What is a verb? (Key Stage 2)

The word Verbs on a green background


If you’re a parent helping your child with English language learning at Key Stage 2, then it’s important to focus on verbs. Verbs are vital components of English grammar, as they help to convey meaning, express action, and create a sense of time in our sentences. In this article, we will discuss the different types of verbs and verb tenses in English, as well as provide tips to improve verb usage in writing and speaking.

What are Verbs?

Verbs are words that show action or a state of being. They play a critical role in sentences by indicating what the subject is doing or what is happening to it. Verbs can also show a state of being, such as “I am happy” or “The sky is blue.” Examples of verbs in action include “run,” “jump,” “laugh,” “cry,” and “talk.”

Importance of Verbs in English Grammar:

Verbs are essential to communication in English. They help to add depth and clarity to our sentences, making them more meaningful and easier to understand. Without verbs, our language would be incomplete, and we would struggle to express ourselves effectively. Consider the difference between the following sentences:

The dog chased the cat.
The dog and the cat.

In the first sentence, the verb “chased” tells us what the dog is doing, making the sentence complete and informative. In contrast, the second sentence lacks a verb, leaving the reader unsure of what is happening.

Types of Verbs:

There are three main types of verbs in English: action verbs, linking verbs, and helping verbs.

a. Action Verbs:

Action verbs are words that show physical or mental action, such as “walk,” “think,” “write,” or “read.” These verbs can be used to describe what the subject is doing or what is happening to it. For example:

I am walking to the store.
She is thinking about her future.
He wrote a book about his life.
We are reading a novel.

b. Linking Verbs:

Linking verbs are words that connect the subject to the predicate, describing the state of being or condition. They do not show physical or mental action. Examples of linking verbs include “be,” “seem,” “appear,” “become,” and “feel.” For example:

She seems happy.
He appears nervous.
The flowers became wilted.
They feel tired.

c. Helping Verbs:

Helping verbs, also called auxiliary verbs, are used to support or enhance the main verb in a sentence. They help to indicate the tense, mood, or voice of the sentence. Examples of helping verbs include “is,” “am,” “are,” “was,” “were,” “has,” “have,” and “had.” For example:

She is studying for her exam.
He has written a letter to his friend.
They have been travelling for weeks.

Tenses of Verbs:

Verbs also have different tenses, which indicate when the action occurred. There are three main tenses: present, past, and future.

a. Present Tense:

The present tense is used to describe actions that are currently happening or are habitual. For example:

She writes stories for children.
They play soccer every day.

b. Past Tense:

The past tense is used to describe actions that have already happened. For example:

He walked to the park.
They watched a movie last night.

c. Future Tense:

The future tense is used to describe actions that will happen in the future. For example:

She will graduate from college next year.
They are going to visit their grandparents next week.

Tips to Improve Verb Usage in English:

Improving your verb usage can help to make your writing and speaking more effective and engaging.

  1. Use strong, specific verbs:

Using specific verbs can help to add detail and precision to your writing. Instead of using generic verbs like “do” or “make,” try using more descriptive verbs like “accomplish” or “create.”

Example: Instead of saying “I did my homework,” say “I completed my homework.”

  1. Use the correct tense:

Pay attention to the tense of your verbs, as this can affect the meaning of your sentence. Use the past tense to describe past events, the present tense for current actions, and the future tense for upcoming events.

Example: Instead of saying “I will go to the store yesterday,” say “I went to the store yesterday.”

  1. Avoid overusing linking and helping verbs:

While linking and helping verbs are important, overusing them can make your writing sound weak and repetitive. Try using action verbs whenever possible to add more energy to your writing.

Example: Instead of saying “The dog is running,” say “The dog runs.”

  1. Use active voice:

In English, active voice is more direct and engaging than passive voice. Use active voice whenever possible to make your writing more dynamic and exciting.

Example: Instead of saying “The ball was thrown by John,” say “John threw the ball.”

  1. Read and write regularly:

The best way to improve your verb usage is to read and write regularly. Pay attention to how other writers use verbs and try to incorporate their techniques into your own writing.


Verbs are an essential part of English grammar, and it’s important for Key Stage 2 students to understand the different types of verbs and verb tenses. By following these tips to improve verb usage, students can become more effective communicators in English. Encourage your child to practice regularly and have fun with their writing and speaking!

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