In the grammar of English, Verbs are indispensable. This to say, from the view of traditional English grammar, it is impossible to make any sentence without a verb. An attempt to do so will result in the production of series of fragments and never a construction with sensible thoughts. This affirms the position of a verb, in English, as the most obligatory past of speech.

What then is a Verb?

There are many definitions of a verb some of which considers verbs as ‘action words’ or words that indicate ‘state of being’. in the most comprehensive perspective, a verb is a part of speech that accounts for Tense, Aspect and Mood (TAM).

Tense: This refers to the time value of a sentence. When we say that verbs account for the tense, what we mean is that verbs are responsible for indicating the time value of that sentence. In English, there are only two tenses, Past and Non-past. All other categories that are often attributed to time, which include: *Future tense, Continuous tense, et cetera are actually the Aspects of the Verb, not the Tense. This is because, ‘time’ (tense) can only be valued ‘as it was’ and ‘as it is’. Time cannot be valued ‘as it will be’ – in essence, there is nothing like ‘future time’ or ‘continuous time’.


      1.    I killed a snake yesterday {Past the time of the speaker (Past tense).          The  utterance does not match the moment of the action. the action            happened before the utterance}

      2.    I kill snakes. {within the time of the speaker (Present tense). The              utterance matches the moment of the action.}

     3.   I will kill snakes tomorrow {This statement cannot be set in time            because  the action has not happened. It is only a perception of the         speaker. Therefore, this can be valued as Future Aspect of the verb          which   is in the present}

    4.    I am killing snakes. {this is simply within the time of the speaker and          therefore, is a present tense not continuous tense}


This refers to how the speaker sees an event he/she his talking about. It could be in the future, in which case it will be referred to as the Future aspect, it could be an on-going process, in which case it will be referred to as the
Progressive Aspect. it could be Habitual, in which case it will be the behaviour of that person. it could be an action that had been completed in which case it will be Completive.


     Future Aspect: I will go to school tomorrow
     Progressive Aspect : I am washing my cloths
     Habitual Aspect:  John Kills Snakes
     Completive Aspect: I had eaten before you came


The mood of a sentence is expressed by the verb. Mood, in grammar, is how the speaker feels about what is being written or the way the thought is being expressed. The most commonly discussed moods are indicative, imperative, and subjunctive.

Indicative mood is also referred to as the fact mood. It states, or indicates, a fact, asks a fact, or denies a fact.

      1.    Rain is falling.
      2.    Is rain falling?
      3.    Rain is not falling.

Indicative mood can also state an opinion. This is because, most often, opinions are stated as if they were facts.

     1.    That is a beautiful painting.
     2.    Chocolate cookies are the best.

Imperative mood can also be referred to as command mood. It gives a command, appeals, or advises you to do something.

     1.    Do not forget your homework.
     2.    Get out!
     3.    Dust this table perfectly.

Subjunctive mood shows something hypothetical or contrary to fact. It might be a wish, a desire, a doubt, or an imaginary situation.

    1.    I wish school were over.
    2.    If school were over, I would take a nap.
    3.    If I were a teacher, I would never give homework.

Types of Verb

There are many types of verbs. This is because the names and classification are basically by observing the behaviour of the verb in sentences. With this, it is possible to have the same verb with numerous names.

For this class, we will identify only the following

    1.    Transitive verb 
    2.    Intransitive verb
    3.    Auxiliary verb
    4.    Finite verb
    5.    Non-finite verb
    6.    Modal Verb

Transitive Verb is a verb that can transfer action on the object and usually followed by noun. The object can be covert or overt. Some of these transitive verbs include arrest, avoid, do, enjoy, find, force, get, give, grab, hit, like, pull, report, shock, take, tell, touch, want, warn et cetera.

1. She arrested the suspect yesterday.
2. He forced the load on him.
         3. He speaks English with fluency.

Intransitive Verb is a verb that does not transfer action on the object, but in some cases, it needs adverbial modifiers. Some of these intransitive verbs include appear, come, fall, go, happen, matter, sleep, swim, wait et cetera
1. He cries.
                 2. They dance well.
                 3. She sings beautifully.

Auxiliary Verb is sometime called helping verb. It is often used with a main verb.

1.  The dog is running a child.
2. A child is bitten by the dog.
3. They have known me for 3 years.
4. The environment will become terrible in the future.

Modal Verbs are the verbs that are used to talk about ability, permission, obligation and necessity, obligation and advice, possibility, probability, request, offer, suggestion, habit and promise.

a) Ability: can

Example: He can play the guitar.

b) Permission: can, could, may and might

Example:  Can I use your pen for a moment?
            Could you please give me your pen?
May I suggest?

c) Obligation and necessity: Must

Example: You must set forth at dawn.

d) Obligation and Advice: should, ought to, had better, and shall

Example: You ought to learn to swim.
You shouldn’t tell a lie.

e) Possibility: may, might and could

Example:   There is someone at the door. It may be Sara.
We aren’t sure what we are going to do tomorrow. We might go to the beach.

f) Probability: should and ought to

Example:  Sally should be at work by now.
She ought to pass his driving easily.

A finite verb refers to the verb form that can change itself mostly to show time. While a non-finite verb refers to a verb form that cannot change it form for whatever reason.

Example of Non-finite verb are underlined below

    1.    Walking is a good exercise.
    2 .    Victoria Loves to sing at Christmas.
    3.    Paul is an educated man.

However, in reality, example one and two are not verbs. They are Noun and Adjective.


Verbs can inflect to show the following:

     1.    Number – {singular and plural verbs} note that singular verbs take -s         and    plural verbs drop -s.
     2.    Tense {Past and Non-Past}
     3.    Aspect {Future, Progression}

     4.    Voice {active and passive voice} 

   Idiongo Ebong

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