Verbs express action (run, jump, play) or state of being (is, seems). Verbs that describe action are action verbs, and those that describe being are linking verbs.
Action: My brother plays tennis.
Linking: He is the best player on the team.
Verbs are conjugated to indicate person, which refers to the point of view of the sentence. First person is the speaker (I, we); second person is the person being addressed (you); and third person is outside the conversation (they, them). Verbs are also conjugated to match the number (singular or plural) of their subject. Helping verbs (to be, to have, to do) are used to conjugate verbs. An unconjugated verb is called an infinitive and includes the word to in front (to be, to break).
Participles are verb forms lacking number and person. The past participle is usually formed by adding the suffix –ed to the verb stem (type becomes typed; drop becomes dropped). The present participle is always formed by adding the suffix –ing to the verb stem (typing, dropping). Participles are used in verb conjugation to indicate the state of an action (she is going; we had waited).
Verbs are also conjugated to indicate tense, or when the action has happened. Actions can happen in the past, present, or future. Tense also describes over how long a period the action took place:
Verb Conjugation (Present Tense)
you (all) give
I gave her a gift yesterday.
I give her a gift every day.
I will give her a gift on her birthday.
I was giving her a gift when you got here.
I am giving her a gift; come in!
I will be giving her a gift at dinner.
I had given her a gift before you got there.
I have given her a gift already.
I will have given her a gift by midnight.
Her friends had been giving her gifts all night when I arrived.
I have been giving her gifts every year for nine years.
I will have been giving her gifts on holidays for ten years next year.
Verbs that follow the standard rules of conjugation are called regular verbs. On the other hand, irregular verbs do not follow these rules, and their conjugations must be memorized. Some examples of irregular verbs are given in the table below.
Transitive verbs take a direct object, which receives the action of the verb. Intransitive verbs have no object. The person or thing that receives the direct object is the indirect object.
Transitive: Alex gave his brother the ball. (The ball is the direct object;
his brother is the indirect object.)
Intransitive: She jumped over the fence.
Verbs can be written in the active or passive voice. In the active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the main action of the sentence. In the sentence below, Alexis is performing the action:
Alexis played tennis.
In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is receiving the action of the main verb. In the sentence below, the subject is tennis, which receives the action played:
Tennis was played.
Passive voice is used when the subject is unknown or unimportant. For example, in science, it is common to use the passive voice:
The experiment was performed three times.
At most other times, it is considered more appropriate to use the active voice because it is more dynamic and gives more information.