Functions of Verbs in the English Language

Verbs and verb phrases perform nine main grammatical functions within sentences in the English language. Both native English-speaking and ESL students must learn the nine functions to fully and correctly use verbs and verb phrases in both spoken and written English. The first five functions of verbs and verb phrases are:

  1. Predicate
  2. Noun phrase modifier
  3. Adjective phrase complement
  4. Subject
  5. Subject complement

Verbs are traditionally defined as “action or state of being words.” Verb phrases are defined as phrases that consist of one or more verbs and any number of objects, modifiers, and complements including noun phrases, verb phrases, adverb phrases, and prepositional phrases.

Verbs as Predicates

The first grammatical function that verbs and verb phrases can perform is the predicate of clauses. A clause is defined as consisting of a subject and a predicate. For example, the following italicized verbs and verb phrases function as predicates:

  • My puppy drinks milk.
  • am studying linguistics.
  • The vase was broken by the cat.
  • We have eaten all the pie.
  • The students will finish their homework.
  • She will have earned her degree in May.
  • Those children have been being bad.

Verbs as Noun Phrase Modifiers

The second grammatical function that verbs and verb phrases can perform is the noun phrase modifier. Noun phrase modifiers are defined as words and phrases that describe a noun or noun phrase. For example, the following italicized verbs and verb phrases function as noun phrase modifiers:

  • The woman reading the book just yelled at me.
  • My dog is the puppy chewing on the rawhide.
  • I saw the man sleeping on the bus.
  • Do you have a book to read in the car?
  • The food to eat is on the table.
  • The most recent news reported by the anchor made me sad.

Verbs as Adjective Phrase Complements

The third grammatical function that verbs and verb phrases in the form of infinitives can perform is the adjective phrase complement. Adjective phrase complements are defined as phrases and clauses that complete the meaning of an adjective phrase. For example, the following italicized verbs and verb phrases function as adjective phrase complements:

  • You should be excited to study grammar.
  • My children are sad to see their grandparents leave.
  • Your professor is curious to know why you dropped her class.
  • The students are eager to learn about current events.
  • His coworker is frightened to ask for a promotion.
  • I am irrationally afraid to fly.

Verbs as Subjects

The fourth grammatical function that verbs and verb phrases can perform is the subject of clauses. Only verb phrases in the form of present participles and infinitives can function as subjects. For example, the following italicized verbs and verb phrases function as subjects:

  • Swimming is good exercise.
  • Reading books is educational.
  • Your eating health food impresses me.
  • To err is human.
  • To forget to wear pants is embarrassing.
  • To never visit the library disappoints librarians.

Traditional grammars generally use the term gerund for present participles that perform nominal functions, or the functions prototypically filled by nouns and noun phrases.

Verbs as Subject Complements

The fifth grammatical function that verbs and verb phrases can perform is the subject complement. Subject complements are defined as words and phrases that follow a copular verb and refer back to the subject. Predicate nominatives and predicate adjectives are both subject complements. Only verb phrases in the form of present participles and infinitives can function as subject complements. For example, the following italicized verbs and verb phrases function as subject complements:

  • My favorite pastime is reading.
  • His hobbies are writing and editing articles.
  • Her weekend chores are washing the dishes and cleaning the bathroom.
  • My job is to repair damaged books.

The first five functions of verbs and verb phrases in English are predicate, noun phrase modifier, adjective phrase complement, subject, and subject complement. Both English-speaking and ESL students must learn the first five functions to use verbs and verb phrases properly in both spoken and written forms of English.

source : http://heather-marie-kosur.suite101.com/english-verbs-and-verb-phrases-a106135

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