Action Verbs | Definition, List & Examples

An action verb (also called a dynamic verb) describes the action that the subject of the sentence performs (e.g., “I  run”).

Action verbs differ from stative verbs, which describe a state of being (e.g., “believe,” “want”).

Examples: Action verbs
We traveled to Spain last summer.

My grandfather walks with a stick.

The train arrived on time.

I ate a sandwich for lunch.

You can download our list of common action verbs in the format of your choice below.

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What is an action verb?

An action verb is a type of verb that describes the action that the subject of a sentence is performing. Action verbs can refer to both physical and mental actions (i.e., internal processes and actions related to thinking, perceiving, or feeling).

Examples: Physical and mental action verbs
We climbed to the highest peak.

Whitney analyzed the data to find patterns.

He played football in high school.

Toddlers learn new things every day.

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How to use action verbs

Action verbs can be transitive or intransitive. Transitive verbs require a direct object, such as a noun or pronoun, that receives the action. Without a direct object, sentences with a transitive verb are vague or incomplete.

Examples: Transitive action verbs
Jack pushed another kid at the schoolyard.

Can I borrow this book?

In contrast, intransitive verbs do not require a direct object that receives the action of the verb. However, other information may come after the verb, such as an adverb.

Examples: Intransitive action verbs
The dog ran.

They complain frequently.

Some action verbs can act as both transitive and intransitive verbs.

Examples: Action verbs that can be either transitive or intransitive
My neighbor plays drums every morning.
The kids can play outside today.

He grows tomatoes on his balcony.
My niece is growing quickly.

Note
Because action verbs make your writing more vivid, they can be effectively used for resume writing. Unlike generic phrases like “responsible for,” “tasked with,” or “experienced in,” action verbs are attention-grabbing and help emphasize our abilities and accomplishments.

  • I was responsible for social media accounts across various platforms.
  • I managed social media accounts across various platforms.

Action verbs vs. stative verbs

Action or dynamic verbs are often contrasted with stative verbs. While action verbs communicate action, stative verbs describe a state of being or perception (e.g., “it tasted,” “he is,” “she heard”). Due to this, they are typically used to provide more information about the subject, rather than express an action that the subject did. For example, the sentence “Tom loves spending time with friends” uses a stative verb “love” to give us more information about Tom’s personality.

However, some verbs can be used as either dynamic or stative verbs depending on the meaning of the sentence. For example, the verb “think” can denote someone’s opinion (stative verb) or the internal process of considering something (action verb).

Examples: Action verbs vs. stative verbs
His manager thinks he is lazy.

They’re thinking about adopting a dog together.

One way to tell action verbs from stative verbs is to look at the verb tenses. Because stative verbs usually describe a state of being that is unchanging, they can’t be used in the continuous (or progressive) tenses. Action verbs, on the other hand, can be used in continuous tenses.

Examples: How to use stative verbs
  • I am wanting some food.
  • I want some food.

Another way is to look at the meaning of the sentence and ask yourself if the verb shows what someone does or how someone feels or is. If the verb describes what someone does, it is an action verb. Otherwise, it is probably a stative verb.

Action verbs vs. linking verbs

Action verbs should not be confused with linking verbs, like “be,” “become,” and “seem.” Linking verbs connect the subject of a sentence with a subject complement (i.e., a noun or adjective that describes it).

Unlike action verbs, linking verbs do not describe an action, but add more details about the subject, such as how it looks or tastes.

For example, the sentence “The children seem happy” uses the linking verb “seem” to link the subject (“the children”) with the adjective (“happy”).

Some verbs can be either linking verbs or action verbs. If you are unsure, try replacing the linking verb with a conjugated form of the verb “be.” If the sentence still makes sense, then it is a linking verb.

Examples: Action verbs vs. linking verbs
This pasta tastes delicious.
He tasted the soup and said it was too salty.

You look exhausted.
We all took turns looking through the microscope.

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Worksheet: Action verbs

To test your understanding of action verbs, try the worksheet below. Choose the correct answer for each question.

  1. Which one of the following words is not an action verb?
    • run
    • understand
    • produce
  2. Which one of the following is an action verb?
    • believe
    • kick
    • agree
  3. Choose the correct form to complete the sentence:
    • Are you baking cookies? They_______[smell/are smelling] delicious!
  1. Understand is not an action verb, but a stative verb because we can’t use it in a continuous tense. For example, “I’m not understanding you at all” is incorrect.
  1. Kick is an action verb, while “believe” and “agree” are both stative verbs.
  1. Smell is correct because it is a stative verb and cannot be used in the present continuous.

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If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, common mistakes, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

Frequently asked questions

What are the different types of verbs?

There are many ways to categorize verbs into various types. A verb can fall into one or more of these categories depending on how it is used.

Some of the main types of verbs are:

How can I tell if a word is an action verb?

If you are unsure whether a word is an action verb, consider whether it is describing an action (e.g., “run”) or a state of being (e.g., “understand”). If the word describes an action, then it’s an action verb.

What is the function of an action verb?

The function of an action verb is to describe what the subject of the sentence is doing. For example, in the sentence “You have been working since 7 o’clock this morning,” the action verb “work” shows us what the subject (“you”) has been doing.

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      Kassiani Nikolopoulou

      Kassiani has an academic background in Communication, Bioeconomy and Circular Economy. As a former journalist she enjoys turning complex scientific information into easily accessible articles to help students. She specializes in writing about research methods and research bias.