Verbs Overview

Verbs : Active and Passive

These two different ways of using verbs are known as voices. In everyday writing, the active voice is much more common than the passive. The passive tends to be used in formal documents such as official reports or scientific papers.

A verb can be either active or passive. The way in which you word a sentence determines whether a verb is active or passive.,

When the verb is active, the subject of the verb is doing the action, as in these examples:

  • Germany beat England on penalties in the final.
  • Millions of British tourists travel to Spain every year.
  • Dad will take the car to the garage.

When the verb is passive, the subject undergoes the action of the verb rather than doing it:

  • England was beaten in the final on penalties.
  • Spain is visited by millions of British tourists every year.
  • The car was taken to the garage by Dad

Here, the sentences’ points of view have changed: England, Spain, and the car have become the subjects of the passive verbs was beaten, is visited, and was taken. In the first example, you can see that the subject of the active verb (Germany) does not appear in the passive version of the sentence.

Continue reading “Verbs : Active and Passive”

Verbs : The Conditional Mood

‘Conditional’  indicates that the action of the verb depends on something else to happen under certain conditions or circumstances . A useful way to remember this is to think of the phrase ‘If this, then that.’ The conditional often uses words like might, could, and would.

The baby might cry if you pick him up.

This verb sentence shows what could happen under the condition of picking up the baby, so it’s an example of the conditional mood.

Another example of a verb using the conditional mood is:

He would look older with a beard.

This shows that the man looking older depends on whether or not he has a beard, so under that specific condition, he would appear to have aged.

Verbs : The Indicative Mood

‘Indicative’ indicates a state of factuality or states something that is happening in reality. Most sentences in English are written in the indicative mood. For example, the sentence –

The dog jumps into the car

– simply states what is really happening in the present moment.

The indicative mood can also be used in sentences that include words like ‘might’ or ‘may’ because it indicates something that is a real possibility:

That house might collapse if they don’t make the necessary repairs.

The fact that the house could actually fall down if it isn’t fixed is indicative of reality, so we would say this sentence is written in the indicative mood.

Verbs : Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

In the glossary of grammatical words and phrases suggested for pupils of primary school age it is suggested that pupils should know the difference between a transitive verb and an intransitive verb.

A transitive verb is one that is used with an object. 

The object of the verb can be a noun, a phrase, or a pronoun that refers to the person or thing that is affected by the action of the verb.

In the following sentences, applaudkeepbeat, and hate are transitive verbs:

  • I applaud your performance.
  • We need to keep quality players.
  • I couldn’t beat him yesterday.
  • She hates bullies.

Some transitive verbs can be used with a direct object as well as an indirect object:

  • Gill boughther mother some chocolates.
  • She senthim a Valentine’s card.

An intransitive verb does not have an object.

In the following sentences, howlwalkshake, and sleep are intransitive verbs:

  • The dog was howling.
  • I walk to keep fit.
  • They shook uncontrollably.
  • We slept for hours.

Some verbs can be either transitive or intransitive depending upon how they are used in the sentence. The most common of these are:

– move
– set
– do
– start
– close
– change
– open
– run
– live
– wash
– stop
– write

Verbs : The Interrogative Mood

The Interrogative asks a question. A great way to remember the term ‘interrogative’ is to think of an interrogation room where a suspect is asked a series of questions.

Its as simple as that, really. The important thing to note is that when a question is being asked the sentence always ends in a question mark

The most common way to form the Interrogative is to put the auxiliary verb before the subject in the sentence.

This example uses the present continuous tense…

  • John is walking down the street.
    – a statement informing the listener about what John is doing
  • Is John walking down the street?
    – a question asking the listener for information.


Verbs : The Infinitive

The infinitive of a verb is the verb in its basic form. It is the part that you would find in the dictionary if you were to look up any given verb.

The infinitive of a verb is usually, but not always, preceded by the word ‘to’ (to shout, to climb, to cheat, to run, etc.). ‘To’ is not a preposition here, it merely indicates that the verb is being used in its infinitive form.

  • Mum asked me to run to the shops for some eggs.
  • My sister likes to help in the kitchen.
  • I was lucky to see a fox in my garden

In terms of grammar, the infinitive is regarded as the name of the verb. so for instance you might say that, “The verb ‘to be’ has the forms am, is and are in the present tense but uses was and were in the past tense.”

There is much more information online about the use of the infinitive as a noun, an adjective and an adverb, However, the information here is sufficient to fulfil the (non statutory) requirement for knowledge of technical grammatical terms used in the Glossary for the programmes of study for English.

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