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Introduction to Verbs & What is a Verb

What is a Verb? When people begin learning the English language, one of the first things they are taught is the definition of verb. In fact, sentences can’t be considered complete without including at least one verb. However, it gets trickier to analyze verb’s definition and answer basic questions like what is a verb, what is a verb phrase, etc.  Another definition of verb requires us to look at verbs as the heart of the sentence, without which, a sentence’s central meaning would be lost.

In this article, explaining what are verbs will be our primary goal. We’ll also review the definition of verb, actions & linking words, and some more nuances. You’ll also learn how to structure your sentences properly while including verbs in your writing and speech. Verb definition is not hard to understand, application, however, is a whole new ballgame.

Once you’re done reading this verbs article and have a complete (or working) understanding of the verb definition, click here to get more help.

What is a Verb or What does Verb mean?

If you ask, “what is a verb?”, the simplest definition of verb would be ‘words that describe action in all its forms’. To define verb further, this group of words explains three main things, namely, physical actions, mental actions, and states of being.

The first verb definition: Words that explain physical actions someone or something takes. This definition is the most common answer to the question ‘what does verb mean?’. To understand this definition of a verb, look at the following examples:

  • Martha ran around the block.

Martha is the noun and ran describes the action she takes.

  • The ball fell on the other side of the fence.

In this example, ball is the noun and fell describes the physical action.

The second verb definition: These are the words that describe mental actions someone or something takes; they are also categorized under what are verbs. Here are some examples to grasp this definition of a verb:

  • Steve realized he didn’t do his homework.

Steve is the noun and realized describes what he just thought about.

  • The dog forgot its toy at the park.

Dog is the noun and forgot describes the mental action that happened.

These first two forms describe action, identified as verbs, thus this part of speech is referred to as action words. However, there is one more component in verb definition.

The third verb definition: these are the words that describe a state of being. Here are a few examples to understand this definition of a verb:

  • Jenny is happy.

Jenny is the noun and is happy is her current state of being.

  • They are winning the football game.

They is the pronoun that stands for one of the teams playing a sport and are winning is the team’s current state of being. 

What are verbs that link nouns with pronouns or adjectives? They are the words that describe the state of being..To simply define verb of this form, they express your current state of existence;they work by connecting the two main parts of a sentence so that you get a complete idea of the situation. If people ask you to define verb or give the definition of a verb as a state of being, you can simply quote Hamlet, “To be or not to be”, where both the ‘be’s in the statement represent a state of being, making understanding verbs definition easier.

Now, answering ‘what is a verb?’ doesn’t seem so daunting, does it?

Definition of verb also requires you to learn the formal terms for the parts of a sentence, which we’ll address a bit later. For starters, you must learn and understand the most common state of being verb is ‘to be’, this verb (or one of its forms) connects words in a sentence. To completely understand this verbs definition, here are some examples:

  • Tina is silly. 
  • You’ll be great during your dance recital! 

What’s a verb that’s a true linking word? You have all the conjugations of be, including being, been, am, was, are, were, and is. To delve further in this verbs definition, understand that the verb to become, as well as to seem, and all their forms are also always linking words.

What Are Verbs? Define Verbs as both Active Words and Linking Words

Now we come to the application part of ‘what does verb mean’; some verbs act as both active words and linking words.Often, these verbs are referred to as the main verb because they complete the action in itself. 

What’s a verb example? Here are a couple:

  • I love running.
  • She turned red with glee.

In these examples, the verbs are love and turned.

What is a verb that is both an active and linking word? That depends on the context. According to the verbs definition,when a sentence involves action, you’ll find an active verb and when the sentence involves conditions or states of being, you’ll find a linking word. Your understanding of a verb definition also needs to take into account that some words act as both active and linking words. Here are a few examples to understand this definition of a verb further:

Example 1 

  • Active: Stephanie looked around for her keys. 
  • Linking: The cake looked amazing. 

Example 2 

  • Active: Jake smelled the fresh cut grass. 
  • Linking: The old egg smelled rotten. 

These examples are in past tense; you’ll learn more about verb and tenses in the verb tense definition provided later.

What are verbs that act as both active and linking words? Some examples are appear, feel, grow, look, prove, remain, sound, taste, etc. 

Now that you know how to define verb, why not learn about MLA format and APA format? Understanding these styling formats will improve your writing assignments. 

Now, let’s go back to our key discussion on ‘what does verb mean?’

What is a Verb Phrase or What is the Definition of a Verb Phrase?

Any verb definition would be considered incomplete unless the question ‘what is a verb phrase’ is addressed. 

So, what is a verb phrase?  Understanding verb phrase is important when using more than one action or linking word in a sentence. Verb phrases can be easily identified as they have an auxiliary verb followed by an action or main verb. To get a comprehensive understanding of what are verbs, know that they are necessary during an action or when there’s a specific condition over a time period.   Using multiple action or linking words together is the definition of a verb phrase.

What’s a verb phrase equation?

When helping words are used with action words or linking words, a verb phrase is formed. Going by this definition of verb phrase, you’ll always find the helping words before the action or linking words. 

Helping word + action / linking word = a phrase.

What is a verb phrase example? Here are a few:

  • I was cooking my dinner. 
  • Yes, Stephanie does remember your pet hamsters. 

Now that you can answer the question ‘what does verb mean?,’ it wouldn’t be hard for you to identify them. You can find most verb phrases in the predicate of the sentence. However, there are also times when a phrase contains an adjective clause or adverb phrase. These modifiers are crucial to the understanding of what is a verb phrase and, in extension, what does verb mean, as they give us more information on what’s happening in the sentence. 

To understand what’s a verb phrase modifier, look at the following examples: 

  • Cleaning the house, which we haven’t done yet, happens on Saturday mornings. 
  • Danny’s father frantically cleared the table for dinner. 

To answer ‘what is a verb phrase?’ completely, understand how the action/linking word is providing vital information in understanding the complete action. 

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Verb Tense Definition

Apart from verbs definition and the role of verbs, it’s also important to learn about verb tense definition. Understanding this verbs definition will help you in establishing when the action is happening. What is a verb tense? There are three tenses, past, present, and future, that you use to explain when something occurs or is going to occur. The following definition of verb will address tenses further.

Define verb in the past tense

So, what is a verb in the present tense? Recall what does verb mean or what are verbs. Using this tense, we communicate what has already happened in the past (be it a few hours ago, yesterday, or last year) to define verb in the past tense.

What’s a verb in simple past tense? 

  • This morning I rode a horse for the first time. 

Past continuous tense: 

  • He was riding a horse yesterday morning. 

Past perfect: 

  • Rachel had ridden 12 different horses that year. 

Past perfect continuous: 

  • Samantha had been riding horses since she was eight years old. 

Now that we know a  definition of verb for the past tense, let’s look at one for the present tense.

Define verb in the present tense

What is a verb in present tense? This tense shows what is happening now or is ongoing. Here are the examples of each type; focus on how the same verb gets modified under each type and you’d grasp what are verbs in present tense: 

What’s a verb in simple present tense? 

  • I work every morning at 8 a.m. 

Present continuous tense: 

  • He is working on the computer right now. 

Present perfect tense: 

  • I have finished working. 

Present perfect continuous: 

She hasn’t been working today.

Define verb in the future tense

Finally, what is a verb in the future tense? You use this tense with events that will occur in the future. To add to this verb tense definition and to make this tense easily identifiable, remember that a verb form of have, will, or be would be used in all cases; look at the examples below to get a hang of what are verbs in future tense:

What’s a verb in simple future tense?

  • I will play video games tonight. 

Future continuous tense: 

  • He will be playing video games all night. 

Future perfect tense: 

  • I will have saved $100 by the end of this month. 

Future perfect continuous: 

  • Roger will have been working on his homework for three hours before eating lunch today. 

What’s a verb tense, then? These are the words that help in figuring out the time of the action.

This verb tense definition mostly talks about how words can be modified according to each tense. However, to simplify this verb definition, in some forms (especially present tense) the verb requires the state of being words to make the thought complete.

Now, when someone asks you what’s a verb?” we’re sure you’d be able to give a comprehensive verb definition. Simply say, it’s a part of speech that describes an action someone or something takes or a state of being someone or something is in 

Once you’re ready to learn more about action and state of being words, check this out.


Published March 5, 2019. Updated April 23, 2020.

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