Action Verbs

When it comes to the most versatile part of speech in a sentence, you could say verbs rule. You can make an entire sentence out of one verb. For example, “Stop!” See, that’s a sentence! You can’t make a sentence with any other part of speech. Nouns cannot make a one-word sentence, nor can adjectives, adverbs, or any other part of speech.

But verbs do have something in common with nouns. Like nouns, there are different kinds of verbs. There are action verbs, linking verbs, helping verbs, regular verbs and irregular verbs. Let’s take a look at action verbs.

What are action verbs?

Identifying an action verb is really pretty easy.

Walk! Run! Cough! Drink!

All of these words show some kind of action. They express something that a person, animal, or object can do. That’s why we call them action verbs.

Examples of action verbs

John talks at inappropriate times.

Talking is something John can do.

Because it was starting to rain outside, Mary reached for her umbrella.

Reaching is something Mary can do–especially if she doesn’t want to get wet.

Jennifer watched the pretty birds building a nest.

Watching is something that Jennifer can do.

The fireworks exploded in the night sky.

Exploding is something fireworks can do and they do it very well!

The water churned and boiled over the hot flame.

Churning and boiling is something water can do.

If you’re having trouble deciding if a particular word is an action verb or not, go through every word in the sentence and ask yourself, “Is this something a person or thing can actually do?”

Take a look at the sentence below:

After sunrise, farmer John worked at his chores.

Can you after? Is after something you can do? Can you sunrise? Have you ever seen anyone sunrise? Can you Farmer John? Can you work? Yes, you can! Can you at? I sure can’t. Can you his? Can you chores?

Obviously, there is only one action verb in the above sentence: worked.

Here’s a little story for more practice in recognizing action verbs.

Billy jumped out of his bed Friday morning. He ran to the kitchen singing at the top of his lungs. “Billy, you sure sound happy this morning!” said Billy’s mother. “I am!” Billy replied as he sat at the breakfast table. He gobbled his food down as fast as he could. Then he raced out the door and jumped on the school bus. When the bus pulled up in front of the school Billy was still sinking. When it was time for class, David whispered, “You better stop singing. You’ll get into trouble.” But Billy picked another song and continued on. The teacher, Mrs. Grump, was talking about nouns and verbs when Billy started his tenth song of the day. Billy’s classmates giggled and then laughed out loud, but Billy kept right on singing. Mrs. Grump, however, wasn’t singing at all. She wrote a note to Billy’s parents and you know what they decided? No listening to his IPod for two whole days! So Billy learned to sing only in the shower, in choir, outdoors, or with his friends. Just about anywhere but in the classroom!

Could you pick out the action verbs in that story? Action verbs are used when you want to show action or somebody doing something. The action verbs in this story are underlined.

A few more things to remember:

Action verbs can also be mental actions or things that can be seen, such as: Mary thought about her homework. She wanted a good grade.

Action verbs can have a present tense, past tense, or future tense. Examples:

The cheetah runs faster than humans. (Present tense)
The cheetah ran through the jungle. (Past tense)
A cheetah will run down its prey. (Future tense)

Action verbs can also use a helping verb. For example,

If you don’t watch where you’re going, you will trip on the rocks.

You see, it really is easy to identify action verbs in a sentence. All you have to do is determine if it’s something that somebody or something could do and then you have it!