How to Find the Main Verb in a Sentence

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: How to Identify & Replace Linking Verbs

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:03 Elements of a Basic Sentence
  • 0:33 The Main Verb
  • 3:51 Finding the Main Verb
  • 5:14 Practice
  • 5:48 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Valerie Keenan

Valerie has taught elementary school and has her master's degree in education.

A basic sentence must contain a subject and a predicate to be complete. The main verb of a sentence will always be located within the predicate. Learn how to identify the main verb of a sentence and how to avoid confusing it with infinitives and auxiliary verbs.

Elements of a Basic Sentence

A basic sentence must contain two main elements in order to be complete: a subject and a predicate. The subject of a sentence contains the person, place, or thing that is performing the action. The predicate contains the action or state of being within the sentence.

For example:

  • The dog ran home.

The subject is 'the dog.' The predicate is 'ran home.'

The Main Verb

The main verb is located within the predicate, and it expresses the main action or state of being of the sentence's subject. The main verb can stand alone, or it can be accompanied by words that add meaning and detail. For example:

  • Sally jumped over the fence.

The subject is 'Sally.' The main verb (or action) is 'jumped.' The modifying phrase is 'over the fence.'


Sometimes, a sentence will have more than one verb. Often, this verb will be part of an infinitive. Rather than being a true verb, an infinitive functions as a noun, adverb, or adjective within a sentence. An infinitive will almost always begin with the word 'to' followed by the simple form of a verb. When the verb is part of an infinitive, you cannot add -s, -es, -ed, or -ing to the end. For example:

  • To sleep
  • To read
  • To run

For example:

  • Danny wanted to watch the thunderstorm from his patio.

The subject is 'Danny.' The main verb is 'wanted.' The infinitive is 'to watch.'

Auxiliary Verb

Another type of verb that sometimes exists in a sentence and can cause some confusion is an auxiliary verb, or helping verb. The purpose of an auxiliary verb is to add content to what is being expressed by the main verb of a sentence.

Auxiliary Verbs
be (am, are, is, was, were, being)
do (did, does, doing)
have (had, has, having)

To identify whether a verb is an auxiliary verb, you can try subject-auxiliary inversion by switching the verb in question with the subject of the sentence or by changing the sentence to the negative form by inserting the word 'not' immediately after the verb in question. If the sentence can be inverted and can function in the negative form, then the verb in question is an auxiliary verb rather than the main verb. For example,

  • Sally will run the race.

'Will' and 'run' are both verbs. To decide if 'will' is the main verb or not, first try subject-auxiliary inversion. This means that you will switch places with the subject, 'Sally,' and the verb in question, 'will.'

  • Will Sally run the race?

Next, you will insert the word 'not' immediately after the verb in question, 'will.'

  • Sally will not run the race.

As you can see, the sentence allowed for both subject-auxiliary inversion and it functioned in the negative form. Therefore, 'will' is an auxiliary verb and 'run' is the main verb.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account