English Grammar: Grammar – the verb

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A part of speech that expresses existence, action, or occurrence. 

Remember question one for identifying subjects? “What’s going on (or being described)?” Answer that and you’ve found your verb. And like a subject, a sentence has got to have one!

Let’s look at a few more examples:

Lassie ran into the burning building. 
The beagle stepped on its ears. 
What’s going on in these sentences? A couple of dogs are doing stupid things; but what they are doing is the verb–in this case, Lassie ran and the beagle stepped . Both show action.

Got the idea? Now let’s look at verbs that are a little different. Some verbs don’t show action. Instead, they link the subject to some other information: these are called, big surprise, linking verbs . Common linking verbs are “to be” forms–such as, is, am, are, was, were–and the verbs appear, become, feel, look, seem. Examples are:

She was fond of her animals. 
Pierre is a fine beast. 
She looks like she has been in a fight with a cat. 
It feels damp in the grass. 
In identifying the verb, you also need to look for the helpers, since they are considered part of the verb. The helpers (aka auxiliaries) include: is, am, are, was, were, been, has, have, had, do, does, did, may, can, might, shall, will, should, could, would.

I’ve marked the complete verb in the following:

I was barking before breakfast. 
He should have let me out of the house. 
I tried to wait for him to get up. 
He should not have stayed in bed so long. 
I barked and waited until. . . . 
I guess you can figure out what happened at the end of this little story. It’s an all-too-frequent part of a dog’s life. . . . But about the verbs. 

Notice what is not included in the verb in numbers 3 and 4: to wait and not. Words with to in front of them are never a part of the verb, even though they look suspiciously like verbs. Words like not, always, just, never, and only are not part of the verb.

Remember how a sentence can have more than one subject? It can also have more than one verb, as you see in number 5. One other thing: no word with an “-ing” ending can ever be the verb without a helper: I barking; she running? No way!

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