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Thread: Define Verbs

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    Define Verbs

    Hello Everyone - glad to join. What is a good definition of Verbs? Also what's the different examples of verbs?

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    Re: Define Verbs

    Welcome to the forums, AV.

    Click HERE for a start and ask us again if you have any specific questions.


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    Re: Define Verbs


    (1) One expert says that "verbs are the basis of grammar."

    (a) He says that if we did not have verbs, we would have to use hand gestures to explain the nouns we


    (i) I guess he means something like this:

    (a) I like apples. If the verb "like" did not exist, then maybe I would have to hold up an apple and

    make a big smile.

    (b) Use three apples for this recipe. If the verb "use" did not exist, then maybe I would have to hold up

    three fingers.

    (c) How much do the apples cost? If the verb "cost" did not exist, maybe I would have to hold up an apple

    and wave some money.

    (2) You are very wise (intelligent) to want to understand verbs.

    (3) We once had a president named Ulysses S. Grant. He said:

    "[I] am a verb. ... A verb is anything that signifies to be; to do; or to suffer. I signify all three."

    Source for (1), (1a), and (3): Ben Yagoda, When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It.

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    Re: Define Verbs

    verb\'vərb, 'vēb, 'veib\ n –s oftenattrib [ME verbe fr. MF fr. L. verbum, word, verb; trans. of Gk. rhēma – more at WORD]: a word belonging to that part of speech that characteristically is the grammatical center of a predicate and expresses an act, occurrence , or mode of being and that in various languages is inflected for agreement with the person and number of the subject, for tense, for voice, for mood, or for aspectand that typically has rather full descriptive meaning and characterizing quality but is in some instances nearly devoid of such meaning and quality esp. in use as an auxiliary or copula.
    Gove, Philip Babcock (editor in chief), (1961) Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Springfield, Mass: Merriam-Webster

    (Any word that can occur in the paradigm
    save - saves - saving - saved - saved
    sing - sings - singing - sang - sung
    will be called a verb. p 42
    [...] the following group of words, which are traditionally included among verbs, can hardly be said to be verbs in our analysis:

    can, could, may, might, must, ought, shall, should, will, would.
    They do not occur in the paradigm of save and sing. [...] None of the forms listed above is ever found with the other suffixes used to define verbs. It would perhaps be possible to regard them as a highly specialised type of verbs, but we shall not do that.
    Christophersen, Paul & Sandved Arthur O. (1969.52) An Advanced English Grammar, Basingstoke: Macmillan

    VERBS In practice it is not difficult to distinguish this part of speech; it is generally agreed that it comprises such words as be, have, must, take, live, touch, spend

    But it is difficult to define the class. If we take he form as our basis we might, for instance, fix on the suffix –s in the 3rd pers. sing. present, but this would exclude can, may etc.
    Another form criterion that seems applicable is the difference in the expression of present and past: live/lived. fight/fought. But this definition would not cover put, set, etc.
    If we distinguish according to function, verbs could be defined as the sentence-forming element of a word-group. God in his heaven is not a sentence; God is in his heaven is. But this definition would not include infinitives, gerunds and participle. To be or not to be, that is the question / Erring is human / A sinking ship / Lost horizon.

    A wider definition on this basis could be obtained by regarding the nexus-forming element of a group as a verb. This formulation would cover some more of the verbal forms mentioned above: I found him missing / I expected him to be dead. But this definition is likewise unsatisfactory, since in a sentence such as don't speak with your mouth full the term nexus is applied to your mouth full.

    A definition by content is the most comprehensive, but also the vaguest. One might say that verbs express 'behaving' – partly in the sense of the subject manifesting itself (in the case of verbs used intransitively): he works / lived: partly of the way the subject behaves towards somebody or something else: he loves / loved her(in the case of verbs used intransitively). – In the first case the dividing line between verbs and adverbs will become blurred, as can be seen in he up and struck me; in the second case the dividing line between verbs and prepositions; compare A. versus B. and A. playing B. where versus and playing may be said to express the same relationship.
    Schibsbye, Knud (1965.1-2) A Modern English Grammar (2nd ed, 1970), London: OUP

    Verbs are defined partly by position/function and partly by inflection. To oversimplify greatly, we can say that any word that fulfils the following two conditions is a verb:
    1. Position Any single word that can fit into one or more of the following patterns and make a complete sentence (with no further words):
    (a) clever, [adj]
    the boy . . . (b) carefully. [adv]
    (c) the dog [noun phrase]
    eg (a) is, seems, looks; (b) works, wrote, spoke; (c) has, loved, hits, fed.
    2. Inflection Any word that has a set of inflections similar to the following:
    walk walked walked walks walking
    begin began begun begins beginning

    This two-fold definition partly fits BE/DO/HAVE. But it totally excludes a number of other words (eg can, must) because
    (a) they cannot be used alone except when a verb is ellipted [...] and
    (b) they do not have a set of inflections as in 2 above. Yet these words always form groups with verbs, and they share some of the formal characteristics of BE/DO/HAVE. (eg negative and question formation). So, it is reasonable to classify them as a sub-division of verbs.
    On formal ground, therefore, we divide verbs into;

    A. lexical verbs (so-called because they carry full dictionary meanings). This group includes BE/DO/HAVE when used with full meanings –eg BE = exist, have quality of; DO = perform; HAVE = take, experience.

    B. AuxiliariesThese may be subdivided into:
    (a) BE/DO/HAVE when used as auxiliaries to other verbs.
    (b) Modals (can, must, etc) which are always used as auxiliaries to other verbs. So-called because they indicate mood.
    Chalker, Sylvia (1984.75) Current English Grammar, London: Macmillan

    verb /vз:b, vз:rb/n (In English) a word which (a) occurs as part of the PREDICATE of a sentence, (b) carries markets of grammatical categories such as TENSE, ASPECT, PERSON, NUMBER and MOOD, and (c) refers to an action or state. For example: He opened the door Jane loves Tom.
    Richards , Jack C, Platt, John and Platt, Heidi (1992) Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching & Applied Linguistics (2nd Edition), Harlow: Longman

    verb (vз:b) n. Gram. A word used to indicate an action, state, or occurrence, and forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence.
    Thompson, Della (ed (1995) The Concise Oxford Dictionary (9th edn), Oxford: OUP

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