confusing • Examples: His reaction is wonderful. Her understanding seemed clear.
  9. 9. More Differences STRUCTURE/FUNCTION BASED DEFINITIONS: • provide ways to test words to see if they are verbs. • require evidence to prove that words are verbs. These tests can be challenging to learn, but produce consistently reliable results.
  10. 10. An Example A test for the past tense: His reaction is wonderful. – His (hised?) – Reaction (reactioned?) – Is (was) – Wonderful (wonderfuled)? Test result: “Is” must be the verb in this sentence.

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