Verbs : definition and use…

A verb is a kind of word. Its job is to signal an action, an occurrence or a state of being in a sentence.

This tells the reader/listener who is doing what, what is happening or that somebody or thing… well, just ‘is’ or ‘was’. In fact, in order to actually be a sentence a group of words must contain a verb.


It is worth noting here that verbs have tenses. The tense of a verb informs the audience whether the action happened

  • in the past – ten minutes ago, yesterday, last week or any time gone by
  • the present – at this very moment
  • the future – in a few minutes, tomorrow, next week or any time yet to come.


Who is doing what…

I walked to school yesterday.
The dog chases cats round the park.
We leave for our holiday in the morning.

Some verbs are not associated with a physical act but are related to concepts and mental activity…

Paul knew all the answers in his maths test.
My dog understands my every word.
Eventually, everyone realises the importance of good dental care.

States of being…

These verbs relate to a condition or situation that exists. No action tales place, its just ‘how things are’…

I am hungry.
Mum and dad were in the living room.
Peter has a black eye.

Much more detailed information about the tenses of verbs in English can be found at the
Oxford Dictionaries website.