What Are Action Verbs? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Lindsy Frazer

Dr. Frazer has taught several college level Science courses and has a master's degree in Human Biology and a PhD in Library and Information Science.

From the moment we jump out of bed to the second we hop back in, we are active. To describe our action-packed lives, we use action verbs. This lesson will give you a definition of action verbs, some examples, and a way to identify action verbs.

Definition

When we run, jump, guess or remember, we are performing an action. Some of these actions are done with our bodies, like running or jumping, and some are done with our minds, like guessing or remembering.

To write or talk about actions, we use action verbs. An action verb is a type of verb that describes physical or mental actions. Every sentence has a subject - the person, place, thing, or idea a sentence is about - and action verbs let you know what the subject of a sentence is doing.

Action verbs express physical or mental actions.
action verbs

Can you DO that?

To find an action verb in a sentence, look for a word that describes an action someone or something can do with their body or mind. Ask yourself, ''what could I do?''

Find the action verb in this sentence:

  • Before bedtime, Sarah worked hard on her math homework.

Are 'before' or 'bedtime' things you can do? Can you 'math' or 'homework?' What about 'work?' Can you work? Of course, you can work, so worked is the action verb in this sentence.

All you have to do to find the action verb in a sentence is ask yourself could a person, animal or object do this.

Dinners Ready: Example 1

Family Dinner

If I wanted to describe this picture in one sentence, I might write:

  • The family is eating dinner at the dining room table.

The picture and my sentence are all about the family, so they are the subject. To find the action verb in this sentence, we have to identify the word that tells us what the family is doing. 'Eating' is the word that describes the physical action the family is performing, so it is the action verb.

Think About It: Example 2

Should you wear a raincoat or pack an umbrella when you leave the house tomorrow? To decide, you might ask a friend:

  • Do you think it will rain today?

There is an action verb in that question.

Which word in the question is an action? 'Think' is an action you do with your mind, so it is the action verb.

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