Action verbs are typically single words that describe what a person or thing in a sentence does (like run, write, yell, and think). So if it answers the question What is the subject doing? it’s the action verb. In the sentence “John paints the garage,” the subject is John. To find the action verb, ask yourself What is John doing? John paints, so the action verb is paints.
Action Verbs and Linking Verbs
Linking verbs are verbs that link the subject of the sentence with more information about itself. Action verbs express a specific movement, task, act, or motion, while linking verbs express a state of being. For example, “Claudia runs eight miles every day.” The verb runs is an action verb because it explains what Claudia does. If we say “Claudia is a runner,” the word is is a linking verb because it explains what Claudia is.
Some verbs can be either action verbs or linking verbs, depending on context. In “The freshly baked bread smells delicious,” smells is a linking verb because it links the subject (bread) with the characteristic of having a delicious smell. Conversely, smells is an action verb in “Claudia smells the freshly baked bread.” Here, smells describes an action. Other verbs involving the senses (e.g. taste, feel, and look) can be either action verbs or linking verbs depending how they’re used.
Action verbs fall into two main categories: transitive and intransitive. A transitive verb is one that affects a specific object (a direct object). For example, “John paints the garage.” The subject is John, and the action is paints. Paints is a transitive verb because it affects garage (the direct object). Some other common transitive verbs that need to be followed by a direct object are send, take, tell, make, and bring.
Intransitive verbs don’t affect any specific person or thing. They don’t require a direct object to complete the meaning of the sentence. If we say “John paints every day,” there’s no definite object that John is painting, which means paints is an intransitive verb. The verb tells what John (the subject) is doing, but not what he’s doing it to. Some other common intransitive verbs include come, laugh, explode, excel, and rise.