What are Verbs?


Once again during my TESOL module, I am learning things which should be common knowledge to me, yet I finish my tutorials feeling incompetent.

This has been a relearning process for me, which is perhaps more important than discovering new avenues at the moment. If I take verbs for granted, how am I supposed to teach them to ESL learners?

This blog post will provide a brief introduction into verbs, as I myself am only being introduced to similar definitions.



What is a verb?

Verbs are action words. They are there to describe the action being carried out. This can be both physical actions and mental processes.

It is an open word category; meaning that there an be new words added.



Lexical Verbs.

  • Have a clearly stateable meaning.
  • Function as the main verbs in a sentence (i.e.they carry the main meaning of the sentence.
  • There is no limit to the number of verbs in this class.
  • Have regular endings for forming past and present tenses
  • The most common of these verbs have irregular morphology.



Primary Verbs.

  • These verbs form a separate class because they can function either as main verbs or as auxiliary verbs (helping verbs).
  • Auxiliary verbs add extra information to the main (lexical) verb.
  • There are 3 verbs in this class; do, be, and have

Primary  auxiliary verbs can change the meaning of the sentence from positive to negative.






The three primary verb classes


As a main verb:

  • Activity verb: I do the gardening. Brian does the ironing.
  • Fixed idiomatic expressions: We’d better do some work. It’s not a fancy car but it does the job.


As Auxiliary verb:

  • Questions: Do you want to join us?
  • Negator: I don’t understand.
  • Emphatic: I do like to be beside the seaside.
  • Question Tags.


2. to BE

As primary verb

  • as a primary verb, it’s called the copula because of it’s special links or coupling function.
  • copular verbs: It is gorgeous!


As Auxiliary verbs

progressive aspect: I am speaking passively. It is suggested. (Suggested = past participle)


3. To Have

As main verb:

  • Indicated possession: I have, you have etc.


As Auxiliary verb:

  • perfect aspect: I have just washed the car


As I stated early, my own understanding of verbs is still growing so I would encourage you to take your own initiative and explore other aspects of verbs.


Below is a YouTube video from the user Socratica where they discuss verbs; the video is targeted at ESL learners so I believe it will be useful in your pursuits to become an ESL teacher.


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