“V” is for verbs

LetterVVerbs similar to vowels. They the gate between all the other words. Without them, sentences such as these first three quite sense. 

See what I did there? I left out the verbs. You could probably follow the first two sentences, but the last would be rather ambiguous. Let’s put them back in: Verbs are similar to vowels. They are the gate between all the other words (letters). Without them, sentences such as these first three don’t quite make sense. 

At school, you learn that nouns are naming words and verbs are doing words — the words that describe the action. You learn that in a sentence there is a subject, a verb, and an object. For example, Joanne walked her dog.  Joanne is the subject. She is the one who is ‘doing’ something. Walked, of course, is the verb or the action, while her dog is the object of that action.

Now, let’s complicate things a little. What if we extend the sentence like so: Joanne left the house to walk her dog. The subject remains the same but the verb and object have changed. The verb is now left and the object is the house. The reason she left the house is to walk her dog. The verb walk has been linked with to to create an infinite form of the verb. It is no longer fully active although the intention of Joanne to leave the house is to walk her dog. However, as I have discovered much to my surprise, not all infinitives are formed with ‘to’. When other verb helpers are linked with the verb, these form ‘bare infinitives’. For example, Joanne couldn’t leave the house to walk her dog because it was raining. The inclusion of couldn’t with the basic verb forms a bare infinitive. (Is your head hurting yet? Mine is!). The bare infinitive (without ‘to’) is used after the auxiliaries shall, should, will, would, may, might, do, did, can, could, must, need and dare

The tense (present, past, future) affects the form of the verb. Let’s go back to the first example and use the three tenses:

  • Joanne walks her dog. (present);  Joanne is walking her dog. (present continuous)
  • Joanne walked her dog. (past);  Joanne was walking her dog. (past continuous)
  • Joanne will walk her dog. (future);  Joanne will be walking her dog. (future continuous)

(Take something for that headache!)

And this is just the beginning of the story about verbs. There are verb phrases, verbal nouns, phrasal verbs, irregular verbs, transitive and intransitive verbs. But before our headaches get much worse, just remember the basic premise to a verb — the thing you learned when you were a youngster at school: that a verb is a doing word. We can all be fine writers without understanding all the terminology and forms. After a while, it becomes intuitive. And anything that you are doubtful about can be referred to English usage guides such as the one I used to throw all these terms at you — The Cambridge Guide to English Usage (Pam Peters). It’s a useful reference book if you are serious about writing. Of course, there are a number of other useful grammar guides that you can also refer to, and Google can help you out too. The site http://www.englishgrammar.org/bare-infinitive/ assisted me in this blog post.

If you would like a little help in editing and proofing your writing assignments, fiction or non fiction efforts, then check out my website http://paulvanderloos.wix.com/editor

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