What Are Mental Verbs in English: Types, Examples, & Usage

Language is a powerful tool for expressing thoughts, emotions, desires, and perceptions. At the core of this linguistic expression are “mental verbs.” These verbs play a fundamental role in conveying the inner workings of the human mind. They enable us to articulate what we see, think, feel, want, and communicate. In this article, we will discuss mental verbs, exploring their definition, types, usage, and significance in the English language.

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What Are Mental Verbs?

Mental verbs, also known as psychological verbs, are a category of verbs that are closely tied to cognitive and emotional processes. They represent the various ways in which individuals engage with their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, as well as how they communicate these aspects to others.

Importance of Mental Verbs

Understanding and using mental verbs effectively is crucial in communication for several reasons:

1. Expression of Thoughts and Beliefs: Mental verbs provide a means to convey what individuals believe, think, or opine. They allow us to share our perspectives, philosophies, and ideologies with others.

2. Conveying Emotions: Emotion verbs, a subset of mental verbs, enable us to express our feelings, whether it’s love, joy, anger, or sadness. These verbs are essential for conveying the depth of human emotion.

3. Perception and Sensory Experience: Perception verbs help us describe what we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. They allow us to share our sensory experiences and observations with precision.

4. Desires and Intentions: Volition verbs help articulate our wants, wishes, desires, and intentions. They play a vital role in expressing our motivations and goals.

5. Effective Communication: Mental verbs are a linchpin of effective communication. They enable us to articulate our inner thoughts and expectations from others, fostering understanding and empathy.

6. Nuanced Language Use: The nuanced use of mental verbs can add depth and subtlety to our language, allowing us to express shades of meaning and degrees of certainty.

Types of Mental Verbs with Examples

Mental verbs encompass a diverse range of linguistic expressions, each serving a distinct purpose in conveying the inner workings of the human mind and emotions. Here’s an overview of the various types of mental verbs:

1. Perception Verbs:

Perception verbs describe the sensory experiences of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching.


  • See: She saw a beautiful sunset over the horizon.
  • Hear: He heard the soothing sound of birds chirping.
  • Smell: There is a nice smell of freshly baked bread.
  • Taste: The soup tasted salty and delicious.
2. Cognition Verbs:

Cognition verbs are employed to express mental activities such as thinking, believing, knowing, understanding, and remembering.


  • Think: I think this plan is a good idea.
  • Believe: She believes in the power of positive thinking.
  • Know: They know the answer to the riddle.
  • Understand: He understands the complexities of quantum physics.
  • Remember: I remember the first time we met.
3. Emotion Verbs:

Emotion verbs are used to convey feelings and emotions, ranging from love and happiness to fear and anger.


  • Love: They love spending time together.
  • Hate: She hates it when people are rude.
  • Fear: He fears the dark.
  • Enjoy: We enjoy listening to live music.
  • Despise: She despises dishonesty.
4. Volition Verbs:

Volition verbs express desires, wants, wishes, and intentions, allowing individuals to communicate their motivations and goals.


  • Want: I want to travel the world someday.
  • Wish: She wishes for good health for her family.
  • Desire: He desires success in his career.
  • Intend: We intend to complete the project by next week.
  • Crave: She craves a piece of chocolate right now.
5. Communication Verbs:

Communication verbs encompass actions related to speech, writing, and conveying information to others.


  • Say: She said that she would be late.
  • Tell: He told me an interesting story.
  • Ask: They asked a lot of questions during the presentation.
  • Explain: Can you explain the concept in simpler terms?
  • Suggest: She suggested a new approach to the problem.

Syntax and Usage of Mental Verbs

Mental verbs, like other verbs, follow specific syntax rules and usage patterns in English. Understanding these rules is essential for constructing grammatically correct and coherent sentences. Here’s a detailed overview of the syntax and usage of mental verbs:

1. Verb Structure:

Most mental verbs are transitive, meaning they require a direct object to complete their meaning. For example:

  • She believes (verb) in aliens (direct object).
  • He loves (verb) chocolate (direct object).

Some mental verbs can also be intransitive, meaning they do not require a direct object. For example:

  • She thought (verb) for a long time.
  • He wonders (verb) about the future.
2. Direct and Indirect Objects:

Mental verbs often take direct objects that represent the content of the mental process. For example:

  • She knows (verb) the answer (direct object).
  • He hates (verb) crowded places (direct object).

In some cases, mental verbs can also take indirect objects, which indicate the recipient or target of the mental action. For example:

  • She told (verb) me (indirect object) a story (direct object).
  • He asked (verb) the teacher (indirect object) a question (direct object).
3. Reporting Speech and Thoughts:

Mental verbs are often used when reporting speech or thoughts. In this context, they are commonly followed by clauses introduced by “that” or other subordinating conjunctions. For example:

  • She thinks (verb) that he is coming to the party.
  • He said (verb) that he would be late.
4. Modal Verbs with Mental Verbs:

Modal verbs (e.g., can, could, will, would, should) are frequently used alongside mental verbs to express modality, possibility, or necessity. For example:

  • She can’t believe (modal verb + mental verb) her luck.
  • He should know (modal verb + mental verb) better.
5. Tense and Aspect:

Mental verbs, like other verbs, can be conjugated in various tenses and aspects to indicate the timing and duration of the mental action. For example:

  • She believed (past tense) in the power of positivity.
  • He has been thinking (present perfect continuous) about his future.
6. Passive Voice:

Mental verbs can be used in passive voice constructions, especially in reporting speech. For example:

  • It was believed (passive voice) that the treasure was hidden in the cave.
  • He was told (passive voice) that the meeting had been postponed.
7. Conditional Sentences:

Mental verbs can be used in conditional sentences to express hypothetical situations. For example:

  • If he knew (conditional) the answer, he would tell us.
  • She would have liked (conditional perfect) to come if she had known about the event.

Usage of Phrasal Verbs with Mental Verbs

Phrasal verbs involving mental verbs are a common aspect of English language usage. These combinations of verbs and particles (usually prepositions or adverbs) often convey nuanced meanings related to thoughts, emotions, or communication. Here are some examples of phrasal verbs with mental verbs:

1. Think over: To carefully consider or contemplate something.

Example: I need some time to think over your proposal before making a decision.

2. Figure out: To understand or solve a problem or mystery.

Example: Can you help me figure out this math equation?

3. Talk through: To discuss something in detail, typically to understand or plan it better.

Example: Let’s talk through the project’s details during the meeting.

4. Sort out: To resolve or clarify a confusing or complex situation.

Example: They need to sort out their differences and work together.

5. Work through: To deal with or address emotional or psychological issues.

Example: She’s been seeing a therapist to work through her anxiety.

6. Get over: To recover from an emotional or physical setback.

Example: It took him a long time to get over the loss of his pet.

7. Talk out of: To persuade someone not to do something.

Example: I tried to talk him out of quitting his job, but he was determined.

8. Back off: To stop being aggressive or pushy in a conversation or argument.

Example: I had to tell him to back off when he started criticizing my choices.

9. Talk down to: To speak condescendingly or patronizingly to someone.

Example: She doesn’t like it when people talk down to her because of her age.

10. Snap out of: To suddenly stop feeling a certain way, often related to a negative mood or mindset.

Example: He needs to snap out of his bad mood and focus on his work.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to mental verbs in English that may help address additional doubts:

What is the difference between “think,” “believe,” and “know”?

“Think” refers to forming an opinion or considering something mentally. “Believe” implies a stronger conviction or faith in something, though it may not always be based on evidence. “Know” indicates having certainty or factual information about something.

Can mental verbs be used in the progressive tense?

Yes, many mental verbs can be used in the progressive tense to indicate ongoing mental processes. For example, “She is thinking about her future.”

Are there any idiomatic expressions involving mental verbs?

Yes, there are numerous idiomatic expressions such as “food for thought” (something worth thinking about), “read between the lines” (to understand the hidden meaning), and “hit the nail on the head” (to describe something precisely).

How can I use mental verbs in questions effectively?

Mental verbs can be used in questions to inquire about someone’s thoughts, feelings, or perceptions. For example, “What do you think about this idea?” or “How do you feel about the decision?”

Can mental verbs be used with adverbs to modify their meaning?

Yes, adverbs can be used with mental verbs to modify their meaning. For instance, “She suddenly realized her mistake,” where “suddenly” modifies “realized” to indicate the suddenness of the realization.

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Additional Resources:

  1. Mental verb collocation | meaning and examples of use – Cambridge Dictionary
  2. Essential Mental Action Verbs With Examples – The Language Hub
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