This post will help you master what a main verb is in English, different types of main verbs, and how to use them in a sentence.
What is a main verb in English?
Main verb definition: the main verb is the most important verb in a sentence. It usually refers to an action or a state of the subject. It also connects the subject to its complement called the subject complement. Main verbs either stand alone or are paired with a helping verb (also known as an auxiliary verb) in a sentence.
Examples of main verbs in sentences:
- Aarushi made me heavenly cookies yesterday.
(Here, ‘made’ is the main verb, indicating the action that the subject ‘Aarushi’ performed in the past. It is an action verb.)
- Ashish loves teaching English.
(In this sentence, ‘loves’ is the main verb that is showing the emotional state the subject ‘Ashish’ is in. It is a stative verb.)
- Your friend Jimmy is the best dancer I have seen.
(Here, ‘is’ is the main verb that is connecting the subject ‘Your friend Jimmy’ to its complement: the best dancer I have seen. It is a linking verb.)
- They had eaten all the chocolates before we could even reach there.
(Here, ‘eaten’ is the main verb, and ‘had’ is the helping verb. The main verb is indicating an action here.)
- When we got home, Tina was sleeping like an angel, looking unbelievably adorable.
(In this sentence, ‘sleeping’ is the main verb, and ‘was’ is the helping verb. Sleeping, here, is an intransitive action verb.)
Types of main verbs in English
Main verbs in English can be classifies into three categories:
- Action verbs
- Linking verbs
- Stative verbs
1. Action verbs
Action verbs in English, also known as dynamic verbs, indicate an action. The action can be physical or mental. There are thousands of action verbs in English.
Some action verbs in English
Examples of action verbs in sentences:
- Don’t worry. The dog does not bite.
- Do you eat fish?
- Max studied very hard for the exam.
- Don’t wait for us. We will be late tonight.
- After the meeting, let’s go to a nice place and eat something good.
- She always yells at me for no reason.
Note that actions verbs are dived into two categories based on different basis. Let’s study them.
Types of action verbs in English
- Transitive and Intransitive verbs
- Regular and Irregular verbs
Transitive and Intransitive verbs
A transitive verb is an action verb that has an object. It acts upon something or somebody. A transitive verb indicates an action that can be acted upon an object. Note that it is a type of the main verb.
TIP: ask ‘what‘ or ‘what‘ to the verb to find out the object of the transitive verb.
- I will call Jacob in some time.
(‘Call‘ is the transitive verb. Asking ‘whom‘ to it gives us its object: Jacob. I will call ‘whom‘?)
- Most people are learning English in our class.
(Here, ‘learning is the transitive verb. It has an object: English. Asking ‘what‘ to the verb gets us the object. He is learning ‘what’? ‘English‘ is the answer.)
More examples of transitive verbs:
- Nobody knows the answer to your question.
- She has disappointed us.
- We hate playing with him.
- Could you pass the bottle to me?
- Do you still hate Manan?
- He refused the offer.
- You should never question him again.
- My friends are enjoying the party.
- Should I invite her to the party?
- He should have accepted his mistake.
Notice that the transitive verbs are colored red and their objects are italicized. You can ask ‘what’ or ‘whom’ to the verb to find out their objects.
Note: some verbs answer both ‘what’ and ‘whom’; they are called ditransitive verbs.
- I will show you my secret diary.
Direct object = my secret diary
Indirect object = you
An intransitive verb is an action verb that can be acted upon an object: a person or a thing. It does not have an object.
Common intransitive verbs in English
- Jon was sleeping in his couch.
(‘Sleeping‘ is the action verb, but it is an intransitive verb. It can’t have an object. Can you sleep something or somebody? No, you can’t. You can sleep ‘on‘, in‘ or even ‘with’ something but you can’t sleep an object.)
- Why is he crying?
(Can you cry something or somebody? Try asking ‘what’ or ‘whom’ to the verb ‘cry’ and see if it gives you an answer. You can cry ‘about’ or ‘for’ an object, but you can’t cry a person or a thing.)
- She smiled at me.
(Again, ask yourself: can you smile a person or a thing? You can smile at a person or a thing, but you can’t perform this action upon someone or something directly. It is an intransitive verb.)
- He always whines about his job.
- Are you laughing at my looks?
- You can yawn in the class.
- Why is he standing at the table?
Regular and Irregular verbs
Regular and irregular verbs are categorized based on whether or not they end with a certain pattern in different tenses. These verbs are formed on the basis of how they look (pattern). They don’t have a specific function. A regular or an irregular verb, like any other action verb, is either a transitive verb or an intransitive verb.
Verbs that end with a certain pattern (ed, d, ied, t) when changed into past and past participle forms.
Verbs ending with ‘ed’
|Base form||Past tense||Past participle|
Verbs ending with ‘ied’
|Base form||Past tense||Past participle|
Action verbs that don’t end in a certain pattern in past and past participle are called irregular verbs.
|Base form||Past tense||Past participle|
2. Linking verbs
A linking verb links the subject to a word or words called the subject complement. A subject complement identifies the subject and either renames it (using a noun) or describes it (using an adjective). A linking verb is a type of the main verb.
Linking verbs list
|TO BE||TO BE: is, am, are, was, were, may be, might be,|
should be, would be, can be, could be, must be, will be, shall be,
BEING: is being, am being, are being, was being, were being
BEEN: has been, have been, had been, may have been, must have been, could have, should have been,
will have been, shall have been, might have been
|TO SEEM||seem, seems, seemed|
|TO LOOK||look, looks, looked|
|TO FEEL||feel, feels, felt|
|TO SOUND||sound, sounds, sounded|
|TO TASTE||taste, tastes, tasted|
|TO SMELL||smell, smells, smelt|
|TO STAY||stay, stays, stayed|
|TO BECOME||become, becomes, became|
|TO GO||go, goes, went, gone|
|TO REMAIN||remain, remains, remained|
|TO TURN||turn, turns, turned|
|TO GET||get, gets, got|
|TO APPEAR||appear, appears, appeared|
- You are a wonderful friend.
(The linking verb ‘are‘ is linking the subject ‘you’ to its complement ‘a wonderful friend‘, which is giving the subject a name. You = a wonderful singer)
- Jon was mad at me last night.
(The linking verb ‘was‘ is connecting the subject ‘Jon’ with the subject complement ‘mad‘. Jon = mad.)
More examples of linking verbs:
- All the interviewers were being very rude to me.
- This year has been terrible for most people.
- Knowing how many skillful workers the company has lost, the employers have been very positive about the future.
- Jon had been very helpful in those days.
- You will be the mother of my baby in some time.
- We shall be happy to contribute to this amazing cause.
- Tina may be upset with you.
- This trip might be a failure.
3. Stative verbs
Stative verb definition: A stative verb in English, also known as a state verb, is a type of the main verb that shows the state of the subject. It doesn’t indicate any physical (dynamic) action; it simply indicates in what state the subject is.
- I love Aarushi.
(‘Love‘ is the stative verb here that is showing the emotional state of the subject. Note that the subject is not performing any physical action here; he is simply in a state of being.
- Jon did not understand my situation.
(Here, ‘understand’ is the stative verb that’s showing the cognitive/mental state of the subject ‘Jon’ in the past. He didn’t do any dynamic action. Actually, he did not do anything at all. The stative verb ‘understand’ indicates the mental state of the subject.)
- My History teacher hates me. He doesn’t like my approach to the subject.
(‘Hates” is the stative verb here that’s showing the emotional state of the subject ‘My History teacher’. The verb ‘hate’ does not indicate any physical action.)
When your emotions are in a certain way, you give them a name (love, hate, disgust). So verbs like love, hate, abhor, disgust, understand, etc don’t indicate a physical action. They just indicate a state (mental, emotional, possessional) the subject is in
But verbs like eat, sleep, write, type, run, walk are some verbs that indicate a physical action, unlike stative verbs.
Types of stative verbs in English
Stative verbs indicate the following state of a subject:
- Mental or Cognitive state: think, believe, doubt, guess, remember, pretend, recognize, recall, guess, forget, agree, disagree, need, prefer, satisfy
- Emotional state: love, hate, adore, abhor, like, dislike, appreciate, envy, detest, loathe
- Senses: see, hear, feel, seem, taste, smell, sense, sound
- Possessional state: have, belong, possess, own, belong, want
- Others (condition): weigh, contain, involve, concern, lack, deserve, matter, resemble
More examples of stative verbs:
- Every time we doubted him, he proved us wrong.
- How can he dislike chocolates?
- We appreciate what Max has done for our family.
- He needed food very badly.
- You seem upset about something.
- The food tastes awful.
- You smell great.
- He sounds quite confident.
- All of us have a gaming laptop.
- She wanted a cook.
- The syrup contains alcohol.
🔴 Stative verbs are not used in continuous forms.
Stative verbs are not used in continuous forms as they show the state of the subject. So, don’t make the mistake of using stative verbs in continuous tenses.
- We are loving the class. ❌
- We love the class. ✔️
- Are you understanding my question? ❌
- Do you understand my question? ✔️
- I am remembering everything about that day. ❌
- I remember everything about that day. ✔️
🔴 A list of verbs that can be both stative verbs and Action verbs
Here are the verbs that can be both stative verbs and action verbs:
|Smell||Meaning = the condition of something in terms of its smell|
• The fish smells awful.
(In other words, the fish is awful in terms of its smell.)
|Meaning = the action of using your nose |
• He smells the fish before packing them.
|Taste||Meaning = the quality of taste of something|
• The food tastes delicious.
(In other words, the food is delicious.)
|Meaning = to eat something to find out its taste|
• Let him taste the food.
• The chef is tasting the food.
|See||Meaning = To perceive through your eyes|
• Can you see me?
(You see objects without trying to look at them. So, there is no dynamic action here.)
|Meaning = to check or date a person|
• The doctor is seeing someone right now. (checking)
• She is seeing someone these days. (dating)
|Have||Meaning = to possess or own|
• Jon has a ship.
• I don’t have much time.
|Meaning = to eat, take, or taste|
• You can have (eat) my lunch.
• What are you having (drinking)?
|Think||Meaning = to talk about your opinion|
• I think he should try teaching.
|Meaning = to have/process something in your mind|
• I was thinking about our conversation.
|Look||Meaning = to appear|
• You look dapper in the suit.
• She looked tired in the class.
|Meaning = to direct eyes in a direction deliberately|
• They are looking at you.
• Why did you look at my sister angrily?
|Weigh||Meaning = the weight possessed by something|
• My phone weighs 200 gms.
|Meaning = to measure the weight|
• The conductor is weighing the goods.
|Measure||Meaning = the measurement of an object|
• The TV screen measures 42 inches.
|Meaning = to measure something|
• We can’t measure the statue without permission.
• They are measuring the length of the house.
|Be||Meaning = a state of being|
• My friends are supportive.
|Meaning = a deliberate action to be in a state/behave|
• He is being sarcastic.
|Feel||Meaning = to have an opinion|
• I feel we are smart enough to pass the test.
|Meaning = to experience a feeling or emotion (through touching generally)|
• I am feeling something hot in my pocket.
• Feel the quality of the glass before buying it.
|Appear||Meaning = to make people believe something to be true|
• He appears to be a talented teacher.
• It appears that didn’t enjoy the match.
|Meaning = to show up|
• Conor is appearing in the next show.
• Did Dhoni’s wife appear at the match?
🔴 Linking verbs vs helping verbs
All the ‘to be’ verbs can function as both linking verbs and helping verbs.
When ‘to be’ verbs function as helping verbs, they are followed by an action verb, and when they are followed by a noun or an adjective.
- I am a teacher. (linking verb)
- I am working on something. (helping verb)
- Ron has been very loyal to me. (linking verb)
- Ron has been living here for years. (helping verb)
🔴 Don’t use an adverb after a linking verb!
Don’t make the mistake of using an adverb after a linking verb.
- It tasted strongly. ❌
- It tasted strong. ✔️
- You smell nicely. ❌
- You smell nice. ✔️
NOTE: adverbs are not used right after linking verbs, but, sometimes, they can be used before linking verbs.
- You always look pretty.
- Jon never goes mad.