English Grammar

All about Verb


§ 1. The verb is a part of speech which denotes an action. The verb has the following grammatical categories: person, number, tense, aspect, voice and mood. These categories can be expressed by means of affixes, inner flexion (change of the root vowel) and by form words.

Verbs may be transitive and intransitive.

Verbs have finite forms which can be used as the predicate of a sentence and non-finite forms which cannot be used as the predicate of a sentence.

§ 2. According to their morphological structure verbs are divided into:

  1. simple (read, live, hide, speak);
  2. derived, i. e. having affixes (magnify, fertilize, captivate, undo, decompose);
  3. compound, i. e. consisting of two stems (daydream, browbeat);
  4. composite, consisting of a verb and a postposition of adverbial origin (sit down, go away, give up). The modern term for these verbs is phrasal verbs.

The postposition often changes the meaning of the verb with which it is associated. Thus, there are composite verbs whose meaning is different

from the meaning of their components: to give up — партофтан, манъ кардан; to bring up — ба воя расонидан; to do away — бартараф кардан.

There are other composite verbs in which the original meaning of its components is preserved: to stand up, to come in, to go out, to put on.

§ 3. The basic forms of the verb in Modern English are: the Infinitive, the Past Indefinite and Participle II: to speak — spoke — spoken.

According to the way in which the Past Indefinite and Participle II are formed, verbs are divided into three groups: regular verbs, irregular verbs, and mixed verbs.

  1. Regular verbs. They form the Past indefinite and Participle II by adding -ed to the stem of the verb, or only -d if the stem of the verb ends in -e.

to want — wanted to unite — united

to open — opened to live — lived

The pronunciation of -ed(-d) depends on the sound preceding it. It is pronounced:


after t, d: wanted [‘wontid], landed [‘lændid];


after voiced consonants except d and after vowels: opened [‘əupnd], played [pleid];


after voiceless consonants except t: worked [w3:kt]. The following spelling rules should be observed:

  1. Final y is changed into i before the addition of -ed if it is preceded by a consonant.

to carry — carried to reply — replied

y remains unchanged if it is preceded by a vowel,

to enjoy — enjoyed

  1. If a verb ends in a consonant preceded by a short stressed vowel, the final consonant is doubled.

to stop — stopped to stir — stirred

to plan — planned to submit — submitted

to sob — sobbed

Final r is doubled if it is preceded by a stressed vowel.

to occur — occurred

to prefer — preferred

to refer — referred

Final r is not doubled when preceded by a diphthong, to appear — appeared

Final l is doubled if it is preceded by a short vowel, stressed or unstressed:

to compel — compelled

to quarrel — quarrelled

3. Mixed verbs. Their Past Indefinite is of the regular type, and their Participle II is of the irregular type:

to show — showed — shown

to sow — sowed — sown

§ 4. According to the syntactic function of verbs, which depends on the extent to which they retain, weaken or lose their meaning, they are divided into notional verbs, auxiliary verbs and link verbs.

    1. Notional verbs are those which have a full meaning of their own and can be used without any additional words as a simple predicate. Here belong such verbs as to write, to read, to speak, to know, to ask.

Ricky surrounded her with great care and luxury. (Stern)

She knew what he was thinking. (Galsworthy)

    1. Auxiliary verbs are those which have lost their meaning and are used only as form words, thus having only a grammatical function. They are used in analytical forms. Here belong such verbs as to do, to have, to be, shall, will, should, would, may.

I don’t recollect that he ever did anything, at least not in my time. (Galsworthy)

Their father… had come from Dorsetshire near the beginning of the century. (Galsworthy)

But all this time James was musing… (Galsworthy)

He would have succeeded splendidly at the Bar. (Galsworthy)

    1. Link verbs are verbs which to a smaller or greater extent have lost their meaning and are used in the compound nominal predicate.

The house was too big. (Galsworthy)

The old face looked worn and hollow again. (Galsworthy)

Manson no longer felt despondent, but happy, elated, hopeful.(Cronin)

In different contexts the same verb can be used as a notional verb and an auxiliary verb or a link verb:

… She turned her head sullenly away from me. (Collins) (NOTIONAL VERB)

She… turned deadly pale. (Collins) (LINK VERB)

No one was there to meet him. (Lindsay) (NOTIONAL VERB)

She was not a ten-year-old girl any more… (Dreiser) (LINK VERB)

She was constantly complaining of being lonely. (Shaw) (AUXILIARY VERB)

There is a special group of verbs which cannot be used without additional words, though they have a meaning of their own. These are modal verbs such as can, may, must, ought, etc.

A slow swell of feeling choked the little boy’s heart. Though he could not, dared not question the consul’s strict command, its purpose lay beyond his comprehension. (Cronin) “We ought to have stayed in Italy,” he said. “We ought never to have come back to Manderley.” (Du Maurier)

The same verb in different contexts can be modal and auxiliary.

I crouched against the wall of the gallery so that I should not be seen. (Du Maurier) (AUXILIARY VERB)

I don’t honestly think Lady Crowan was exaggerating when she said something should be done in your honour. (Du Maurier) (MODAL VERB)

I had no idea she would do that. (Du Maurier) (AUXILIARY VERB)

He needed a cook. Why couldn’t she apply for the job? But Morris would not hear of it. (Prichard) (MODAL VERB)

§ 5. As has been stated above a verb can be transitive and intransitive. Transitive verbs can take a direct object, i. e. they express an action which passes on to a person or thing directly. Here belong such verbs as to take, to give, to send, to make, to see, to show, to bring, to love etc.

Jon had never loved her so much as in that minute which seemed to falsify Fleur’s fears and to release his soul. (Galsworthy)

Youth only recognizes Age by fits and starts. Jon, for one, had never really seen his father’s age till he came back from Spain. (Galsworthy)

There are some transitive verbs which are hardly ever used without a direct object, such as to take, to make, to give, to have.

Arthur signed the receipt, took his papers and went out in dead silence. (Voynich)

There are other verbs which can be used either with or without a direct object, such as to read, to write, to hear; to see.

On Friday night about eleven he had packed his bag and was leaning out of his window… when he heard a tiny sound, as of a finger-nail, tapping on his door. (Galsworthy)

The starch, as he soon heard, was valued at ten dollars a barrel and it only brought six. (Dreiser)

Intransitive verbs cannot take a direct object. Here belong such verbs as to stand, to sleep, to laugh, to think, to lie, to swim.

She shrank slowly away from him, and stood quite still. (Voy- nich)

There are verbs whose primary meaning is transitive and whose secondary meaning is intransitive. Here belong such verbs as to sell, to read, to add, to act, etc.

This book sells well.

Though Dora tried hard the figures would not add.

There are verbs whose primary meaning is intransitive and whose secondary meaning is transitive. Here belong such verbs as to work, to starve, to walk, to run, etc.

For that man, I’ve been running people through the front line! (Heym) — Барои хамин нафар ман одамонро аз фронт пеш мекардам!

The stream which worked the mill came bubbling down in a dozen rivulets. (Galsworthy)— Река, приводившая в движение мельницу, разбегалась, журча, на десятки ручейков.

In these examples the verbs are used in a causative meaning, i. e. the person or thing denoted by the object is made to perform the action denoted by the verb.

There are verbs which in different contexts can be transitive or intransitive. As far as Modern English is concerned, it is impossible to say which meaning is primary and which is secondary. Here belong such verbs as to open, to move, to turn, to change, to drop, etc.

The woman opened the door at once almost breathlessly. (Hardy)

While she stood hesitating, the door opened, and an old man came forth shading a candle with one hand. (Hardy)

§ 6. A verb can also have some aspect characteristics depending solely on its lexical meaning. Accordingly verbs are divided into terminative, non-terminative and verbs of double lexical (aspect) character.

1. Terminative verbs denote an action implying a certain limit beyond which it cannot go. Here belong simple and composite verbs, such as to come, to bring, to build, to give, to take, to receive, to find, to fall, to kill, to die, to become, to stand up, to sit down, to come to. They can correspond both to Russian verbs of imperfective and of perfective

aspect: to come — омадан, to build — сохтан; to give — додан; to die — мурдан.

He went to the kitchen and brought him a cake and a plate of biscuits. (Carter)

Every head turned. Row after row of men and women stood up to see who it was making his way to the front. (Carter)

2. Non-terminative verbs denote a certain action which does not imply any limit. Here belong such verbs as to live, to exist, to sleep, to love, to be, to havey to possess, to work, to speak, to respect, to hope, to sit, etc.

They correspond to Russian verbs of imperfective aspect only: to live — зиндаги кардан, to exist —вучуд доштан, to sleep — хоб рафтан.

She sat erect in the hard chair, her gloved hands gracefully folded in her lap. (Carter)

2. Verbs of double lexical character in certain contexts have a ter- minative meaning, and in others, a non-terminative meaning. Here belong such verbs as to see, to hear; to write, to read, to translate.

Arthur looked round the room, saw that everything was hidden, and unlocked the door. (Voynich) — Артур ба даруни хона нигарист ва диди ки хамачиз бачо карда шудааст ва дарро кушод. I don’t believe in fairies. I never see any. (Galsworthy) — ман ба фея бовари надорам, ман онхоро хечгох надидаам .

§ 7. As has already been mentioned, the verb has the grammatical categories of person, number, tense, aspect, voice and mood.

In Modern English there are but few forms indicating person and number in the synthetic forms of the verb. These are:

1.The third person singular Present Indefinite Indicative — he speaks.

2.The third person singular of the verb to have.

He has a posh car. I/You/We/They have posh cars.

§ 8. The category of tense is very clearly expressed in the forms of the English verb. This category denotes the relation of the action either to the moment of speaking or to some definite moment in the past or future. The category of tense and the category of aspect are intermingled.

The category of aspect shows the way in which the action develops, whether it is in progress or completed, etc. In Russian the category of aspect predominates, and the category of tense is subordinated to it. In English contrariwise the category of tense predominates and aspect is subordinated to it. Some of the English tenses denote time relations, others denote both time and aspect relations. There are four groups of tenses: Indefinite, Continuous, Perfect and Perfect Continuous. The Indefinite form has no aspect characteristics whatever, the Continuous, Perfect and Perfect Continuous forms denote both time and aspect relations. Each of these forms includes four tenses: Present, Past, Future and Future in the Past, i. e. future from the point of view of the past. Thus there are 16 tenses in English.

§ 9. Voice is the category of the verb which indicates relation of the predicate to the subject and the object.

There are three voices in English: the active voice, the passive voice, and the neuter-reflexive voice. (In many textbooks of today only two voices — the active and the passive — are distinguished.)

The active voice shows that the person or thing denoted by the subject is the doer of the action expressed by the predicate.

The passive voice shows that the person or thing denoted by the subject is acted upon.

The neuter-reflexive voice shows that the action expressed by the predicate passes on to the subject. This voice is formed by means of a reflexive pronoun.

Helen lifted herself up and looked towards nurse. (Gaskell) The truth was, Mary was dressing herself. (Gaskell)

§10. Mood is a grammatical category which indicates the attitude of the speaker towards the action expressed by the verb from the point of view of its reality.

We distinguish the indicative mood, the imperative mood, and the subjunctive mood.

(For detailed treatment see Chapter VII, Mood.)

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