VERBS are often defined as action words or words that make a statement about the subject of the sentence.
For the purposes of modern grammar, the term Verb is used in two senses:
1) A verb is one of the elements of a clause structure, like a subject or an object.
2) A verb is also a member of a word class or part of speech, like a noun or an adjective. The two senses have a similar relationship.
A Verb Phrase consists of one or more verbs, e.g., held, is building, can see, might be talking in the following sentences:
They held hands.
I can see that.
He is building a cabinet.
She might be talking on the phone.
Verbs are divided into three major categories according to their function within the verb phrase: Full Verbs, the vast majority of verbs in English, and the very small classes of Primary Verbs and Modal Auxiliary Verbs. We can list the primary verbs and the modal auxiliary verbs in their entirety; full verbs are too numerous to list.
think, run, feel, see,…
be, have, do
can, may, shall, will, must, could, might, should, would
If there is only one verb in the verb phrase, it is the Main Verb. If there’s more than one verb, the final verb is the main verb, and the verbs that precede it are auxiliaries. For example, graduating is the main verb in the following sentence, and will and be are auxiliaries:
He will be graduating soon.
Full verbs can act only as main verbs, the modal auxiliaries can act only as auxiliary verbs, and the primary verbs can act as either main verbs or auxiliary verbs.
NOTE: Verbs can be discontinuous. That is, the verb phrase can be broken up by other words. For example, in Do you want this? the verb phrase Do . . . want is discontinuous. The verb phrase is similarly discontinuous in sentences such as They do not want me and I can probably make that.
Sometimes the main verb is understood from context so that only auxilaries are present in the verb phrase.
I can’t talk to them, but maybe you can. [i.e., "can talk to them"]
Your employer may not have suspected anything, but your colleagues may have. [i.e., "may have susptected something"]
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