Parts of Speech


A verb is a word that shows action or a word that links.

Susan dived into the water.

The word in the sentence which shows action is dived, so it is an action verb. It tells us what Susan did.

Susan is a great swimmer.

In this sentence there is no word that shows action. Instead, there is a linking verb is which links the subject Susan to the predicate swimmer. Instead of telling us what Susan did, it tells us what Susan is.

A main verb may also have a helping, or auxiliary, verb.

The students are doing their homework while listening to the radio.

Note that the main verb is doing from the verb to do while the helper is are from the verb to be.

Verb phrase

A verb phrase consists of a main verb and its helper. Sometimes the verb phrase has another word inserted, even though it is not part of the verb phrase.

The student had never seen such a difficult mathematical problem.

The verb phrase is had seen. The word never is an adverb, so it is not part of the verb phrase. When you are identifying verb phrases, you must exclude other words that are not part of the verb phrase.

Sometimes a contraction is used in the verb phrase, but it is never part of the verb phrase. Therefore, you must remove the contraction when you identify the verb phrase.

The student doesn't know that he shouldn't listen to the radio while doing his homework.

The contraction doesn't forms two words does and not. The word not is an adverb, so it cannot be identified as part of the verb phrase. The same rule applies to the contraction shouldn't.

Therefore, the two verb phrases are does know and should listen when you are indentifying the verb phrases in the above sentences.


Instructions: Identify the 20 verbs and verb phrases in the following sentences.

  1. When the days became longer, the gardener knew that he had many chores ahead of him before it would be time for harvest.
  2. The tasks seemed insurmountable, but he decided that if he didn't dwell on the total picture, he could manage the job.
  3. The key was doing one small task at a time and before long all the jobs would be done, even though he didn't have any help.
  4. On fine days he worked in the garden where he tilled and fertilized the soil, while on rainy days he planted and watered seeds in the greenhouse.
  5. Later he moved the greenhouse plants to the garden and waited while nature watered and fed them until harvest time.

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