© 2017 Steve Campsall

more on verbs

Verbs are the 'muscle' words tell of action or being. They are central to the construction of a clause - so it's worth examining them a little more closely, too.


Look at these four sentences:

1. The boy is playing.
The verb element in this sentence contains more than one word - it must be a phrase. It is, therefore, called a verb phrase (some people call this a verb chain):
is playing.

2. The boy is playing a guitar.
Here, the verb phrase/chain is playing requires an object.

  • Verbs that need an object to be complete in their meaning are called transitive verbs. In a transitive verb, action is always being transferred from a subject to an object.

  • The object - the thing that directly takes the action of the verb - will be a noun or noun phrase; it is sometimes referred to as the verb's direct object.

  • As in the first example above, this verb is able to create sentences without an object. This shows that some verbs can be both transitive or intransitive according to how they function in their sentence.

3. The boy gave his friend the guitar.
Here the verb has two objects: friend and guitar.

  • One object, called the direct object, takes the direct action of the verb (the guitar).

  • The second object, called the indirect object, is not directly affected by the verb but is the receiver of something from the action (his friend). Compare: She gave me a present for my birthday.

4. The boy is a good guitar player.
Here, the verb 'is' acts only to link its subject, The boy to a following phrase. This phrase is not an object as it does no more than add more detail to the subject, a good guitar player.

  • Words that follow a verb to add detail to the subject in this way cannot be an object as they do not receive any action from the verb.

  • These phrases are called a verb's complement.

  • Verbs such as is (there are a very few others, e.g. be, am, are, appear, seem) are called linking verbs: the ink their subject with a complement.