[ vurb ]
See synonyms for: verbverbs on

  1. any member of a class of words that function as the main elements of predicates, that typically express action, state, or a relation between two things, and that may be inflected for tense, aspect, voice, mood, and to show agreement with their subject or object.

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Origin of verb

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English verbe, from Latin verbum word

Grammar notes for verb

The key word in most sentences, the word that reveals what is happening, is the verb. It can declare something ( You ran ), ask a question ( Did you run? ), convey a command ( Run faster! ), or express a wish ( May this good weather last! ) or a possibility ( If you had run well, you might have won; if you run better tomorrow, you may win ). You cannot have a complete English sentence without at least one verb.
Understandably, this multitalented part of speech can be analyzed and categorized in any of several ways. For example, this dictionary distinguishes between a transitive verb, labeled “(used with object),” as in The country fought two wars at the same time, and an intransitive verb, labeled “(used without object),” as in He fought in both of them. As we can see with fight, some verbs can be either transitive or intransitive.
Another analysis is offered by the grammarians Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, and Svartvik in their renowned A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. They divide verbs into three categories: (1) modal auxiliary verbs, a short list comprising can, may, will, shall, could, might, would, should, and must, all of which are “helping” verbs, as in Congress will vote tomorrow, and (2) primary verbs, the smallest group— be, do, and have —all three of which can be either auxiliaries ( I am leaving for school now; I did finish my homework; I have studied enough ) or main verbs ( I am happy; I did my best; I have a good teacher ), and (3) full verbs, the largest group by far, containing all the rest.
A third approach differentiates an action verb from one that is stative. An action verb expresses something you can do ( run, study, sit, want ) or something that can happen ( leak, end, appear, collapse ). In contrast, a stative verb expresses an ongoing state or condition ( I know all the answers; we own our house; they fear failure ). Some verbs, like be, are in both camps: In she is careless, the verb is is stative, describing a permanent trait. In she was being careless in losing those documents, the verb was is an action verb, describing a specific act of carelessness. The same mutability is seen in verbs of the senses ( smell, taste, feel ): Mmm, smell that coffee [action]; the coffee smells wonderful [stative].
We can also distinguish the linking verb (more formally known as a copula ) from verbs that can take an object or be modified by an adverb. Linking verbs identify or describe a subject by connecting it with a noun, an adjective, or a prepositional phrase in a following complement ( she is a doctor; they were delighted; we will be at the party ). Other linking verbs, like feel, appear, smell, taste, look, become, and stay perform the same concatenating function. A number of them happen to be stative, but not all; get and act, for example, are both linking and action verbs ( the weather got warmer yesterday; she acted surprised ). As we can see, a single verb can be categorized in more than one way, depending on which type of analysis we subject it to.
And finally, we can look at English verbs in terms of a number of grammatical features that are expressed by changes in their form or changes in the way sentences are constructed. These features are tense2 (such as present and past), voice (active or passive), person (first, second, or third), number (singular or plural), and mood2 (such as indicative and subjunctive)—each defined at its own entry.

Other words from verb

  • verbless, adjective

Words Nearby verb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use verb in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for verb


/ (vɜːb) /

  1. (in traditional grammar) any of a large class of words in a language that serve to indicate the occurrence or performance of an action, the existence of a state or condition, etc. In English, such words as run, make, do, and the like are verbs

  2. (in modern descriptive linguistic analysis)

    • a word or group of words that functions as the predicate of a sentence or introduces the predicate

    • (as modifier): a verb phrase

Origin of verb

C14: from Latin verbum a word
  • Abbreviation: vb, v

Derived forms of verb

  • verbless, adjective

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for verb


A word that represents an action or a state of being. Go, strike, travel, and exist are examples of verbs. A verb is the essential part of the predicate of a sentence. The grammatical forms of verbs include number, person, and tense. (See auxiliary verb, infinitive, intransitive verb, irregular verb, participle, regular verb, and transitive verb.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.