AskDefine | Define verb

Dictionary Definition



1 a word that serves as the predicate of a sentence
2 a content word that denotes an action or a state

User Contributed Dictionary

see Verb



From verbe, from verbum, from *|wer-.


  • /vɜː(r)b/
  • /v3:(r)b/


  1. A word that indicates an action, an event or a state.
    The word “speak” is an English verb.

Usage notes

Verbs compose a fundamental category of words in most languages. In an English clause, a verb forms the head of the predicate of the clause. In many languages, verbs uniquely conjugate for tense and aspect.


  • 2001 — Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl, p 221
    Then you could say that the doorway exploded. But the particular verb doesn't do the action justice. Rather, it shattered into infinitesimal pieces.
(grammar) a word that indicates an action, event, or a state


  1. In the context of "transitive|nonstandard|colloquial": To use any word that is not a verb (especially a noun) as if it were a verb.
    • a. 1981 Feb 22, unknown Guardian editor as quoted by William Safire, On Language, in New York Times, pSM3
      Haig, in congressional hearings before his confirmatory, paradoxed his auditioners by abnormalling his responds so that verbs were nouned, nouns verbed and adjectives adverbised. He techniqued a new way to vocabulary his thoughts so as to informationally uncertain anybody listening about what he had actually implicationed... .
    • 1985 Oct 13, William Safire, Invasion of the Verb Makers, in San Francisco Chronicle, p19
      Others, come to think of it, would also choose verb, with no suffix at all: "Don't verb nouns" is an obvious fumblerule.
    • 1996, Peter Brodie, Never Say Never: Teaching Grammar and Usage, in The English Journal 85(7), p77
      You mustn't verb nouns, they remind me piously—as I think of Shakespeare's animal verbs (to shark, to spaniel) and his bodypart verbs (to nose, to fat) and of all the great verbs they have spawned (to beaver, weasel, ferret, buffalo; to stomach, belly, scalp, kneecap).
    • 1997, David. F. Griffiths, Desmond J. Higham, learning LATEX, p8
      Nouns should never be verbed.
    • 2005 Oct 5, Jeffrey Mattison, Letters, in The Christian Science Monitor, p8
      In English, verbing nouns is okay
    • 2007 Apr 20, Dale Roberts, Rooting out bad language with a unicorn, in The Christian Science Monitor, p20
      I nominate for banishment the verbed nouns "dialogue" and "language," as in, "Let's dialogue on this project and then do some languaging about our proposal."
    • 2007 March: Erin McKean, “Redefining the dictionary”, Technology Entertainment Design
      Any time you touch a word—you use it in a new context, you give it a new connotation, you verb it—you make the mobile move.
  2. To perform any action that is normally expressed by a verb; for example, to kiss, to be, to think, to write, to disappear, to feel, to see, etc.
    • 1964: Journal of Mathematical Psychology
      Each sentence had the same basic structure: The subject transitive verbed the object who intransitive verbed in the location.
    • 1946: Rand Corporation, The Rand Paper Series
      For example, one-part versions of the proposition "The doctor pursued the lawyer" were "The doctor verbed the object," ...
    • 1998: James E. Tomberlin, Language, Mind and Ontology
      One case is where I, the reporter, want to report Madonna as verbing (I keep the verb neutral on purpose) Banderas.
    • 1998: Marilyn A. Walker, Aravind Krishna Joshi, Centering Theory in Discourse
      The sentence frame was Dan verbed Ben approaching the store. This sentence frame was followed in all cases by He went inside.


  • 1986: Any noun can be verbed — Dan Davis, describing the creation of bad technical writing.
  • Verbing weirds language. — Calvin, from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson.

See also



From lang=la.



  1. verb


Extensive Definition

In syntax, a verb is a word (part of speech) that usually denotes an action (bring, read), an occurrence (decompose, glitter), or a state of being (exist, stand). Depending on the language, a verb may vary in form according to many factors, possibly including its tense, aspect, mood and voice. It may also agree with the person, gender, and/or number of some of its arguments (subject, object, etc.).


The number of arguments that a verb takes is called its valency or valence. Verbs can be classified according to their valency:
  • Intransitive (valency = 1): the verb only has a subject. For example: "he runs", "it falls".
  • Transitive (valency = 2): the verb has a subject and a direct object. For example: "she eats fish", "Mike hunts deer".
  • Ditransitive (valency = 3): the verb has a subject, a direct object and an indirect or secondary object. For example: "I gave her a book," "She sent me flowers."
It is impossible to have verbs with zero valency. Weather verbs are often impersonal (subjectless) in null-subject languages like Spanish, where the verb llueve means "It rains". In English, they require a dummy pronoun, and therefore formally have a valency of 1.
The intransitive and transitive are typical, but the impersonal and objective are somewhat different from the norm. In the objective the verb takes an object but no subject, the nonreferent subject in some uses may be marked in the verb by an incorporated dummy pronoun similar to the English weather verb (see below). Impersonal verbs take neither subject nor object, as with other null subject languages, but again the verb may show incorporated dummy pronouns despite the lack of subject and object phrases. Tlingit lacks a ditransitive, so the indirect object is described by a separate, extraposed clause.
English verbs are often flexible with regard to valency. A transitive verb can often drop its object and become intransitive; or an intransitive verb can take an object and become transitive. Compare:
  • I moved. (intransitive)
  • I moved the book. (transitive)
In the first example, the verb move has no grammatical object. (In this case, there may be an object understood - the subject (I/myself). The verb is then possibly reflexive, rather than intransitive); in the second the subject and object are distinct. The verb has a different valency, but the form remains exactly the same.
In many languages other than English, such valency changes are not possible like this; the verb must instead be inflected for voice in order to change the valency.


A copula is a word that is used to describe its subject, or to equate or liken the subject with its predicate. In many languages, copulas are a special kind of verb, sometimes called copulative verbs or linking verbs.
Because copulas do not describe actions being performed, they are usually analyzed outside the transitive/intransitive distinction. The most basic copula in English is to be; there are others (remain, seem, grow, become, etc.).
Some languages (the Semitic and Slavic families, Chinese, Sanskrit, and others) can omit or do not have the simple copula equivalent of "to be", especially in the present tense. In these languages a noun and adjective pair (or two nouns) can constitute a complete sentence. This construction is called zero copula.

Verbal noun and verbal adjective

Most languages have a number of verbal nouns that describe the action of the verb. In Indo-European languages, there are several kinds of verbal nouns, including gerunds, infinitives, and supines. English has gerunds, such as seeing, and infinitives such as to see; they both can function as nouns; seeing is believing is roughly equivalent in meaning with to see is to believe. These terms are sometimes applied to verbal nouns of non-Indo-European languages.
In the Indo-European languages, verbal adjectives are generally called participles. English has an active participle, also called a present participle; and a passive participle, also called a past participle. The active participle of play is playing, and the passive participle is played. The active participle describes nouns that perform the action given in the verb, e.g. I saw the playing children.. The passive participle describes nouns that have been the object of the action of the verb, e.g. I saw the played game scattered across the floor.. Other languages apply tense and aspect to participles, and possess a larger number of them with more distinct shades of meaning.


In languages where the verb is inflected, it often agrees with its primary argument (what we tend to call the subject) in person, number and/or gender. English only shows distinctive agreement in the third person singular, present tense form of verbs (which is marked by adding "-s"); the rest of the persons are not distinguished in the verb.
Spanish inflects verbs for tense/mood/aspect and they agree in person and number (but not gender) with the subject. Japanese, in turn, inflects verbs for many more categories, but shows absolutely no agreement with the subject. Basque, Georgian, and some other languages, have polypersonal agreement: the verb agrees with the subject, the direct object and even the secondary object if present.


  • Gideon Goldenberg, "On Verbal Structure and the Hebrew Verb", in: idem, Studies in Semitic Linguistics, Jerusalem: Magnes Press 1998, pp. 148-196 [English translation; originally published in Hebrew in 1985].
verb in Afrikaans: Werkwoord
verb in Arabic: فعل
verb in Aymara: Parliri
verb in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Дзеяслоў
verb in Bosnian: Glagoli
verb in Breton: Verb
verb in Bulgarian: Глагол
verb in Catalan: Verb
verb in Chuvash: Глагол
verb in Czech: Sloveso
verb in Danish: Udsagnsord
verb in German: Verb
verb in Spanish: Verbo
verb in Esperanto: Verbo
verb in Faroese: Sagnorð
verb in French: Verbe
verb in Scottish Gaelic: Gnìomhair
verb in Galician: Verbo
verb in Korean: 동사 (품사)
verb in Croatian: Glagoli
verb in Indonesian: Verba
verb in Icelandic: Sagnorð
verb in Italian: Verbo
verb in Hebrew: פועל
verb in Kazakh: Етістік
verb in Latin: Verbum
verb in Latvian: Darbības vārds
verb in Lithuanian: Veiksmažodis
verb in Lingala: Likelelo
verb in Hungarian: Ige
verb in Malayalam: ക്രിയ (വ്യാകരണം)
verb in Mongolian: Үйл үг
verb in Dutch: Werkwoord
verb in Japanese: 動詞
verb in Norwegian: Verb
verb in Norwegian Nynorsk: Verb
verb in Low German: Verb
verb in Polish: Czasownik
verb in Portuguese: Verbo
verb in Romanian: Verb
verb in Quechua: Ruray rimana
verb in Russian: Глагол
verb in Northern Sami: Vearba
verb in Albanian: Folja
verb in Simple English: Verb
verb in Slovak: Sloveso
verb in Slovenian: Glagol
verb in Serbian: Глаголи
verb in Serbo-Croatian: Glagol
verb in Finnish: Verbi
verb in Swedish: Verb
verb in Turkish: Fiil
verb in Ukrainian: Дієслово
verb in Yiddish: צייטווארט
verb in Chinese: 动词
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