Verbs show action is one of the first facts about verbs we learn. Then the worksheets begin. We practice identifying past, present, and future tense, identifying verbs in sentences, and more. Some students (future grammar nerds) enjoyed the worksheets, but most wanted to do something fun. But is there anything fun about verbs?
Well, there is. In this post, you’ll learn what verbs have to do with the early days of the internet, verbs and language acquisition in babies, and more.
Ready for a dose of facts about verbs? Then let’s get started.
1–The First Word Sent Over the Internet Was a Verb
In 1969, a UCLA professor sent a message to a researcher at Stanford. The message was supposed to be “Log In,” but a computer crash stopped the message after the “o,” so that the recipient, Bill Duval, received the message “lo.”
This message wasn’t sent over the internet as we know it, but its predecessor, the ARPANET. The internet as we know it today wasn’t born 15 years later. Nevertheless, verbs are an essential part of how we interact with computers. We search for information, click the link, scroll with the mouse, and read.
The internet is an information superhighway, but you can’t access that info without doing.
2–Children Learn Nouns Faster than Verbs
The first 50 words in children’s vocabularies are almost exclusively nouns because verbs are more difficult to learn than nouns. This is because nouns relate to concrete objects, while verbs describe the relationship between the objects.
When you feed a toddler, it realizes the objects—food—plate—spoon. As long as it gets the food, it doesn’t matter whether it is being fed, eating, or chewing. That’s why a typical toddler will have only 40-50 verbs by age two.
3–A Sentence Must Have a Verb
All three of those are sentences that contain an implied subject (you).
Those aren’t three sentences, only three words; they need a verb to complete the thought and become a sentence.
Or, if you wish to be polite:
Would you please stop?
So in some ways, one could argue that verbs are the most essential part of speech because you cannot create a sentence without one.
4–A Verb Plays More than One Role
We are taught that a verb shows action or expresses a state of being. However, something that is less obvious and should be more explicitly taught is that verbs also show time and tell how many.
No, verbs don’t tell us that it is 9:47, but they do tell us that it is 9:47 right now, was 9:47 an hour ago, or will be 9:47 in an hour.
Verbs also don’t give us an exact count, but they will tell the reader whether there was one or more than one.
One dog barks.
A dozen dogs bark.
5–Verbs are Complex Parts of Speech
If you don’t enjoy analyzing grammar, then be grateful that your teachers didn’t cover verbs from a to z. One can analyze the types of verbs:
- Intransitive (The man falls. They run.)—the sentence contains a subject and verb.
- Transitive (She runs a bank.)—the verb has a direct object and a subject.
- Ditransitive (She gave Tasha the key.)—the verb has both a direct and indirect object.
- Double transitive (Jorge sold the man a watch for $50.)—the verb contains a second direct or indirect object.
- Linking verbs (My car is in the driveway.)—the verb connects a subject and an adjective or adverb (known as predicate adjectives or adverbs).
And verb tenses are also complicated. If you thought there are three tenses—past, present, and future—think again. Past tenses include the simple past and a continuous past, an event that continued for some time and ended in the past. The past perfect describes a past event that ended before another past began. The past perfect continuous describes a past event that started before another past event and continued while the other past occurred.
Confused yet? Present and future tenses also have four variations for a total of 12 past, present, and future variations.
Mood, modality, and voice are other aspects of verbs that we won’t cover because by now it is clear that there is far more to verbs than words that show action or a state of being.
Instead, lets investigate a few more facts about verbs.
6–When Locating the Subject of a Sentence, First Identify the Verb
In most sentences, the subject comes before the verb, so it seems counterintuitive to look for the verb first. However, this is an effective strategy because verbs change form if you change the tense of a sentence.
Add a time word such as yesterday, today, or tomorrow and listen for any word you must change so the sentence still sounds correct. That word will be your verb. Then ask who or what? The answer will be the subject of the sentence.
We have a blog post about locating verbs.
Yesterday, we had a blog post about locating verbs.
Who had? We
Therefore, we is the subject of the sentence.
A careful reader will notice that “locating” did not change when the tense of the sentence was changed. That’s because in that sentence, it was not functioning as a verb.
7–Verb Tenses Are Not Universal
Since we’re talking about verb tenses, some languages have limited or no verb tenses. Mandarin Chinese is one such example. Other examples include Thai, Vietnamese, and many American Indigenous languages.
Languages without verb tenses use several methods to indicate an event’s time. Context is one (Yesterday I go to the store versus Right now I go to the store). Even English speakers use context.
Aspect is another method to indicate the time an event occurs.
Aspect is how the action relates to the time the event happened. For example, an event could have started in the past and still be ongoing. Or it could be happening right now and will continue into the future.
English has a form of aspect—the past perfect, future perfect type of tense. Languages with few or no tenses choose to indicate aspects differently. It could be argued that in English, verb tenses are unnecessary. We use context clues when speaking and almost always understand how time relates to the present.
So there you have it–seven facts about verbs. Now three more verbs—like this article, share, and comment. Thanks.