Subject Material

Verbs

Published: 18.06.2013, Updated: 05.03.2017
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Verbs

Verbs, verbs, verbs! You find one in every sentence in English, but what is a verb?

A Verb

A verb is a word which describes an action or a state. For example:

  • I work at school.
  • I am tired.

In the sentences above the verbs tell us about "I" and what "I" is doing (I work at school) or the state "I" is in (I am tired). The verbs tell us about the agent, "I", in these sentences. The agent is called the subject in a sentence.

 

A verb is a word which describes an action or a state.

A verb tells us something about the subject in the sentence. In the sentences above the verbs tell us about the subject, "I".

 

 

Task

Identify the verbs in the following text and then find the subject for each verb.

On Sundays my family eats breakfast together. We eat late. We have cereal and bacon and egg, which are cooked by my father, and lots of toast. My father is an engineer, but he enjoys cooking and music. Everyone in our house loves music. After breakfast, we often go for a long hike in the fresh air and sunshine. In winter, we drive to the local ski centre and spend the day there. My sister loves downhill skiing, but my brother and I prefer snowboarding.

Solution

On Sundays my family eats breakfast together. We eat late. We have cereal and bacon and egg, which are cooked by my father, and lots of toast. My father is an engineer, but he enjoys cooking and music. Everyone in our house loves music. After breakfast, we often go for a long hike in the fresh air and sunshine. In winter, we drive to the local ski centre and spend the day there. My sister loves downhill skiing, but my brother and I prefer snowboarding.

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Verb Tenses

Verbs come in different forms which are used to make the verb tenses which tell us about the time of an action.

The simple present tense is used for repeated actions, habits, and for general statements which are always true. For example:

  • I take the bus to work every morning.
  • John walks to school on Fridays.
  • They always go to England in the summer.
  • He comes from Scotland.
  • She speaks four languages.

Task

Look at this text again. Which tense is used and why?

On Sundays my family eats breakfast together. We eat late. We have cereal and bacon and egg, which are cooked by my father, and lots of toast. My father is an engineer, but he enjoys cooking and music. Everyone in our house loves music. After breakfast, we often go for a long hike in the fresh air and sunshine. In winter, we drive to the local ski centre and spend the day there. My sister loves downhill skiing, but my brother and I prefer snowboarding.

 

Solution

The simple present tense. The verbs indicate repeated actions, habits and general statements which are always true.

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Concord

If you look carefully at the sentences above, you will see that when the subject of the sentence is he, she or John the verb has an "s" on the end.

Watch this animation and find out more about the 3rd person "s": Concord 

Tasks

  • Simple Present Tense Game
    Spelling of the verb when "s" is added: Present Tense 3rd Person
  • Look at this text again. How many examples can you find of the present tense "s"? Explain why we say "my sister loves" and "everyone in our house loves".

    On Sundays my family eats breakfast together. We eat late. We have cereal and bacon and egg, which are cooked by my father, and lots of toast. My father is an engineer, but he enjoys cooking and music. Everyone in our house loves music. After breakfast, we often go for a long hike in the fresh air and sunshine. In winter, we drive to the local ski centre and spend the day there. My sister loves downhill skiing, but my brother and I prefer snowboarding.
Solution

my father eats, my father is, he enjoys, everyone in our house loves, my sister loves

You can replace "my sister" with "she", i.e. 3rd person.

Words like everybody, everyone, someone, anyone behave like singular words even if they indicate plural. In the simple present tense, these words always take an "s".

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Auxiliary Verbs

The verbs mentioned above are the main verbs in the sentences. Another type of verb is an auxiliary verb which is used together with a main verb. Do, have and be can be used as auxiliary verbs. (Other auxiliary verbs called modal verbs are: can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, would)

Watch the animation:
To Do–Auxiliary Verb 

Tasks

Past Tense Irregular Verbs

The past tense of regular verbs in English is made by adding –ed or –d to the verb.

  • I like jazz best now, but I liked folk music better before.
  • I hate this TV programme. I hated the horror film that was on the TV yesterday.

But there are always exceptions to every rule! English has many irregular verbs.

Watch the animation about the common verbs do, be and have, which have an irregular past tense: To Do, to Be, to Have 

Tasks

The –ing Form of the Verb

This is called the progressive or continuous tense. Find out about it here: -ing Form of the Verb 

Tasks

  • Choose the correct alternative – present or present progressive: Present vs Progressive Tense
  • Look at this text again. We saw that it was written in the simple present tense. Let's try to make some alterations.

    On Sundays my family always eats breakfast together, but last Sunday my brother was still sleeping at breakfast time. We eat late. Today, however, we are having an early breakfast. We usually have cereal and bacon and egg, which are cooked by my father, and lots of toast. But today we decided that we wanted to change the menu. My mother is making breakfast and we are having sandwiches instead.

    What has happened to the text now? Explain why we have to use the –ing form in these instances?
  • Choose the correct alternative – present or present progressive or past tense Present vs Progressive vs Past Tense

 

Write a Story

Write a story (about 1/2 to 1 page) using as many different verbs as possible and all the verb tenses, present, past and progressive (the text must be correct grammatically). You can do this as a competition and see who has the most verbs and verb tenses written correctly. Write individually or in small groups. If you work in groups, you could use samskrive.ndla.no to write together.

Verb Game

Divide the class into two groups, team A and team B. Both teams write down 15 verbs on separate pieces of paper. Try to use your imagination and make it tricky. One person from team A gets one verb on a piece of paper from team B. He/she is now going to mime the verb, while his/her team members try to guess which verb it is. Agree on game rules, e.g. if a team cannot guess the verb in one minute, it is the other team's turn. Needless to say if anyone speaks another language than English, they should lose points.