What Are Action Words? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 What Are Action Words?
  • 0:46 Action Words in Action
  • 1:55 Action Word Uses
  • 3:05 Practice Using Action Words
  • 3:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Amanda Wiesner-Groff

Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.

Expert Contributor
Linsey Betts

Linsey is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in English Literature at Claremont Graduate University and has taught students of all ages in English and the humanities for 10 years.

So, you want to talk about action? First things first, what are action words and how do you use them? This lesson explains different types of action words, known as verbs, and gives examples of the best way to use them in your writing.

What Are Action Words?

1, 2, 3, action! You have heard these words from the mouths of movie directors, but what connection could this possibly have to English grammar? When there is call for action, we are calling for action words. Action words are verbs, as you might guess, which are words that describe actions. These are in contrast to non-action words, also called non-action verbs, which are words that describe a state of being, a need, an opinion, or a sense. Every time you write about an action that has happened, is happening, or is going to happen, you use action words. For example:

  • I was running yesterday.
  • I am running now.
  • I will run tomorrow.

This lesson goes over different types of action words, examples of action words, and shows you how to use them in sentences. Let's get to work!

Action Words in Action

There are different formats and types of actions words, and it's also important to know how to use verb tenses with them properly. So, let's go over some important details to keep in mind.

Action verbs are words that describe actions, while non-action verbs are words that refer to a state of being, a need, an opinion, or a sense. Look at some examples of these two types of verbs in relation to one another. Some examples of action verbs include:

  • Play
  • Jump
  • Eat
  • Work
  • Study
  • Drive
  • Walk
  • Write
  • Read
  • Talk

When using action verbs in writing, describe actions and movement. Here are some examples of these words in sentences:

  1. I am playing basketball with my friends.
  2. They were talking way too fast.
  3. He drove so far for that concert!

Some examples of non-action verbs include:

  • Am
  • Is
  • Are
  • Believe
  • Hear
  • Understand
  • Own
  • Seem
  • Love
  • Remember

When using non-action verbs in writing, describe feelings and states of being rather than actions and movement. Here are some examples of their use in sentences:

  1. I understand the point of the story.
  2. She seems nice.
  3. Do you remember me?

Action Word Uses

Depending upon the timeline being referred to, when you use action words, you will have to format your verbs according to the proper grammar tense. There are a lot of tenses in the English language, so it is important to keep them straight so your writing does not become confusing. For example:

  • I biking yesterday. (This is incorrect)
  • I biked yesterday. (This is correct)
  • I will studied tomorrow. (This is incorrect)
  • I will study tomorrow. (This is correct)

Always check your verb/tense agreement. This will ensure your sentences make sense.

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Additional Activities

Action Words: Review and Practice

In this lesson, we learned about action words, also known as action verbs. These words describe actions that have happened, are happening, or will happen. Practice what you have learned with the following exercises!

Identify the action verbs:

In the following sentences, identify the action verb (or verbs) in the sentence.

1. Melissa ran, swam, and rode a bike in the triathlon.

2. We thought about eating dinner after we drove four hours to the hotel.

3. David wrote a four-page essay for his class.

4. I would eat a ten-pound hamburger for a competition.

5. I am grabbing a sandwich for lunch.

Action or non-action?:

In the following sentences, determine whether the verb in the sentence is an action word or a non-action word.

6. Mike thinks his dog is the best dog in the world.

7. I jog around the block each morning.

8. Natalie loves to travel around the country.

9. Jason always remembers to feed the fish.


1. ran, swam, rode

6. "Thinks" and "is" are non-action words.

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