What Are Strong Verbs? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 A Strong Verb
  • 1:16 Why & How to Use Strong Verbs
  • 4:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Douglass Gunselman

Doug is currently a head middle school principal and has taught middle school/high school English/speech/computers. He has a master's degree in Educational Administration.

In this lesson, you will learn about strong verbs. By the end of the lesson, you will be able to identify strong verbs in sentences and understand their importance in writing.

Definition of a Strong Verb

My son will occasionally interrupt me while watching one of my favorite television shows. A lot of times, he won't just get to the point. He uses a bunch of words to make one single point: he wants a cookie. The conversation might go something like:

'Dad, do you remember when you said you would reward me when I ate all of my food?'


'Well, I did a really good job of eating my food, so I should get a reward.'

'Okay, what do you want?'

'I want a cookie.'

Could my son have conveyed what he wanted in far less words? Absolutely!

Think about our society. We are all about fast Internet, fast food and we want things now! Imagine how impatient people can be if you don't get to the point in your writing.

So, how does my son's cookie and a fast-paced society relate to strong verbs? To begin, let's look at a strong verb's definition. A strong verb is a specific, descriptive verb used in writing. It helps to make your writing more concise. Descriptive and concise writing make your writing effective and quite honestly make you a better writer. Before we continue, let's take a look at strong verb examples.

Abrogate Analyze Boast Cultivate Delineate Extrapolate Facilitate
Garner Hammer Indoctrinate Justify Lecture Manipulate Navigate
Orchestrate Perpetuate Quip Replicate Revive Sustain Synthesize
Terminate Undermine Validate Whirl Withstand Yodel Zap

These words add a lot of character, detail and description to your writing!

Why and How to Use Strong Verbs

As an English teacher, I am constantly telling my students to 'get to the point' in their writing and be specific! You may find that it is very easy to write unnecessary words, phrases, etc. when you can replace those with one word that can be more descriptive. A very simple but effective way to improve your writing is to replace 'to be' verbs, which are weak, with strong verbs. Some 'to be' verbs include: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been, etc. You can find a full list of 'to be' verbs in any grammar book or on the Internet. Let's take a look at a few examples of weak verbs vs. strong verbs.

Example 1

Weak Verb: She 'is going' to the store.

Ask yourself, how does she get to the store? Does she crawl, jump, skip, run or ride in a car? The answer: we don't know! The writer could convey a more descriptive sentence with fewer words, removing the 'to be' verb if he/she wrote:

Strong Verb: She 'skips' to the store.

Example 2

Weak Verb: He 'was the supervisor of' the organization.

On the surface, this looks like a decent sentence. It contains the three elements of a complete sentence, including a subject, predicate and complete thought. This sentence, however, can be more concise. We have four words, was the supervisor of, that can be replaced with one specific word, oversaw.

Strong Verb: He 'oversaw' the organization.

Example 3

Weak Verb: He 'is getting' a new baseball card.

Did he buy it or was it given to him? Improve your writing by replacing verbs that are vague and non-specific with more informative, concise strong verbs.

Strong Verb: He 'purchased' a new baseball card.

Example 4

Weak Verb: He 'is tearing down' his old house.

This gives us some pretty specific information, but is there a more concise way to say it?

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