how to find the main verb in a sentence

Don't let these hefty terms scare you. That is, it's providing more information about the subject. Verb phrases contain a main verb, or the main action of a sentence, which is always an action verb that expresses mental or physical action or a linking verb that expresses a state of being, and one or more helping verbs, which help the main verb and cannot exist without it. You may see the terms "helping" and "auxiliary" interchanged often. "From here to Montana" is merely a prepositional phrase, meaning we're still looking at a verb without a direct object. Then, if you can answer the question "who?" Then, our friend the direct object receives the action of the verb. They're the big kahunas that carry out the action of the sentence, express a state of being, or link the subject to further information. Here, the auxiliary verb “am” (a form of to be) lets the reader or listener know that the main verb in the sentence—in this case, “driving”—is happening continuously in the present. This term refers to the important verb in the sentence, the one that typically shows the action or state of being of the subject. In this sentence, the helping verb “did” (a form of to do) emphasizes the main verb, which is “empty.” For instance, if your mother instructed you to take out the trash and you already did it, you wouldn’t likely say, “I emptied the trash.” Instead, you would say, “I did empty the trash!”. Sometimes, fuller description is offered by way of a prepositional phrase, but if there's no receiver of the action (direct object), it's still an intransitive verb. You can spot them if you can spot an action verb or a linking verb. Writing, grammar, and communication tips for your inbox. All Rights Reserved. I am happy. Let's break things down further and explore the world of main verbs and helping verbs. Linking Verb Tip: It may be helpful to think of a linking verb as an equal sign. How to Write a Grammatically Correct Sentence, How to Know the Difference Between the Past Tense of a Verb and the Past Participle, Dynamic Graphics Group/Dynamic Graphics Group/Getty Images. So, you can see the verb is the glue that holds the sentence together. For example, in the verb phrase "was tying," the main action the subject is performing is tying while the verb "was" merely helps the action verb "tying" by expressing that this action happened in the past. Consider these examples: Since intransitive verbs do not take a direct object, they are often found at the end of a sentence. Some main verbs can be transitive or intransitive depending on how they are used. In this sentence, “for what seemed like an hour” is a prepositional phrase that explains how long John laughed. In this sentence, there are four verbs: "was," "raining," "decided," and "bring." The main verb needs to be identified in both of these sentences. Transitive verbs require direct objects to receive their action. Copyright 2020 Leaf Group Ltd. / Leaf Group Education. Helping verbs help the tense of the sentence take shape. The subject of the sentence is - you guessed it - what the sentence is about. In this case, Jamie is being discussed. Main verbs are also known as principal verbs and finite verbs. Verbs are vital to sentence construction. GrammarBook.com: Finding Subjects and Verbs. Let's walk through each term and enjoy a sample sentence. What is she doing? Identify the main verb in a sentence containing multiple verbs but no verb phrase by asking yourself which verb is expressing the subject's action or state of being. Transitive verbs take a direct object while intransitive verbs do not. If so, how did you know which one is the main verb? She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English writing and rhetoric from St. Edward's University. For example: In this example, "am" is the main verb. For example: She can swim in the pool if she finishes all her homework. Main verbs can stand alone, or they can be used with a helping verb, also called an auxiliary verb. To start, verbs carry out the action of a sentence or link the subject of the sentence to more information. Here, “yesterday” acts as an adverb that describes when the keys disappeared. In English grammar, a main verb is any verb in a sentence that is not an auxiliary verb. By contrast, intransitive verbs don't have direct objects. In the first sentence, “eats” acts as an intransitive verb and is followed by “voraciously,” an adverb that describes how the teenage boy ate. Main verbs can be transitive or intransitive. But, what if someone were to ask you, "What is … Thus, "tying" is the main verb and "was" is a helping verb. She is not currently swimming. These helpers can also express an absolute. Here, the subject of the sentence is "I," the linking verb is "am," and "happy" is the subject complement. If a sentence contains multiple verbs that all express the subject's action or state of being, not merely help express the action or state of being and none of the verbs are part of an infinitive phrase, then the sentence contains multiple main verbs. The verb in a main clause is sometimes identified as the main verb. I am what? Also known as a principal verb. Although the basic formula for a sentence is subject + verb + direct object, this is a complete thought (even if it doesn't have a direct object) and, is thus a complete sentence. Common modal verbs include: While auxiliary verbs generally work hard to express the tense of a sentence, modal verbs express different shades of meaning. You'll be able to answer that question once you identify the subject. You'll notice that "am" is not followed by a verb, as would be the case if it were functioning as an auxiliary verb. Verbs are vital to sentence construction. How would you define it? Have you ever seen a sentence like this? Season’s Greetings or Seasons Greetings and 3 More Confusing Holiday Terms, Happy New Year, New Year’s, or New Years? For example: This sentence doesn't answer the "who" or "what" question. However, the sentence "John was tying his shoe" contains the verb phrase "was tying," and the sentence "John learned to tie his shoe" contains the verbs "learned" and "tie" but not a verb phrase. For example, in the sentence "John learned to tie his shoes," both "learned" and "tie" are action verbs. In this example, "am" is the helper and "making" is the main verb. For example: Have you ever seen a sentence with more than one verb? Both demonstrate the action of the subject, so both are main verbs. Her articles have appeared in "Reality Check Girl Magazine," "Hilltop Views" and the "Statesman." If you can substitute an equal sign for the main verb in a sentence, and it makes sense, then the main verb is a linking verb. Shannon. It's that easy. Sentences can contain more than one verb, or a verb phrase. In fact, the basic formula for a sentence is subject + verb + direct object. Note that both of these verbs are in the simple present tense, and they both carry equal weight in the sentence. Main verbs can stand alone, or they can be used with a helping verb, also called an auxiliary verb. after you spot the verb, you're even further down the pathway to grammatical expertise. Helping verbs are little helpers to the heavy lifter (main verb) of the sentence. As mentioned previously, main verbs aren’t always action verbs. In many cases, however, an intransitive verb may be followed by another part of speech, such as an adverb or prepositional phrase. But, linking verbs can also act as main verbs. The most common helping verbs are: These helping verbs are known as auxiliary verbs. But it is true that when you try to crack a sentence, you should always start by identifying the verb. When we think of verbs, we tend to envision action verbs like "run," "walk," and "eat." What was Jamie doing? He was deciding something. For example, the sentence "John tied his shoes" contains only the verb "tied," so there is no need to identify the main verb. But, what if someone were to ask you, "What is the main verb in a sentence?" Identify the main verb in a sentence containing multiple verbs but no verb phrase by asking yourself which verb is expressing the subject's action or state of being. To find the verb, […] Determine whether the sentence contains one verb or multiple verbs by identifying the action the subject is performing or the subject's state of being. Identify the main verb in a verb phrase by determining the subject's main action or state of being. There's another form of helping verb, and that's the modal verb. All that means is the verb has a direct object. Here, we have the helping verb "must" working alongside the main verb "run.". Okay, there was no study. Different forms of to be could be used as a helping verb to explain when the driving is occurring (e.g., was driving, will drive, or had been driving). The answer is yes! Let's deconstruct this line. Helping verbs tend to be short, little words, but there are two different kinds. "Learned" is the main verb because John performed the action of learning, and tying his shoe is what he learned, not the action he performed.

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