English Verbs - A Quick & Simple Overview
Oct 7, 2010 Grammar 2778 Views
A verb is word, or a group of words, which indicate an action or a state. For example: "eat", "swim" and "study" all describe actions and are therefore verbs.
"Like", "have" and "be" are verbs too, since they describe states.
A verb can be composed of more than one word. For example: "cut out", "bring up", etc.
A verb can be in the first, second or third person. Now, what does that mean?
First person = I / we (the speaker)
Second person = you (the listener)
Third person = he / she/ it / they (someone else you are talking about)
When you say a verb is "in the first person" it means the speaker is doing the action. For example:
"I go home."
"We play cards."
When you say a verb is "in the second person" it means the listener is doing the action. For example:
"You look nice."
"You guys work hard."
When you say a verb is "in the third person" it mean that someone else is doing the action. For example:
"He is a smart guy."
"She will leave soon."
"It was too hot."
"They visited us yesterday."
Next, verbs are used in different tenses. A tense is simply a form of the verb which shows the time in which an action happened.
Tenses give us such information as:
- Is it in progress?
- Is it complete?
For example, the Simple Past tense merely tells us an action happened in the past: "I went home."
The Future Progressive tense tells us an action will be in progress in the future: "He will be dancing all night."
The Present Perfect tense tells us an action is already complete in the present: "They have bought a new house."
And so forth.
In English, when you use verbs in sentences, you change them according to things like person and tense. This is called conjugation.
To conjugate a verb means to change it according to the rules of grammar. This can be very important if you want to be understood.
For example, have a look at the following sentence. Can you understand it clearly?
"They speaks all the time."
It doesn't sound quite right, does it? It is not clear whether the speaker is talking about one person, or more. This is because he is used a verb in the third person singular ("speaks"), when he should have used a verb in the third person plural ("speak").
Here's another one: "I have quitted my job tomorrow."
Well... What is wrong with this guy? Is he going to quit his job? Or, has he left already? I'm not sure...
So what is the lesson?
When speaking or writing, make sure you conjugate (change) the verb correctly to fit the subject of the sentence, and the time of the action.
The subject of verbs has many more aspects and "complications", but this one rule can definitely save you a lot of mistakes and misunderstandings!