How To Identify Verbs

Verbs are the most important words in sentences. A verb is an action word. That means it refers to some sort of activity. Identifying verbs is easy. Here are a few tips.

Verbs typically exhibit the following properties:

1. They can be used with modal auxiliary verbs like will, can, would, could, may, might, must, should etc.

2. A typical verb has three forms: the base form, simple past and past participle.

3. They have –ing forms.

4. They can be preceded by the infinitive marker to.

5. They can take the marker –s in the simple present tense.

Note that some of these properties can only be exhibited by verbs in the present tense. If you encounter simple past or past participle forms, you should be able to change them into their base form. For example, if you find a word like broke, you must be able to immediately recognize that it is the simple past tense form of the word break.

Now that you have learned about the basic properties of verbs, you should be able to identify them.

Let’s consider the word speak. Is it a verb? Yes, it is.

We can use the word speak with modal auxiliaries.

  • She can speak English.
  • She must speak the truth.

The word speak also has a past tense (spoke) and a past participle (spoken) form. What’s more, it can be preceded by the marker to.

  • He wants to speak to the manager.

Speak also has an –ing form: speaking


Identify the verbs in the following sentences.

1. Vimala can knit beautiful sweaters.

2. She works hard to support her family.

3. Devika wants to become a doctor.

4. Nurses look after sick people.

5. My mother made a beautiful cake on my birthday.


Knit, works, wants, look and made

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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