A verb, from the Latin ''verbum'' meaning ''word'', is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''become''), or a state of being (''be'', ''exist'', ''stand''). In the usual description of English, the basic form, with or without the particle ''to'', is the infinitive. In many languages, verbs are inflected (modified in form) to encode tense, aspect, mood, and voice. A verb may also agree with the person, gender or number of some of its arguments, such as its subject, or object. Verbs have tenses: present, to indicate that an action is being carried out; past, to indicate that an action has been done; future, to indicate that an action will be done.


In languages where the verb is inflected, it often agrees with its primary argument (the subject) in person, number or gender. With the exception of the verb ''to be'', English shows distinctive agreements only in the third person singular, present tense form of verbs, which are marked by adding "-s" ( ''walks'') or "-es" (''fishes''). The rest of the persons are not distinguished in the verb (''I walk'', ''you walk'', ''they walk'', etc.). Latin and the Romance languages inflect verbs for tense–aspect–mood (abbreviated 'TAM'), and they agree in person and number (but not in gender, as for example in Polish) with the subject. Japanese, like many languages with SOV word order, inflects verbs for tense-aspect-mood, as well as other categories such as negation, but shows absolutely no agreement with the subject - it is a strictly dependent-marking language. On the other hand, Basque, Georgian, and some other languages, have ''polypersonal agreement'': the verb agrees with the subject, the direct object, and even the secondary object if present, a greater degree of head-marking than is found in most European languages.


Verbs vary by type, and each type is determined by the kinds of words that accompany it and the relationship those words have with the verb itself. Classified by the number of their valency arguments, usually three basic types are distinguished: intransitives, transitives, ditransitives and double transitive verbs. Some verbs have special grammatical uses and hence complements, such as copular verbs (i.e., be); the verb "do" used for do-support in questioning and negation, and tense or aspect auxiliaries, e.g., "be", "have" or "can". In addition, verbs can be nonfinite, namely, not inflected for tense, and have various special forms such as infinitives, participles or gerunds.

Intransitive verbs

An intransitive verb is one that does not have a direct object. Intransitive verbs may be followed by an adverb (a word that addresses how, where, when, and how often) or end a sentence. For example: "The woman ''spoke'' softly." "The athlete ''ran'' faster than the official." "The boy ''wept''."

Transitive verbs

A transitive verb is followed by a noun or noun phrase. These noun phrases are not called predicate nouns, but are instead called direct objects because they refer to the object that is being acted upon. For example: "My friend ''read'' the newspaper." "The teenager ''earned'' a speeding ticket." A way to identify a transitive verb is to invert the sentence, making it passive. For example: "The newspaper ''was read'' by my friend." "A speeding ticket ''was earned'' by the teenager."

Ditransitive verbs

Ditransitive verbs (sometimes called Vg verbs after the verb ''give'') precede either two noun phrases or a noun phrase and then a prepositional phrase often led by ''to'' or ''for''. For example: "The players ''gave'' their teammates high fives." "The players ''gave'' high fives to their teammates." When two noun phrases follow a transitive verb, the first is an indirect object, that which is receiving something, and the second is a direct object, that being acted upon. Indirect objects can be noun phrases or prepositional phrases.

Double transitive verbs

Double transitive verbs (sometimes called Vc verbs after the verb ''consider'') are followed by a noun phrase that serves as a direct object and then a second noun phrase, adjective, or infinitive phrase. The second element (noun phrase, adjective, or infinitive) is called a complement, which completes a clause that would not otherwise have the same meaning. For example: "The young couple ''considers'' the neighbors wealthy people." "Some students ''perceive'' adults quite inaccurately." "Sarah ''deemed'' her project to be the hardest she has ever completed."

Copular verbs

Copular verbs ( linking verbs) can't be followed by an adverb or end a sentence, but instead must be followed by a noun or adjective, whether in a single word or phrase. Common copulae include ''be'', ''seem'', ''become'', ''appear'', ''look'', and ''remain''. For example: "His mother ''looked'' worried." "Josh ''remained'' a reliable friend." Copulae are thought to 'link' the adjective or noun to the subject. The copular verb ''be'' is manifested in eight forms: ''be'', ''is'', ''am'', ''are'', ''was'', ''were'', ''been'', and ''being'' in English. These verbs precede nouns or adjectives in a sentence, which become predicate nouns and predicate adjectives similar to those that function with a linking verb. They can also be followed by an adverb of place, which is sometimes referred to as a predicate adverb. For example: "Her daughter ''was'' a writing tutor." "The singers ''were'' very nervous." "My house ''is'' down the street." Adjectives that come after copular verbs are predicate adjectives, and nouns that come after linking verbs are predicate nouns.


The number of arguments that a verb takes is called its ''valency'' or ''valence''. Verbs can be classified according to their valency: * Avalent (valency = 0): the verb has neither a subject nor an object. Zero valency does not occur in English; in some languages such as Mandarin Chinese, weather verbs like ''snow(s)'' take no subject or object. * Intransitive (valency = 1, monovalent): the verb only has a subject. For example: "he runs", "it falls". * Transitive (valency = 2, divalent): the verb has a subject and a direct object. For example: "she eats fish", "we hunt nothing". *Ditransitive (valency = 3, trivalent): the verb has a subject, a direct object, and an indirect object. For example: "He gives her a flower" or "She gave John the watch." A few English verbs, particularly those concerned with financial transactions, take four arguments, as in "Pat1 sold Chris2 a lawnmower3 for $204" or "Chris1 paid Pat2 $203 for a lawnmower4". Weather verbs often appear to be impersonal (subjectless, or avalent) in null-subject languages like Spanish, where the verb ''llueve'' means "It rains". In English, French and German, they require a dummy pronoun, and therefore formally have a valency of 1. However, as verbs in Spanish incorporate the subject as a TAM suffix, Spanish is not actually a null-subject language, unlike Mandarin (see above). Such verbs in Spanish also have a valency of 1. Intransitive and transitive verbs are the most common, but the impersonal and objective verbs are somewhat different from the norm. In the objective, the verb takes an object but no subject; the nonreferent subject in some uses may be marked in the verb by an incorporated dummy pronoun similar to that used with the English weather verbs. Impersonal verbs in null subject languages take neither subject nor object, as is true of other verbs, but again the verb may show incorporated dummy pronouns despite the lack of subject and object phrases. Verbs are often flexible with regard to valency. In non-valency marking languages such as English, a transitive verb can often drop its object and become intransitive; or an intransitive verb can take an object and become transitive. For example, in English the verb ''move'' has no grammatical object in ''he moves'' (though in this case, the subject itself may be an implied object, also expressible explicitly as in ''he moves himself''); but in ''he moves the car'', the subject and object are distinct and the verb has a different valency. Some verbs in English, however, have historically derived forms that show change of valency in some causative verbs, such as ''fall-fell-fallen'':''fell-felled-felled''; ''rise-rose-risen'':''raise-raised-raised''; ''cost-cost-cost'':''cost-costed-costed''. In valency marking languages, valency change is shown by inflecting the verb in order to change the valency. In Kalaw Lagaw Ya of Australia, for example, verbs distinguish valency by argument agreement suffixes and TAM endings: * Nui mangema "He arrived earlier today" (mangema today past singular subject active intransitive perfective) * Palai mangemanu "They ualarrived earlier today" * Thana mangemainu "They luralarrived earlier today" ''Verb structure:'' manga-i-umberTAM "arrive+active+singular/dual/plural+TAM" * Nuidh wapi manganu "He took the fish o that placeearlier today" (manganu today past singular object attainative transitive perfective) * Nuidh wapi mangamanu "He took the two fish o that placeearlier today" * Nuidh wapil mangamainu "He took the hree or morefish o that placeearlier today" ''Verb structure:'' manga-Ø-umberTAM "arrive+attainative+singular/dual/plural+TAM" The verb stem manga- 'to take/come/arrive' at the destination takes the active suffix -i (> mangai-) in the intransitive form, and as a transitive verb the stem is not suffixed. The TAM ending -nu is the general today past attainative perfective, found with all numbers in the perfective except the singular active, where -ma is found.

Tense, aspect, and modality

Depending on the language, verbs may express ''grammatical tense'', ''aspect'', or ''modality''. Grammatical tenseÖsten Dahl, ''Tense and Aspect Systems'', Blackwell, 1985. is the use of auxiliary verbs or inflections to convey whether the action or state is before, simultaneous with, or after some reference point. The reference point could be the time of utterance, in which case the verb expresses absolute tense, or it could be a past, present, or future time of reference previously established in the sentence, in which case the verb expresses relative tense. Aspect expresses how the action or state occurs through time. Important examples include: :*perfective aspect, in which the action is viewed in its entirety through completion (as in "I saw the car") :*imperfective aspect, in which the action is viewed as ongoing; in some languages a verb could express imperfective aspect more narrowly as: :**habitual aspect, in which the action occurs repeatedly (as in "I used to go there every day"), or :**continuous aspect, in which the action occurs without pause; continuous aspect can be further subdivided into :***stative aspect, in which the situation is a fixed, unevolving state (as in "I know French"), and :***progressive aspect, in which the situation continuously evolves (as in "I am running") :*perfect, which combines elements of both aspect and tense and in which both a prior event and the state resulting from it are expressed (as in "he has gone there", i.e. "he went there and he is still there") :*discontinuous past, which combines elements of a past event and the implication that the state resulting from it was later reversed (as in "he did go there" or "he has been there", i.e. "he went there but has now come back") Aspect can either be lexical, in which case the aspect is embedded in the verb's meaning (as in "the sun shines," where "shines" is lexically stative), or it can be grammatically expressed, as in "I am running." Modality expresses the speaker's attitude toward the action or state given by the verb, especially with regard to degree of necessity, obligation, or permission ("You must go", "You should go", "You may go"), determination or willingness ("I will do this no matter what"), degree of probability ("It must be raining by now", "It may be raining", "It might be raining"), or ability ("I can speak French"). All languages can express modality with adverbs, but some also use verbal forms as in the given examples. If the verbal expression of modality involves the use of an auxiliary verb, that auxiliary is called a modal verb. If the verbal expression of modality involves inflection, we have the special case of mood; moods include the indicative (as in "I am there"), the subjunctive (as in "I wish I ''were'' there"), and the imperative ("Be there!").


The voiceKlaiman, M. H., ''Grammatical Voice (Cambridge Studies in Linguistics)'', Cambridge Univ. Press, 1991. of a verb expresses whether the subject of the verb is performing the action of the verb or whether the action is being performed on the subject. The two most common voices are the active voice (as in "I saw the car") and the passive voice (as in "The car was seen by me" or simply "The car was seen"). Most languages have a number of verbal nouns that describe the action of the verb. In the Indo-European languages, verbal adjectives are generally called participles. English has an active participle, also called a present participle; and a passive participle, also called a past participle. The active participle of ''break'' is ''breaking'', and the passive participle is ''broken''. Other languages have attributive verb forms with tense and aspect. This is especially common among verb-final languages, where attributive verb phrases act as relative clauses.

See also

* Linguistics

Verbs in various languages

* Adyghe verbs * Arabic verbs * Ancient Greek verbs * Basque verbs * Bulgarian verbs * Chinese verbs * English verbs * Finnish verb conjugation * French verbs * German verbs * Germanic verbs * Hebrew verb conjugation * Hungarian verbs * Ilokano verbs * Irish verbs * Italian verbs * Japanese consonant and vowel verbs * Japanese verb conjugations * Korean verbs * Latin verbs * Persian verbs * Portuguese verb conjugation * Proto-Indo-European verb * Romance verbs * Romanian verbs * Sanskrit verbs * Sesotho verbs * Slovene verbs * Spanish verbs * Tigrinya verbs


* Auxiliary verb * Grammar * Grammatical aspect * Grammatical mood * Grammatical tense * Grammatical voice * Performative utterance * Phrasal verb * Phrase structure rules * Sentence (linguistics) * Syntax * Tense–aspect–mood * Transitivity (grammatical category) * Verb argument * Verb framing * Verbification * Verb phrase


* ''Le Train de Nulle Part'': A 233-page book without a single verb. * Oh, with the verbing!


* * Gideon Goldenberg, "On Verbal Structure and the Hebrew Verb", in: idem, ''Studies in Semitic Linguistics'', Jerusalem: Magnes Press 1998, pp. 148–196 nglish translation; originally published in Hebrew in 1985 *

External links

Verbs and verb conjugation in many languages.
English Verb Conjugation.
Italian Verbs Coniugator and Analyzer
Conjugation and Analysis of Regular and Irregular Verbs, and also of Neologisms, like ''googlare'' for ''to google''.
El verbo en español
Downloadable handbook to learn the Spanish verb paradigm in an easy ruled-based method. It also supplies the guidelines to know whenever a Spanish verb is regular or irregular {{Authority control Category:Parts of speech