In the world of English grammar, main verbs play a starring role. They’re helping us express actions, states, and occurrences. But what exactly are the main verbs, and why are they so important? In this article, we’re going to break down the main verbs into simple words. You’ll learn how these verbs are the foundation of every sentence, how they describe what we do, feel, or experience, and how they interact with subjects, objects, and even time.
The post includes:
- What are the main verbs?
- Role in a sentence
- Types of main verbs
- Subject-verb agreement in main verbs
- Modal auxiliaries with main verbs
- Main verb usage in English
- Common main verbs list
- List of examples of main verbs
- Main verbs practice exercises
- Frequently asked questions
What Are Main Verbs?
A main verb, also known as a principal verb or lexical verb, is a verb that carries the primary meaning in a sentence. It expresses the action, state, or occurrence that the sentence is conveying. Main verbs are essential components of sentences, as they provide the core information about what is happening and are typically the focus of the sentence.
Role in a Sentence:
The main verb serves several crucial roles in a sentence:
1. Expressing Action: Main verbs can describe actions that someone or something is performing. For example:
- She runs every morning. (Action: “runs”)
2. Describing State or Condition: Main verbs can also convey a state or condition, indicating how someone or something exists or feels. For example:
- He is tired. (State: “is tired”)
3. Indicating Occurrence: Main verbs can show that something is happening or has happened. For example:
- The event occurred last night. (Occurrence: “occurred”)
4. Linking Elements: In some cases, main verbs act as linking verbs, connecting the subject of the sentence to a subject complement (predicate nominative or predicate adjective) that provides more information about the subject. For example:
- She is a doctor. (Linking verb: “is”; Subject complement: “a doctor”)
Types of Main Verbs in English
There are several different ways to classify main verbs. Here are a few common types:
1. Transitive Main Verbs:
Transitive verbs are verbs that require a direct object to complete their meaning. In other words, they need something or someone to receive the action of the verb.
Example 1: She bought a book.
- In this sentence, “bought” is a transitive verb because it requires a direct object, “a book,” to make sense. The action of buying is directed towards the book.
Example 2: He ate lunch.
- “Ate” is a transitive verb because it needs an object (in this case, “lunch”) to indicate what was eaten.
2. Intransitive Main Verbs:
Intransitive verbs are verbs that do not require a direct object to complete their meaning. They can stand alone in a sentence without needing something to receive the action.
Example 1: She laughed.
- In this sentence, “laughed” is an intransitive verb because it doesn’t need an object to convey the action of laughing. The verb is complete on its own.
Example 2: They slept peacefully.
- “Slept” is an intransitive verb as it expresses the action of sleeping without requiring an object.
3. Linking Verbs:
Linking verbs are a bit different; they don’t show action but instead connect the subject of a sentence to additional information that describes the subject. This additional information can be a predicate nominative (a noun or pronoun that renames the subject) or a predicate adjective (an adjective that describes the subject).
Example 1: She is a doctor. (Predicate nominative)
- In this sentence, “is” is a linking verb. It connects the subject “She” to the additional information “a doctor,” which renames the subject.
Example 2: He seems happy. (Predicate adjective)
- “Seems” is a linking verb that connects the subject “He” to the adjective “happy,” describing the subject’s state.
- Transitive Verbs require a direct object to complete their meaning, indicating what or whom the action is affecting.
- Intransitive Verbs do not require a direct object and can stand alone in a sentence.
- Linking Verbs connect the subject of a sentence to additional information, either a predicate nominative (renaming the subject) or a predicate adjective (describing the subject’s state).
Subject-Verb Agreement in Main Verbs
Subject-verb agreement is a crucial grammatical concept in English that ensures the verb in a sentence matches the subject in terms of number and person. This agreement is necessary to maintain sentence clarity and grammatical correctness. Let’s break down the concept:
1. Number Agreement:
In subject-verb agreement, “number” refers to whether the subject is singular or plural. The form of the verb (whether it’s singular or plural) must match the number of the subject.
Examples of Number Agreements:
- Singular Subject: She plays the piano.
- Here, the singular subject “She” matches with the singular verb “plays.”
- Plural Subject: They play the piano.
- In this case, the plural subject “They” matches with the plural verb “play.”
2. Person Agreement:
In subject-verb agreement, “person” refers to the point of view or perspective of the subject. There are three persons in English: first person (I/we), second person (you), and third person (he/she/it/they). The form of the verb must also match the person of the subject.
Examples of Person Agreement:
- First Person Singular: I am a student.
- Here, the first-person singular subject “I” is paired with the singular verb “am.”
- Third Person Singular: He is a teacher.
- The third person singular subject “He” matches with the singular verb “is.”
- Second Person Plural: You are my friends.
- In this case, the second-person plural subject “You” corresponds to the plural verb “are.”
3. Challenges in Subject-Verb Agreement:
Subject-verb agreement can be straightforward in simple sentences. However, it can become more complex in sentences with compound subjects, collective nouns, phrases, and clauses, and when subjects are separated from verbs by words or phrases.
Example of a Compound Subject: Mary and John are my friends.
- “Mary and John” form a compound subject, and because it’s plural, the verb “are” agrees in number.
Example of a Collective Noun: The team is practicing.
- “Team” is a collective noun representing a group, but it is treated as a singular subject, so the verb “is” is singular.
Modal Auxiliaries with Main Verbs
Modal auxiliary verbs (often simply called modal verbs or modals) are a group of verbs in English that combine with main verbs to express various shades of meaning and convey the speaker’s attitude or opinion about an action. Modal verbs add nuance to the main verb by indicating necessity, possibility, ability, permission, obligation, and more. Here’s an examination of how modal verbs work with main verbs to express different meanings:
1. Can / Could: “Can” expresses the ability to do something, while “could” often indicate past ability or a polite request.
- She can swim. (Ability)
- Could you please pass the salt? (Polite request)
2. May / Might: “May” suggests permission or possibility, while “might” typically implies a lower probability or uncertainty.
- You may leave the room. (Permission)
- It might rain later. (Possibility)
3. Must: “Must” indicates a strong necessity or obligation.
- You must finish your homework. (Necessity)
- She must not be late. (Prohibition)
4. Shall / Should: “Shall” is often used for making suggestions or offers, particularly in formal contexts. “Should” express advice or recommendations.
- Shall we go to the movies? (Suggestion)
- You should eat more vegetables. (Advice)
5. Will / Would: “Will” expresses future actions or intentions, while “would” is used for polite requests or hypothetical situations.
- I will meet you at the airport tomorrow. (Future)
- Would you please pass me the menu? (Polite request)
Main Verbs Usage in English
Main verbs in English are used to convey the primary action, state, or occurrence in a sentence. They play a central role in sentence structure and are essential for communication. Here’s how main verbs are used in English:
1. Expressing Action: Main verbs can describe physical or mental actions performed by someone or something.
- She plays the piano. (Physical action: “plays”)
- He thinks deeply. (Mental action: “thinks”)
2. Describing State or Condition: Main verbs can convey a state or condition, indicating how someone or something exists or feels.
- They are happy. (State: “are”)
- The food tastes delicious. (Condition: “tastes”)
3. Indicating Occurrence: Main verbs can show that something is happening or has happened.
- The party is happening right now. (Present occurrence: “is happening”)
- The accident occurred last night. (Past occurrence: “occurred”)
4. Linking Elements: In some cases, main verbs act as linking verbs, connecting the subject to a subject complement (predicate nominative or predicate adjective) that provides more information about the subject.
- She is a doctor. (Linking verb: “is”; Subject complement: “a doctor”)
- The cake tastes sweet. (Linking verb: “tastes”; Subject complement: “sweet”)
5. In Questions: Main verbs are used in questions to inquire about actions, states, or occurrences.
- Do you like ice cream? (Question about liking: “Do like”)
- Is he coming to the party? (Question about coming: “Is coming”)
6. In Negative Sentences: Main verbs are used in negative sentences to express the absence of an action, state, or occurrence.
- She doesn’t want any dessert. (Negative action: “doesn’t want”)
- The movie isn’t interesting. (Negative state: “isn’t interesting”)
7. In Imperative Sentences: Main verbs are used in imperative sentences to give commands or make requests.
- Close the door, please. (Command: “Close”)
- Pass the salt. (Request: “Pass”)
8. In Conditional Sentences: Main verbs are used in conditional sentences to express hypothetical or conditional actions.
- If it rains, we will stay indoors. (Conditional action: “rains”)
- She would come if she had the time. (Hypothetical action: “would come”)
Common Main Verbs List
Here is a list of common main verbs in English along with their meanings:
1. Be: Expresses existence, identity, or state.
- Other forms: am, is, are, was, were, been, being
2. Have: Indicates possession or ownership.
- Other forms: have, has, had, having
3. Do: Denotes action, activity, or emphasis.
- Other forms: do, does, did, doing
4. Make: Refers to the act of creating or producing something.
- Other forms: make, makes, made, making
5. Take: Signifies the act of grabbing, obtaining, or accepting.
- Other forms: take, takes, took, taking
6. Give: Involves the act of offering or transferring something to someone.
- Other forms: give, gives, gave, giving
7. Get: Conveys the idea of receiving, acquiring, or understanding.
- Other forms: get, gets, got, getting
8. Go: Indicates movement from one place to another.
- Other forms: go, goes, went, going
9. Come: Suggests movement toward a particular location.
- Other forms: come, comes, came, coming
10. See: Refers to the action of perceiving something through the sense of sight.
- Other forms: see, sees, saw, seen, seeing
11. Look: Involves directing one’s gaze toward something.
- Other forms: look, looks, looked, looking
12. Think: Signifies the process of using one’s mind to consider or ponder.
- Other forms: think, thinks, thought, thinking
13. Say: Involves the act of expressing something verbally.
- Other forms: say, says, said, saying
14. Tell: Refers to conveying information or instructions to someone.
- Other forms: tell, tells, told, telling
15. Ask: Indicates the act of posing a question or making a request.
- Other forms: ask, asks, asked, asking
16. Feel: Involves the perception of physical sensations or emotions.
- Other forms: feel, feels, felt, feeling
17. Want: Expresses desire or a wish for something.
- Other forms: want, wants, wanted, wanting
18. Need: Indicates a requirement or necessity for something.
- Other forms: need, needs, needed, needing
19. Work: Signifies the act of performing tasks or labor.
- Other forms: work, works, worked, working
20. Play: Refers to engaging in recreational or fun activities.
- Other forms: play, plays, played, playing
21. Eat: Involves the action of consuming food.
- Other forms: eat, eats, ate, eating
22. Drink: Signifies the act of consuming liquids.
- Other forms: drink, drinks, drank, drinking
23. Sleep: Indicates the state of resting or being unconscious during the night.
- Other forms: sleep, sleeps, slept, sleeping
24. Read: Refers to the action of perusing written or printed material.
- Other forms: read, reads, read, reading
25. Write: Involves the act of creating written content.
- Other forms: write, writes, wrote, writing
26. Learn: Signifies the process of acquiring knowledge or skills.
- Other forms: learn, learns, learned (or learnt), learning
27. Understand: Refers to comprehending or grasping information or concepts.
- Other forms: understand, understands, understood, understanding
28. Believe: Indicates having faith or confidence in something.
- Other forms: believe, believes, believed, believing
29. Like: Expresses a positive preference or affinity for something or someone.
- Other forms: like, likes, liked, liking
30. Love: Signifies a strong affection or deep emotional attachment.
- Other forms: love, loves, loved, loving
Examples of Main Verbs in Sentences
1. She loves to run in the park every morning.
2. They eat pizza for dinner every Friday.
3. I enjoy spending my evenings to read novels.
4. Children love to play games in the playground.
5. He enjoys writing poetry in his free time.
6. After a long day, she likes to sleep peacefully.
7. He will drive us to the airport tomorrow.
8. She often sings in the choir at church.
9. They like to swim at the beach during the summer.
10. Couples often dance at weddings.
11. He needs to study for his upcoming exams.
12. The athlete can jump very high.
13. She loves to talk to her friends on the phone.
14. We plan to climb the mountain next weekend.
15. The joke made everyone in the room laugh.
16. He often takes time to think deeply about life.
17. Can you help me carry these bags?
18. She has a passion for teaching young children.
19. They work hard to earn a living.
20. It’s important to listen carefully during meetings.
21. They need to plan their vacation itinerary.
22. Many people like to travel and explore new places.
23. They will build a new house on this land.
24. The mechanic will fix the car’s engine.
25. She wants to buy a new dress for the party.
Main Verbs Practice Exercises
Here are some exercises to practice identifying and using main verbs:
Exercise: Complete the Sentences
Fill in the blanks with the appropriate main verb (in the correct tense) to complete each sentence.
1. She ____________ gracefully at the annual ballet recital.
2. They ____________ the ancient ruins in the jungle last summer.
3. He ____________ a beautiful landscape on the canvas.
4. The thunderstorm ____________ overhead, bringing heavy rain.
5. Please don’t interrupt me; I’m trying to ____________.
6. She ____________ the broken window in the old cottage.
7. They ____________ a vintage car at the classic car show.
8. The children ____________ joyfully as they played in the park.
9. He ____________ an impressive skyscraper for the city.
10. The orchestra ____________ a mesmerizing symphony.
11. After a long day at work, she likes to ____________ and unwind.
12. They ____________ the steep mountain to reach the summit.
13. She ____________ delicious cookies for the school fundraiser.
14. The teacher ____________ attentively to her students’ questions.
15. The architect ____________ to construct a sustainable building.
16. He ____________ to exotic destinations around the world.
17. She ____________ thought-provoking articles for the magazine.
18. The chef ____________ a mouthwatering three-course meal.
19. The scientist ____________ a new species of butterfly.
20. They ____________ a stray kitten from the streets.
21. The kids eagerly ____________ the arrival of Santa Claus.
22. He ____________ diligently for his upcoming exams.
23. The detective ____________ a complex murder mystery.
24. She ____________ intricate patterns on her handmade quilts.
25. After years of training, he ____________ a skilled martial artist.
1) dances, 2) explored, 3) painted, 4) passed, 5) concentrate, 6) fixed, 7) bought, 8) laughed, 9) designed, 10) played, 11) relax, 12) climbed, 13) baked, 14) listens, 15) plans, 16) travels, 17) writes, 18) prepared, 19) discovered, 20) rescued, 21) await, 22) studies, 23) solved, 24) sews, 25) became
Frequently Asked Questions
Main verbs (also known as lexical verbs) are verbs that convey the primary action, state, or occurrence in a sentence. They carry the main meaning of the sentence. Helping verbs (auxiliary verbs) are used with main verbs to create various verb tenses, moods, and aspects. Helping verbs include “is,” “am,” “are,” “was,” “were,” “have,” “has,” “had,” “do,” “does,” “did,” “will,” “shall,” “should,” “would,” “may,” “might,” “must,” “can,” and “could.”
Yes, a sentence can have more than one main verb when it contains multiple clauses or expresses multiple actions or states. Each clause or action will typically have its own main verb.
No, not all verbs are main verbs. Verbs can be classified into main verbs and auxiliary verbs (helping verbs). Main verbs carry the primary meaning of a sentence and express actions, states, or occurrences. Auxiliary verbs (e.g., “is,” “have,” “will”) are used to support or modify the main verb, and they do not carry the primary meaning on their own.