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Arts & Letters Daily


Grammar Tutorial – Verbs (Action and no-action)

Let’s see what sentences look like without verbs. Here are some:
  • Jane the piano.
  • The dog at the car.
  • My sister smart and beautiful.
  • Your Band great!
I think you get the picture … these sentences don’t make any sense. What’s missing? … VERBS. Let’s add some verbs to these sentences:
  • Jane plays the piano.
  • The dog barked at the car.
  • My sister is smart and beautiful.
  • Your Band sounds great!
Look at this paragraph which has no verbs … try to read it with me.
I always to drive. First, I a tricycle. I my tricycle because I much faster than I. When I school, my parents me a bicycle. It not new, but I it very much. I really fast. When I an adult, I a motorcycle. They very fast! I cannot to get one.
Now let’s read the paragraph with verbs added to each sentence.
I always wanted to drive. First, I got a tricycle. I liked my tricycle because I could drive much faster than I could walk. When I started school, my parents bought me a bicycle. It was not new, but I liked it very much. I could drive really fast. When I will be an adult, I will want a motorcycle. They go very fast! I cannot wait to get one.
Verbs are a lot of fun … once you know how to use them. Whenever you use a vivid verb, your readers can practically see, hear or feel the action. Listen to this sentence:
  • The car crashed into the oak tree. Can you hear the car crash into the tree? I can!

Or imagine this picture:
  • A flash of lightening lit up the dark evening sky. Can you see the flash of lightening light up the sky? I can, in my imagination!

So, the use of verbs can really make a big difference for your readers. Every sentence must have a verb. There are two kinds of verbs:
  1.      Action verbs
  • Action verbs with no object
–         The train stopped. (‘Train’ is the subject (noun) and ‘stopped’ is the verb that describes the action of the train.

  • Action verb with an object … the action is transferred to an object.
–         Some children climb trees. – ‘Children’ is the subject (noun) and ‘climb’ is the verb and ‘tree’ is the object.

2.      No Action Verbs (also called ‘state of being’ verbs)
No action verbs link the subject to a noun or adjective in the predicate. The verb ‘be’ is the most common and most irregular ‘no action verb’. They include: am, are, is, was, were, will be.
Verb ‘Be’ Present Tense Past Tense Future Tense
First Person singular I am I was I will be
Second Person Singular You are You were You will be
Third Person Singular He/she/it is He/she/it was He/ she/it will be
First Person Plural We are We were We shall be
Second Person Plural You are You were You will be
Third Person Plural They are They were They will be


Other no action verbs include: appear, become, feel, grow, seem, look, prove, remain, keep, smell, sound, stay, taste, turn.
No action verbs can be used in two different ways.
  • First, no action verbs can be followed by a noun which says something about the subject.
–         My brother is a soccer player. (‘brother’ is the subject and ‘soccer player’ is a noun referring to ‘brother’.  They are connected with the ‘no action verb’ ‘is’.)

–         Bob is a farmer. (The word ‘farmer’ is a noun that describes who Bob is.)

  • Second, no action verbs can be followed by an adjective which describes the subject.
–         My forehead feels hot. (‘feels’ is a linking verb that joins the subject ‘forehead’ with the predicate adjective ‘hot’.)

 Try the following activities to find out how well you understand action and no action verbs:
After you have watched this Lesson, go to, for assignments on verbs.
Go to GRAMMAR in the top navigation bar and click on VERBS.
To send any questions you may have about grammar, go to and click on ASK Dr. OTTO. I will reply to your questions as quickly as possible.