Grammar For Beginners: All About Verbs


Over the next few months, I will be writing a Grammar For Beginners series. I am starting with parts of speech.

What are parts of speech?

Language is made up of different words with different functions. These words are are known as parts of speech.

These categories are:

  1. Nouns
  2. Adjectives
  3. Verbs
  4. Conjunctions
  5. Articles
  6. Pronouns
  7. Adverbs
  8. Prepositions

Today I will discuss verbs.

All About Verbs

Verbs are ‘doing’ words. They show action, a state of being, or express time. We have present, past, and future tense.

  • I eat. (Present tense)
  • I ate. (Past tense)
  • I will eat. (Future tense)

Tip: The trend is to use the simple tense in writing. It’s clean, clear, and uncomplicated. It’s also user-friendly.

Finite Verbs:

  1. Stand on their own.
  2. Have a subject.
  3. Have a number.
  4. Have a tense.

A finite verb makes a complete sentence with a subject. It can be in past, present, or future tense.

Examples:

She works.

Subject = She
Number = One person
Tense = Present

They negotiated.

Subject = They
Number = Many people
Tense = Past 

Infinite Verbs: 

  1. Do not show tense, person or number.
  2. Have a ‘to’ that comes before the verb.
  3. Must have a finite verb before the ‘to’.

It is preferred that you do not split the infinitive. Don’t say: ‘She wants to definitely work.’ You will split the infinitive.

Example:

She tiptoed so as not to wake anyone.

‘To wake’ does not show tense, person, or number.
‘to’ comes before the verb, wake
Tiptoed is a finite verb that comes before the word ‘to’

Strong Verbs

Try to use strong, precise verbs. This helps you to say what you mean, reduce adverbs, and avoid the passive voice. [Read Why You Need Strong Verbs When You Write]

Examples: stride, grab, analyse, resolve, tiptoe, instruct, wobble, revise, scan

Avoid Nominalisation Of Verbs

This is also known as ‘nouning’. A nominalisation occurs when a verb (or other part of speech) is used as (or transformed into) a noun. Example: argue becomes argument

‘A nominalisation is a type of abstract noun. An abstract noun denotes an idea, quality, emotion, or state. It is something that is not concrete. It takes the power away from the original verb.’ (From Why You Should Not Use Nominalisations When You Write)

Phrasal Verbs

‘Phrasal verbs’ are a combination of words with a meaning beyond the individual words. They are verbs that are followed by a preposition or an adverb.  Examples: give up, put off, pass out

Phrasal verbs are mainly used in spoken English and informal texts. We should avoid using them in formal and academic writing, where it is better to use a verb like ‘postpone’ than a phrasal verb like ‘put off’.

Here are some examples of phrasal verbs:

  1. 15 Most Useful Phrasal Verbs
  2. Understanding Phrasal Verbs – Two word verbs with ‘get’
  3. Understanding Phrasal Verbs – Two word verbs with ‘bring’

Look out for next week’s post on adverbs.

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by Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. Grammar For Beginners: All About Adjectives
  2. Grammar For Beginners: All About Nouns
  3. Abstract Nouns
  4. The Passive Voice Explained
  5. Three Nagging Grammar Questions Answered
  6. 30 Examples To Help You Master Concord