The Fundamentals of Verbs
This post outlines the basic principles of the verb, the workhorse of language.
A verb describes an action (talk), an occurrence (become), or a state of being (live). Verbs are complicated by their many variable states, based on inflection depending on functions. For example, an action might, depending on the number of talkers, be described with the word talk or the word talks. (This quality is called agreement.)
Based on the tense of the sentence, the verb, accompanied by an auxiliary, or helper, could appear in the phrases “will talk,” “has talked,” or “was talking.” (Tense is one of several similar qualities; the others are aspect, how the action or state occurs through time, and modality, the expression of the speaker’s attitude toward the action or state.)
Other qualities of verbs are the voice (such as active voice, as in the form of the verb saw in “Many saw it as a turning point,” or passive voice, as exemplified by the syntax in “It was seen by many as a turning point”) and the valency — whether the verb is intransitive (accompanied by a subject alone, as in “It moves”), transitive (accompanied by a subject and a direct object, as in “We went to the store”), or ditransitive (accompanied by a subject, a direct object, and an indirect object (“I brought him the report”).
The six types of verb follow:
An intransitive verb is one that does not precede a noun or an adjective. If any part of speech follows an intransitive verb, it is usually an adverb (“I walked quickly”) or a preposition (“I walked in”).
A linking verb precedes a noun (“She remained home”) or an adjective (“He appeared tired”); an adverb may not follow a linking verb. In these sample sentences, home is an example of a predicate noun, and tired exemplifies predicate adjectives.
A transitive verb — sometimes, to distinguish it from two other types described below, called a one-place transitive — precedes a noun (“We watched the movie”) or a noun phrase (“They talked in the dark”). In this case, the noun or noun phrase is called a direct object because it is the thing being acted on in the manner indicated by the verb.
Two types of verbs are called two-place transitive verbs. The first, labeled the Vg type (the letters stand for verb and give), precedes two nouns or noun phrases (“I bought my wife a bouquet of flowers”) or a noun or noun phrase and a prepositional phrase (“I bought a bouquet of flowers for my wife”) in succession. The first word or phrase after the verb is an indirect object (a recipient) and the second is a direct object.
The second type of two-place transitive verb, the Vc type (c is for consider), precedes a noun or noun phrase and another one (“I consider the chairman an arrogant person”), or an adjective (“I believe that the chairman is arrogant”) or an infinitive phrase (“I found the chairman to be arrogant”). The first word or phrase after the verb is a direct object, and the second is a complement, so called because it teams up with the direct object to complete the thought.
A to-be verb is one that is a form of the phrase “to be,” such as is, were, or being. A to-be verb precedes a noun (“I am a fool”), an adjective (“I was foolish”), or an adverb of place, a class of adverb that describes where something occurs (“I am in the doghouse.”) These other parts of speech are sometimes referred to as predicate nouns, predicate adjectives, and predicate adverbs.
As is the case with nouns, a sentence need not include a verb (for example, “Right” spoken or written as an affirmation), but not much can happen in communication without reference to an action, an occurrence, or a state.
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