– Identifying verbs
What’s a verb? Verbs are words that usually express an action. Here are two easy ways to
identify a verb; you can use either one.
Quick tip 1
If a word can have should in front of it and the phrase sounds complete, the word is a
verb. Examples: should leave, should sail, should discover, should complain. Leave, sail,
discover, and complain are all verbs.
Quick tip 2
If a word can have to in front of it and the phrase sounds complete, it’s a verb. Examples: to
leave, to sail, to discover, to complain. Leave, sail, discover, and complain are all verbs.
(Note that we’re not talking here about two, too, or the to that indicates direction, as in
Let’s go to the park.)
Here are some examples of verbs.Youcan see that theyallmeet the testwithshould and
go: should go to go
tell: should tell to tell
disagree: should disagree to disagree
spell: should spell to spell
In contrast, the followingwords do not pass the should or to test:
co¡ee: *should co¡ee *to co¡ee
beautiful: *should beautiful *to beautiful
hardly: *should hardly *to hardly
under: *should under *to under
Thus, co¡ee, beautiful, hardly, andunder are not verbs.
The verb base
Sometimes a verb changes its form. Let’s look at the following sentences. The verb is
underlined in each one.
1. John should study.
2. John studied.
3. John is studying.
4. John studies.
You certainly can’t say, *John should studied, or John to studied, so how do we know that
studied is a verb? To test theword, you have to see if it can followshould or to in a di¡erent
form, not necessarily in the form that you see in a particular sentence. For example, if
you see John studied, ask yourself if there’s a di¡erent form of studied that can follow
should or to. In this case there is: John should study orJohn decided to study. So study and
all its forms are verbs. The form of the verb that follows should or to is called the base
formor in¢nitive form.The termin¢nitive is used to refer either to the base form alone
(for example, study), or to the to+base form(for example, to study).
Let’s put each of these verbs into its base form.The base formis underlined.
5. working: (should, to) work
6. believed: (should, to) believe
7. written: (should, to) write
8. wore: (should, to) wear
9. throws: (should, to) throw