Business Writing Tip #59—Building Sentences: Verbs

In my last post I talked about sentences and subjects. Remember there are three essential elements in a sentence:

  1. The subject or subjects,
  2. A verb or verbs, and
  3. Punctuation.

Today I’m going to look at verbs. We won’t be able to cover everything about verbs in one post, but we’ll make a start.

Action verbs are the strongest kind of verb we use. They are direct and often dramatic. Compare the sentence, “The cat was in the room”, with these two new versions. Cat photo

  1. The cat prowled around in the room.
  2. The cat napped in the room.

In these two sentences something is happening.

Linking verbs do just what their name says. They link things to each other. They might link nouns to subjects, or pronouns or adjectives to a subject. They don’t add any action to a sentence but they have an important role. They give you additional information about a condition or state of being. Think about:

The most common linking verb is “to be”.

  • His mother was an author.

Other, rather more interesting, linking verbs include:

  • Feel, sound, taste, look, smells, grow, seem, appear and remain.

Here are some examples.

  • She felt ill.
  • He looks strange.
  • It seems like fun.
  • The aromas from the kitchen smell good.

If you just wrote ‘she felt’ or ‘it seems’ the sentence is missing something. These verbs invite you to continue. They lead you on to finish the sentence.

And here’s a simple test to help you work out if a verb is a linking verb. If you can replace the verb by am, is or are and the sentence still makes sense, it’s a linking verb.

With the above examples we would have:

  • She is ill.
  • He is strange.
  • It is fun.
  • The aromas from the kitchen are good.

So they are linking verbs.

There’s another thing about linking verbs. This category is finite—I can make a list of all the linking verbs. Some verbs are always linking verbs, and others may be linking verbs but can also be action verbs.

The verbs that are always linking verbs are:

  • Become
  • Be
  • Seem

Nice and easy, isn’t it? Only three to remember.

The list of those that may be linking verbs is a little longer.

Feel Grow Look
Appear Remain Smell
Sound Stay Taste
Turn Prove

Here’s an example of a verb “taste” used in one sentence as a linking verb, and in the next as an action verb.

  • The food tasted really delicious.
  • The woman tasted the food before serving it to her young child.

In my next post I’ll look at another category of verbs. These are given various names depending on what you are reading. Some people call them auxiliary verbs. Others like to keep things simple and call them helping verbs.

Until next time…


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