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”).
You can download our list of common action verbs in the format of your choice below.
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).
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.
Some action verbs can act as both transitive and intransitive verbs.
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).
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.
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.
Worksheet: Action verbs
To test your understanding of action verbs, try the worksheet below. Choose the correct answer for each question.
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