Lexical verbs are the main verbs (or action words) in a sentence. They can show the subject’s action or express a state of being. They fall into several categories: transitive, intransitive, linking, dynamic, and static.
Transitive and Intransitive Verbs
A transitive verb expresses action, and needs a direct object to receive that action. “Alice sees the candle,” is an example. Sees is the lexical verb of the sentence, and is transitive. The candle is the direct object because it receives the action (sees).
Intransitive verbs express action, but don’t affect a direct object. If you say “Alice dances,” for example, dances is the lexical verb. It’s intransitive because it doesn’t involve a direct object.
Linking verbs connect the subject of a sentence with information about itself. Linking verbs often express states of being. Here’s an example: “The sky became dark.” In this case, became is the linking verb because it connects the description (dark) back to the subject (sky). Other examples of linking verbs include appear, remain, and to be.
Dynamic and Static Main Verbs
Dynamic verbs express action. Explode, boil, and go are all dynamic verbs. For example, “John’s cake exploded.” Here, the verb explode was an action that the cake was able to physically perform.
Static verbs describe a situation or state rather than an action. Prefer, surprise, and include are static verbs. For example, “The exploding cake surprised John.” In this case, surprise describes how the cake affects John more than what it physically does.
Regular and Irregular Main Verbs
Lexical verbs fall into two categories: regular and irregular. The difference between them is the way their endings change when they become past tense. Regular verbs in the past tense often end with -ed. Irregular verbs don’t.
In the sentence, “She looks in the mirror,” the main verb looks is a regular verb. The past tense of look is looked. So in the past tense, the sentence would read “She looked in the mirror.”
On the other hand, buy, is an example of an irregular verb. It undergoes irregular spelling changes in its past tense. It doesn’t end with -ed. The past tense of buy is bought. You could say “She buys a mirror,” in the present tense. The past tense would be “She bought a mirror.”
Not all irregular verbs undergo a change in spelling in the past tense. For example, the verb cut stays the same in all tenses.
Sometimes lexical verbs receive help from other verbs. Auxiliary verbs (or helping verbs) help main verbs to express degrees of time and mood. Auxiliary verbs aren’t considered to be lexical verbs themselves. Will, might, can, and need are helping verbs. In the sentence, “I need to go now,” need is the helping verb. It adds intensity to the lexical verb, go.