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What is a Verb? - Definition & Conjugation

Instructor: Patricia Vineski
In this lesson, you'll learn what a verb is and how to conjugate verbs correctly to make your writing more interesting. Take a look at some examples to help you understand verb conjugation.

Definition

We need verbs. We need them to tell others what we have done, what we are doing, and what we will be doing. We need verbs to ask questions, issue commands, and make requests. We need them to say things like, 'I can't believe he said that!' or 'I will not go on a blind date tonight or any other night!' We need verbs to talk about others and say things like 'Dustin fell off the roof and broke his wrist, 'or Jason is a race car driver' or 'Kary slept in a tent all summer.' We need verbs to communicate.

A verb is word that is used to express an action, an event, or a state of being. A verb can be used to indicate a single action, event or state of being, or it can be used to indicate two or more actions, events, or states of being, by joining with another verb, called a helping verb. A verb that is joined with a helping verb is called a compound verb.

Conjugation

Knowing how to conjugate verbs correctly will help you match verbs with their subjects, and give you a firmer grasp of how verbs function in different sentences.

Conjugation tells you the point of view of the verb (person), whether the verb is singular or plural (number), when the action of the verb takes place (tense), whether the verb is passive or active (voice), and the attitude of the speaker (mood).

Point of View

The point of view or person is divided into three categories; first, second, and third person.

--First person uses 'I' or 'we' and tells the reader the subject is speaking as in: 'I drank too much beer last night' or 'We ran away as fast as we could.'

--Second person uses 'you' and tells the reader that the subject is being spoken to as in: 'You have to call her right away!'

--Third person uses 'he/she/it' or 'they' and tells the reader that the subject is being spoken about as in: 'He saw that man steal her purse' or 'She hit that man with her purse' or 'They chased that man into the mall.'

Tense

Tense tells the reader when the action of a verb takes place. English has six tenses: present, past, future, future perfect, present perfect, and past perfect. Each of these tenses has another form, called the progressive form. Helping verbs, such as forms of to have, to be, and to do, are joined with other verbs to create the compound verbs that form the perfect and progressive forms of verbs.

--Present Tense - The present tense shows actions that happen in the present moment or are habitual:

  • Present: 'I eat my spaghetti with a spoon.'
  • Present Progressive: 'I am eating my spaghetti with a spoon.'

--Present Perfect Tense - The present perfect tense shows that the action has been completed in the past but is linked to the present.

  • Present Perfect: 'I have eaten my spaghetti.'
  • Present Perfect Progressive: 'I have been eating my spaghetti.'

--Past Tense - The past tense shows actions that happened before the present moment.

  • Past: 'Carla called the doctor over an hour ago.'
  • Past Progressive: 'Carla was calling the doctor over an hour ago.'

--Past Perfect - The past perfect tense shows an action that was completed before another action that took place in the past.

  • Past Perfect: 'Carla had called the doctor daily before her mother died.'
  • Past Perfect Progressive: 'Carla had been calling the doctor daily before her mother died.'

--Future Tense - The future tense shows actions that will happen in the future.

  • Future: 'I will finish that project by Saturday.'
  • Future Progressive: 'I will be finishing that project on Saturday.'

--Future Perfect - The future perfect tense shows an action that will be completed before another action that will take place in the future.

  • Future Perfect: 'We will have thoroughly explored the cave by the end of the summer.'
  • Future Perfect Progressive: 'By the time we get back, we will have been exploring the cave for an entire summer.'

Voice

The voice of a verb shows whether the subject of the verb is performing an action or is being acted upon. In the active voice, the subject of the verb performs an action; in the passive voice, the subject of the verb is being acted upon. For example:

--Active Voice: 'Jackie stated that Jason doesn't know anything.'

--Passive Voice: 'The statement that Jason doesn't know anything was made by Jackie.'

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