There are separate sections on
- The Passive Voice
- Progressive, Stative, and Dynamic Verbs and
- Conditional Verb Forms
- The "To Be" Verb
Verbs carry the idea of being or action in the sentence.
- I am a student.
- The students passed all their courses.
As we will see on this page, verbs are classified in many ways. First, some verbs require an object to complete their meaning: "She gave _____ ?" Gave what? She gave money to the church. These verbs are called transitive. Verbs that are intransitive do not require objects: "The building collapsed ." In English, you cannot tell the difference between a transitive and intransitive verb by its form; you have to see how the verb is functioning within the sentence. In fact, a verb can be both transitive and intransitive: "The monster collapsed
the building by sitting on it."
Although you will seldom hear the term, a ditransitive verb such as cause or give is one that can take a direct object and an indirect object at the same time: "That horrid music gave me a headache ." Ditransitive verbs are slightly different, then, from factitive verbs (see below), in that the latter take two objects.
Verbs are also classified as either finite or non-finite. A finite verb makes an assertion or expresses a state of being and can stand by itself as the main verb of a sentence.
- The truck demolished the restaurant.
- The leaves were yellow and sickly.
Non-finite verbs (think "unfinished") cannot, by themselves, be main verbs:
- The broken window.
- The wheezing gentleman.
Another, more useful term for non-finite verb is verbal. In this section, we discuss various verbal forms: infinitives, gerunds, and participles.