Verb - An Overview

What is a Verb?

A verb is a word or a group of words expressing actions or state of being or having. 

What are the Types of Verb?

Defining and identifying verbs may not be a problem, but classifying them does. Grammar authors classify verbs in varied ways. Below is a comprehensive division of verbs according to their function:

1. Full Verbs (or Lexical Verbs) 

Full verbs function as a main verb in a clause. Full verbs are divided into regular (e.g. walk - walked) and irregular verbs (e.g. break - broke). See below examples:

  • Regular Verbs: The child sobbed aloud when his mom disappeared
  • Irregular Verbs: They had seen her hurrying away so they thought that she had been glad to go.

2. Primary Verbs (be, have, and do)

Primary Verbs are capable of functioning as main verbs and auxiliaries. The three subtypes of primary verbs are be, have, and do. Look at below examples:

  • Be: Shane was (auxiliary) playing the guitar. Toby is (main verb) a great guy. 
  • Have: Have (auxiliary) you finished your homework? He has (main verb) both money and power.
  • Do: She can't do (auxiliary) the dishes. What have you done (main verb) with my pet? 

3. Modal Auxiliary Verbs (will, might, etc.) 

Modal auxiliaries can only function as auxiliary or helping verbs. This type of verbs expresses modality such as ability, likelihood, permission, and obligation. Check out below examples: 

  • How can I tell you everything at once? (ability) 
  • You might fall down there and break your leg. (likelihood)


Some words may appear as Verbs but are truly Adjectives or Nouns when examined closely within a context. In the sentence, "A bent old woman was sitting in a corner", bent may appear as the past form of the irregular verb "bend", but it functions as an adjective describing the appearance of the old woman's back. 


  •  A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik (Longman Group Ltd., 1985)
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