A verb tells about an action or a state of being. There are three types of verbs: action, linking, and auxiliary.

Action Verbs

An action verb expresses action. It tells what a person or a thing does.

Muskrats swim in marshes.
We built a fantastic sandcastle.

To find out whether a word is an action verb, ask yourself whether that word expresses something you can do. Can you muskrat? No! Can you marsh? No. But can you swim? Yes—swim is an action verb.

Linking Verbs

A linking verb links the subject of the sentence with information about it. Sometimes linking verbs are called "state-of-being verbs."

Jeremy is tired.
This apple tastes so sweet.

In the first sentence, is links Jeremy to information about him-the fact that he is tired. That is his state of being.

In the second sentence, tastes links apple to information about it—its sweetness. Did you think taste was an action verb? Well, it is—when the subject is doing the tasting. But here, the apple isn't doing any tasting. The apple itself tastes sweet. That is its state of being.

Auxiliary Verbs

An auxiliary verb goes with another verb. Sometimes auxiliary verbs are called "helping verbs" because they introduce or "help out" the main verb.

Ms. Sothros is reading our stories.
We should dig for buried treasure.

In the first sentence, the auxiliary verb, is, helps out the main verb, reading, by telling when the action is taking place—right now.

In the second sentence, the auxiliary verb, should, helps out the main verb, dig, by telling about its importance—digging must be important, if it is something that should happen.

Note that you can't is or should. This reminds you that they are not action verbs.

Be, have, and do are the most common auxiliary verbs. Other common auxiliary verbs include can, could, should, would, may, might, and must.

Check Its Function!

In English, the same word can have different functions. For instance, paint can be a verb or a noun. Here are some examples.

Let's paint the garage.
We brought paint to school.

In the first sentence, paint is a verb—it is something you can do. In the second sentence, paint is a noun—it is a thing.

Our rabbits live in a hutch.
Luis sang before a live audience.

In the first sentence, live is a verb—it is something you can do. In the second sentence, live is an adjective—it describes something.

Smile, dance, contact, ski, color, and research are just a few of the many other English words that can have different functions.

See also: Verbs: All the Right Moves and Verb Tenses.

PronounsGrammar and SpellingAdjectives

More on Verbs from Fact Monster: