English Verbs

English VerbsEnglish verb types categorized and exemplified. How context changes verb meaning.

Verb (from the Latin verbum meaning word) is a syntactic word (speech part) conveying activity (action/state). English as an analytical language (where grammatical meaning forms around, not inside words) is very rich in verb types. English verbs act as predicates, sometimes as subjects.

English verbs may be

  • simple (to go)
  • derivative (to dislike)
  • compound (to overcome)

Compound verbs are often phrasal consisting of verb+postposition (to look up).



Semantically verbs divide into:

  • notional/action (with independent lexical meaning)

I speak English.

  • semi-notional (with contextualized lexical meaning – modal, aspective, and link verbs)

We can speak English.

Do you speak English?


Most English verbs are notional:

  • dynamic (denoting action)

He speaks good English.

  • stative (denoting state – being, mentality, perception, feelings, emotions, relationship)

She understands very little English.

Contextually some statives can become dynamic.

I think it’s a good idea.

What are you thinking about?





By natural activity termination, dynamic verbs divide into:

  • terminative

Say it again!

  • non-terminative

I often do creative tasks.

They can also contextually interchange within 1 verb.

I learned fluent English for 2 years.

My friend’s been learning foreign languages for the same period.


By activity direction, notionals may be:

  • transitive (denoting activity doer and object/addressee)

They take English lessons every day.

  • intransitive/reflexive (taking no object)

I can’t live without watching BBC.

Purely reflexive verbs are rare, but many notionals take reflexive meanings in certain contexts.

I love speaking with foreigners.

Have you ever loved?


By past simple and participle forms, English verbs (except some modals) may be:

  • regular (adding the suffixes –(e)d/t)

Who asked that question?

  • irregular (several hundred memorizable forms)

We spoke to each other online.


Modal verbs denote activity subjectivity:

be, can, have, may, must, need, ought, shall, should, will, would

Aspective verbs denote activity timeline:

begin, cease, come, commence, continue, finish, give up, go on, keep, proceed, set about, start, stop

Link verbs denote activity equality:

appear, be, become, come, feel, get, go, grow, hold, keep, look, prove, remain, run, seem, smell, taste, turn (out)

Helping verbs serve questions, negation and compound tenses:

be, do, have, shall, will



English verbs have 2 form sets – finite forms and non-finite forms (verbals – the infinitive, gerund, participle).

I write exercises.

While writing exercises I use dictionaries.


Infinitive is a base verb form with the to particle by default (bare infinitive).

(to) go, (to) be,(to) ask, (to) fight, (to) understand, (to) walk


English verbs change in tenses – there’re 16 tenses (including 8 modal tenses).

They also have 3 moodsimperative, indicative and conditional (subjunctive). The imperative mood denotes instructions, the indicative statements while the conditional suppositions.

English verbs may be either in the Active or Passive Voice. In the Passive, verbs denote activity to, not by subjects.

He was taken aback.