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What is a Verb?

In order to help students understand the distinction between -ed and -ing participles and use them properly, it is first necessary to review some basic facts about verbs, types of verbs, and the functions of verbs. It is a specific type of verb, an "emotional response verb," that is relevant to the issue of -ed and -ing participles.

What is a Verb?

A verb is a word or phrase (group of words) that is a major sentence element. The verb expresses a state or an action and provides essential information within a sentence. Without a verb, a group of words is not a complete thought. For example:

*George a doctor.

(The * indicates that the sentence is not a grammatical sentence of English.) Is George a doctor? Did George go to a doctor? What happened? What is this string of words trying to say about George and the doctor? Because there is no verb, this string of words is not a complete thought in English; therefore, it is not a grammatical sentence.

There are several types of verbs, which provide different kinds of information within sentences:

Action Verbs

An action verb, for example, walk, play, dance, work, indicates that someone or something does something:

George plays tennis twice a week.
We work ten hours a day.

Stative Verbs

A stative verb, for example, live, think, stand, love, shows the state of being of the subject of the sentence:

Frank lives in New York.
The sales clerk stood behind the counter.

Linking Verbs

A linking verb, for example, appear, look, seem, sound, feel, describes the appearance of the subject noun phrase in a sentence:

Denise sounds cheerful.
John looks tired.

Emotional Response Verbs

An emotional response verb indicates that someone feels something; something happened to cause an emotional response. Sentences with emotional response verbs have a SOURCE, a noun phrase that serves as the "stimulus" of the emotional response. And they have an EXPERIENCER, a noun phrase that "receives" or experiences the emotion. Consider the following sentence:

The amount of the tax rebate surprised me.

In this sentence, the emotional response verb is surprised; the SOURCE noun phrase is the amount of the tax rebate; and the EXPERIENCER is me.

Functions of Verbs

The function of a verb in any sentence is twofold:

1. To tell the action/state of being/appearance or emotional response of the sentence elements

2. To give the time (tense) of the action, state of being, appearance or emotional response.

In other words, the verb tells the action, etc., of the subject noun phrase and when the action, etc., occurred.