A verb represents an action of some sort. The action might be as subtle as mere existence, as with the verb is, or as dramatic as explodes or defenestrates. Verbs can be transitive (meaning they require an object; you cannot just wear, you have to wear something) or intransitive (meaning they take no object; you can dance, for instance). Oddly enough, many verbs are transitive in some sentences and intransitive in others. You can drive a car to the store (transitive) or just drive to the store (intransitive).

Helping verbs accompany other verbs. Examples include have/had/has and the to be verbs (am/are/is, was/were):

I have gone to Europe.

I am going to Europe.

As you can see, helping verbs can indicate the time frame for an action. "I have gone to Europe" means "I have gone to Europe in the past and may go again," whereas "I am going to Europe" means "I am going to Europe right now or will go sometime in the future."

Verbs can also act as other parts of speech. For example, when a participle (ending in -ed or -ing) appears at the beginning of a sentence, it acts as an adjective:

Driving frantically, I hoped I would make it on time.

Here, driving is an adjective that modifies the pronoun I. Remember to avoid dangling participles, where the verb/adjective modifies the wrong noun:

Unless the situation was driving — which it almost certainly wasn't — this sentence makes no sense. Look back to the previous example, where driving modified I — the subject that actually did the driving. That is how you should use participles.

Driving frantically, the situation was dire.

A gerund is a verb that acts as a noun, as in: "I enjoy driving frantically." Here, the verb driving becomes the object of another verb, enjoy.

Parts of Speech

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