Verb classification


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Verb classification

  1. 1. Verb ClassificationWe divide verbs into two broad classifications:1. Helping VerbsImagine that a stranger walks into your room and says: I can. People must. The Earth will.Do you understand anything? Has this person communicated anything to you? Probably not! Thatsbecause these verbs are helping verbs and have no meaning on their own. They are necessary forthe grammatical structure of the sentence, but they do not tell us very much alone. We usually usehelping verbs with main verbs. They "help" the main verb. (The sentences in the above examples aretherefore incomplete. They need at least a main verb to complete them.) There are only about 15helping verbs.2. Main VerbsNow imagine that the same stranger walks into your room and says: I teach. People eat. The Earth rotates.Do you understand something? Has this person communicated something to you? Probably yes! Nota lot, but something. Thats because these verbs are main verbs and have meaning on their own.They tell us something. Of course, there are thousands of main verbs.In the following table we see example sentences with helping verbs and main verbs. Notice that allof these sentences have a main verb. Only some of them have a helping verb.
  2. 2. helping verb main verbJohn likes coffee.You lied to me.They are happy.The children are playing.We must go now.I do not want any.Helping VerbsHelping verbs have no meaning on their own.They are necessary for the grammatical structure Helping verbs are also called "auxiliary verbs".of a sentence, but they do not tell us very muchalone. We usually use helping verbs with mainverbs. They "help" the main verb (which has the real meaning). There are only about 15 helpingverbs in English, and we divide them into two basic groups:Primary helping verbs (3 verbs)These are the verbs be, do, and have. Note that we can use these three verbs as helping verbs or asmain verbs. On this page we talk about them as helping verbs. We use them in the following cases: be o to make continuous tenses (He is watching TV.) o to make the passive (Small fish are eaten by big fish.) have o to make perfect tenses (I have finished my homework.) do
  3. 3. o to make negatives (I do not like you.) o to ask questions (Do you want some coffee?) o to show emphasis (I do want you to pass your exam.) o to stand for a main verb in some constructions (He speaks faster than she does.)Modal helping verbs (10 verbs)We use modal helping verbs to "modify" the meaning of the main verb in some way. A modalhelping verb expresses necessity or possibility, and changes the main verb in that sense. These arethe modal verbs: can, could may, might will, would, shall, should must ought toHere are examples using modal verbs: I cant speak Chinese. John may arrive late. Would you like a cup of coffee? You should see a doctor. I really must go now.
  4. 4. Main VerbsMain verbs are also called "lexical verbs".Main verbs have meaning on their own (unlike helping verbs). There are thousands of main verbs,and we can classify them in several ways:Transitive and intransitive verbsA transitive verb takes a direct object: Somebody killed the President. An intransitive verb does nothave a direct object: He died. Many verbs, like speak, can be transitive or intransitive. Look at theseexamples:transitive: I saw an elephant. We are watching TV. He speaks English.intransitive: He has arrived. John goes to school. She speaks fast.Linking verbsA linking verb does not have much meaning in itself. It "links" the subject to what is said about thesubject. Usually, a linking verb shows equality (=) or a change to a different state or place (>). Linkingverbs are always intransitive (but not all intransitive verbs are linking verbs). Mary is a teacher. (mary = teacher) Tara is beautiful. (tara = beautiful) That sounds interesting. (that = interesting) The sky became dark. (the sky > dark) The bread has gone bad. (bread > bad)Dynamic and stative verbsSome verbs describe action. They are called "dynamic", and can be used with continuous tenses.Other verbs describe state (non-action, a situation). They are called "stative", and cannot normally
  5. 5. be used with continuous tenses (though some of them can be used with continuous tenses with achange in meaning).dynamic verbs (examples): hit, explode, fight, run, gostative verbs (examples): be like, love, prefer, wish impress, please, surprise hear, see, sound belong to, consist of, contain, include, need appear, resemble, seemRegular and irregular verbsThis is more a question of vocabulary than of grammar. The only real difference between regular andirregular verbs is that they have different endings for their past tense and past participle forms. Forregular verbs, the past tense ending and past participle ending is always the same: -ed. For irregularverbs, the past tense ending and the past participle ending is variable, so it is necessary to learnthem by heart.regular verbs: base, past tense, past participle look, looked, looked work, worked, workedirregular verbs: base, past tense, past participle buy, bought, bought cut, cut, cut do, did, doneHere are lists of regular verbs and irregular verbs.One way to think of regular and irregular verbs islike this: all verbs are irregular and the so-calledregular verbs are simply one very large group ofirregular verbs.
  6. 6. Often the above divisions can be mixed. For example, one verb could be irregular, transitive anddynamic; another verb could be regular, transitive and stative.EXERCISE1. I _____ jump over the fence. (can, is, have, are)2. They _____ help their mother.( am, have, should, was )3. The baby _____ sleeping. ( will, is, has, can )4. The boys ____ go to the picnic. ( is, are, will, have)5. Julie _____ finish her homework. ( must, is, has, are )6. I _____ writing correctly. ( will, am, are, have )7. The girls _____ sweeping the floor. ( would, are, have, should)8. Bob _____ come with us. ( is, has, may, were)9. Mary _____ sitting on the swing. ( am, had, would, was )10. The bears _____ fighting. ( are, have, can, must )