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Types of Verbs (Modal, Stative, Infinitives and Transitives)

What are verbs? (explained + examples)

Verbs are action words, and they’re a principal part of speech that make up half of each sentence.
We could say they’re where all the action’s at (literally).

Verbs describe what we do, and are debatably the most important words because they tell us what is actually going on in any given sentence. Let’s explore the main types of verbs in the sections below.

To learn all about their correct usage, keep reading this guide that details everything you need to know about the inimitable verb (i.e., word).

How we use verbs (usage + examples)

To say it simply, but also at a very broad level: verbs say something about a person or thing. They express what someone or something does, as in:

  • Ashley laughs.

  • The whistle blows.

What is done to someone or something:

  • The window’s broken.

  • Henry’s been suspended.

They quite literally say what something is, or its condition:

  • The fish died.

  • Babies are delicate.

  • I feel grateful.

Sentences often include more than one verb:

  • My mother is visiting.

  • I’ve burnt the toast.

Types of verbs

‍The main types of verbs fall into the following subtypes:

  • action and stative
  • transitive and intransitive
  • linking verbs (or auxiliaries)
  • modals
  • regular and irregular
  • phrasals
  • infinitives
  • participles (past and present) 

Action/stative verbs (explained, with examples)

Action or stative are the types of verbs that describe actions, which can be physical or mental. Thinking, for example, is an action verb, though it may appear action-less from the outside. Likewise, sitting, sleeping, reading, and typing are all actions; and to that extent, they’re also action verbs.

Examples: sentences with action verbs
Timmy kicks the ball.

Ashley rides the horse.

I work at a restaurant.

Stative verbs depict states of being, thoughts or conditions:

  • Thoughts and opinions: agree, believe, doubt, guess, imagine, know.

  • Feelings and emotions: dislike, hate, like, love, prefer, want, wish

  • Senses and perceptions: appear, be, feel, hear, look, see, seem, smell, taste

  • Possession and measurement: belong, have, measure, own, possess, weigh.

Examples: stative verbs, used in sentences
The dog is dead.

My bones are brittle.

I dislike coffee.

Transitive vs. intransitive

Transitives are those with one or more sentence object:

Transitive Intransitive
Sam bought a bouquet of flowers for his mother.

Ashley rides the train each morning.

Ben gives lessons on English grammar.
She is sleeping right now.

Sarah laughs quietly.

They fought fiercely.

In both sentences, the subject performs an action that is received by something. Whatever receives the action in a sentence is the sentence object.

In the first sentence, the ball is kicked by Timmy; therefore, the ball is the object: it receives the action of the subject.

In the second sentence, the horse is ridden by Ashley. This makes the horse the direct object, and rides, a transitive verb (along with kicks.) A way to remember is that transitive verbs are transferring: they move from the doer to the receiver (person or thing), and can use one or more than one objects.  

Intransitive vs. transitive

Verbs used intransitively do not use sentence objects. As the action does not have a receiver, and ends with the doer (it’s not done to someone or something, rather it occurs within oneself).  

Certain verbs are strictly intransitives (e.g. sleeping, laughing, thinking, falling.) Others can be both transitive and intransitive: fighting, riding, reading, and so on.

Linking verbs (or copulas)

Linking verbs, also known as copulas (from the Latin, “uniting, serving to couple”) are a kind of stative verb that links subjects with their subject complement. They do not show actions so much as depict their subjects:

Examples: linking verbs
The travelers became sleepy.

That gold necklace looks expensive.

Suddenly, the store got very busy.

Helping verbs (or auxiliary verbs)

Helping verbs, or auxiliaries work with the sentence’s main verb to convey time or modes of being. Auxiliaries cannot stand on their own and must be paired with a main verb to make sense. Be and have are the primary auxiliaries:

Examples: auxiliaries
Matt is using the computer.

She couldn’t decide whether she wanted to go out or not.

These books are sold in supermarkets.

Modal auxiliary verbs

Modal verbs (also known as modals) are a type of auxiliary or helping verb that show ‘possibility, ability intent or necessity.’ Since modals help, they usually pair with main verbs in sentences and emphasize the meaning. Examples of common modals are can, may, might, could, should, would, will, must.

Examples: modals
I could do a handstand when I was a kid.

Will you turn that music down?  

That guy should wear less cologne.

Regular & irregular

Regular verbs end in -ed when modified to past tense; such as walk/walked, climb/climbed. All other verb endings are irregular in the past tense.

regular irregular
She performed in the play.

He decided to walk to school.

Sam looked past the employer’s shortcomings.
Harry ran as fast as he could.

Our kids have all grown up.

We told you to wait before you had dessert.

Irregular verbs are the opposite of regular verbs (as you might have guessed) and do not take on the usual –d, -ed, or -ied spelling patterns of the past simple or past participle.  

Phrasals & infinitives

A phrasal combines verbs with an adverb or a preposition to create verbal phrases—i.e., the phrasal verb.

Examples: phrasals
My friend is the only one who backed me up.

The ice cream machine at McDonald’s is always breaking down.

Sam called around to find a nearby mechanic.

Infinitives function in sentences as a noun, adjective, or adverb. Most infinitives are formed by adding the preposition to before the base verb: “I want to go home.”

Examples: infinitives
To do well in college, one must study diligently.

Wherever I go, I always bring a book to read in case I get bored.  

Sally left the camping trip early to recover from poison ivy.

Learn more about grammar

Kinds of verbsWhat’s the past tense of …?
forms of ‘to be’… seek?
auxiliary verbs… teach?
present tense… catch?
future tense… buy?
past tense… read?
perfect tense… ring?
transitive vs. intransitive… drive?
participles… throw?
irregular verbs… lead?
modals… win?


  1. Evan Peters  
  2. Proto-Indo-European language
  3. Copulas
  4. Grammarly on modals
  5. Subject complements

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