The main verb, also known as lexical verb, is a verb that has meaning on its own. You can understand what is said when someone just mention any main verb on its own. The main verb can be the only verb in a sentence. And main verb can also be used with one or more helping verbs.
There are thousands of main verbs and we can further break them down into the following classifications:
- Transitive, Intransitive and Ditransitive Verbs
- Linking Verbs
- Dynamic and Static Verbs
- Regular and Irregular Verbs
All the above categories are often mixed. A verb could be irregular, transitive and dynamic; others could be regular, transitive and stative.
Transitive, Intransitive and Ditransitive Verbs
The difference between a transitive verb and an intransitive verb is that transitive verb has an object in the sentence while an intransitive verb does not. A transitive verb is an action verb and it requires a direct object to ensure the sentence makes more sense. The action of the verb is therefore transferred directly to the object.
In order to determine whether a verb is transitive, you need to ask whether the action of the subject is done to someone or something. If someone or something is receiving the action of the verb, then this sentence contains a transitive verb. The person or thing that is receiving the action is the object.
The number of arguments that a verb takes is called its valency or valence. Verbs can be classified according to their valency:
It is possible to have verbs with zero valency. Impersonal verbs like the weather take neither subject nor object (eg. It rains, it snows). English verbs are often flexible with regard to valency. A transitive verb can often drop its object and become intransitive; or an intransitive verb can be added an object and become transitive. For example:-
- He provides. (intransitive)
- He provides food. (transitive)
- He provides food to the homeless. (ditransitive)
- First example: the verb “provides”, in an abstract way describes the idea of providing; the verb “provides” only has a subject “he”.
- Second example: shows that food is being provided; the verb “provides” here has a subject “he” and a direct object “food”.
- In the third: both the gift and the recipient are mentioned; the verb “provides” has a subject “he”, a direct object “food” and an indirect (secondary) object “homeless”.
Regular and Irregular Verbs
This is easy as I think universally all of us have learned irregular verbs by heart. We chant them like our daily prayers and we memorized them. They are imprinted in our brain.
The difference between regular and irregular verbs is in their endings for the past tense and past participle forms.
Regular verbs – the past tense ending and past participle ending is always the same. An –ed is added to the base verb (present tense).
Present tense, past tense, past participle
- open, opened, opened
- work, worked, worked
(verbs ending in “y” to drop the “y” and add “-ied” and verbs ending in “e” to add “-d”)
- cry, cried, cried
- try, tried, tried
- lie, lied, lied
- tie, tied, tied
Irregular verbs – the past tense ending and past participle ending is variable. These are the verbs that we learned by heart. Here is a list of verb forms (present tense, past tense & past participle) I have compiled for your easy reference, study and practice. You will be able to add on to the list as you go along.
PARTS OF THE VERB (Irregular verbs)
Present tense, past tense, past participle
- am was been
- arise arose arisen
- awake awoke awakened
- be was/were been
- bear bore borne
- beat beat beaten
- become became become
- begin began begun
- bend bent bent
- bite bit bitten
- bleed bled bled
- blow blew blown
- break broke broken
- bring brought brought
- build built built
- burn burnt/burned burnt/burned
- buy bought bought
- catch caught caught
- choose chose chosen
- come came come
- creep crept crept
- cut cut cut
- dig dug dug
- do did done
- draw drew drawn
- drink drank drunk
- drive drove driven
- eat ate eaten
- fall fell fallen
- feed fed fed
- feel felt felt
- fight fought fought
- find found found
- fly flew flown
- forget forgot forgotten
- forgive forgave forgiven
- freeze froze frozen
- get got gotten
- give gave given
- grow grew grown
- go went gone
- has/have had had
- hear heard heard
- hide hid hidden
- hold held held
- hurt hurt hurt
- keep kept kept
- kneel knelt knelt
- know knew known
- lay laid laid
- lead led led
- leave left left
- let let let
- lie lay lain
- lose lost lost
- make made made
- meet met met
- pay paid paid
- quit quit quit
- read read read
- ride rode ridden
- ring rang rung
- rise rose risen
- run ran run
- say said said
- see saw seen
- sell sold sold
- send sent sent
- shake shook shaken
- shine shone/shined shone/shined
- shrink shrank shrunk
- sing sang sung
- sink sank sunk
- sit sat sat
- slay slew slain
- sleep slept slept
- speak spoke spoken
- spend spent spent
- spring sprang sprung
- stand stood stood
- steal stole stolen
- stink stank stunk
- sweep swept swept
- swim swam swum
- take took taken
- teach taught taught
- tear tore torn
- tell told told
- think thought thought
- throw threw thrown
- understand understood understood
- wake woke/waked woken/waked
- wear wore worn
Linking verbs does not have much meaning on its own and must be followed by a complement in a complete sentence. The function of a linking verb is to link a subject to a complement, in other words, it links the subject to what is said about the subject.
Usually, a linking verb shows equality or a change to a different state. It does not have an action as oppose to transitive (action) verbs. Linking verbs are always intransitive but not all intransitive verbs are linking verbs.
- The idea sounds workable (idea=workable)
- The food tastes delicious (food=delicious)
- The dog is a thoroughbred (dog=thoroughbred)
Notice that the linking verbs (sound, tastes, is) link the subject (idea, food, dog) to the complement (workable, delicious, thoroughbred) showing equality.
Shows change of state
- Sally is distracted (Sally > distracted)
- The weather looks threatening (weather > threatening)
- Tom seems preoccupied (Tom > preoccupied)
The linking verbs here (is, looks, seems) link the subject (Sally, weather, Tom) to the complement (distracted, threatening, preoccupied) showing a change of state.
The following sentences show that the linking verbs may also connect the subject to a noun, a pronoun, an adjective or may answer “what” as a direct object similar to transitive verbs, but does not provide an action:
- Mary is the President of the Club (President=noun)
- Those shoes look like mine (mine=pronoun)
- The cake tastes good (good=adjective)
- China’s economy is the fastest growing in the world (answer to “what”)
Some verbs are always linking verbs because they never describe an action. Other verbs can be linking verbs in some sentences and action verbs in other sentences, depending on their functions.
These 3 verbs are always linking verbs:-
- to be (is, am, are, was, were, has been, have been, had been, is being, are being, was being, were being, will have been, etc)
- to become (become, becomes, became, has become, have become, had become, will become, will have become, etc
- to seem (seemed, seeming, seems, has seemed, have seemed, had seemed, is seeming, are seeming, was seeming, were seeming, will seem)
The verb BE:
The main function in English is the verb “be”. It is sometimes referred to as “the copula”. All the forms of “be” can be used as a linking verb. “Be” is the main verb of the sentence, rather than the auxiliary.
Other linking verbs are:
Current linking verbs: appear, be, feel, lie, look, remain, seem, smell, sound, stay, sit, taste
Resulting linking verbs: become, get, grow, fall, prove, run, turn
Both action and linking verbs: look, smell, appear, prove, sound, feel, remain, taste, grow
- The victim looks badly beaten >>> She looks for her purse
- Her perfume smells refreshing >>> The dogs smell for clues
- Johnny appears torn >>> She only appeared after an hour’s delay
Dynamic & Static Verbs
Dynamic verbs describe action and can be used with continuous tense while Static verbs refer to a state or condition (non-action) and will remain in the simple tense and cannot normally change to continuous tense unless there is a change in the meaning.
- Peter and Jane are walking to the park
- They walk everyday
- It is their habit to go walking daily
- They walked yesterday and they will walk again tomorrow
- They were walking this morning and had walked their target of 1 kilometer
You will notice from the above examples, that dynamic verbs can be used in simple and perfect tense forms (walk, walked, have walked, had walked) and the continuous or progressive forms (are walking, were walking, have been walking, had been walking).
Some examples of dynamic verbs are: eat, run, listen, call, drink, read, jump, play, watch, talk, grow, sleep, cry, laugh, cook, sew etc.
Some examples of static verbs are: hate, love, like, see, hear, sound, seem, prefer, believe, contain, own, belong, mean, consist of, recognize, think (as in having an opinion), mind (as in care about), have (as in own) etc.
- She hates cat.
- Edward loves ice cream.
- I like Korean movies.
- Do you own a car?
- The luggage contains clothes only.
- She believes in you.
The above sentences show either a perception or a relation to the subject which has no action. Note that you cannot use static verbs in a continuous tense eg the sentence “She is believing in you” is out of context. The word “believe” is a state, not action therefore it should stay in the simple tense.
If you say “I have a dog”, you are describing your relationship to the dog, therefore you can’t say “I am having a dog” to mean the same. You can however say “I am having a dog to keep me company”, here, the meaning of verb “having” may mean “you are buying or you are taking or you are adopting a dog to keep you company” and therefore has change the meaning to become an action verb.