Action verb definition: An action verb is a verb that a subject can complete.
What is an Action Verb?
What does action verb mean? An action verb is type of verb. An action verb is a verb that the subject can do.
If a subject can DO the action, it is an action verb.
Action verbs can be in any verb tense.
Action Verb Examples in Sentences
- He works
- They made
- We responded
- I thought about my response.
Common Action Verbs
- to do
- to make
- to walk
- to have
- to eat
- to say
In all of these example action verbs, the subject can do them.
Transitive, Intransitive Verbs are Action Verbs
Transitive verbs and intransitive verbs are both action verbs.
Transitive verbs “transfer” the action to an object. That is, the subject does something to someone or something else through a transitive verb. Transitive verbs will answer the question “to what?” or “to whom?”
Examples of Transitive Verbs:
- Fred hit Ginger. (Fred hit whom? Ginger.)
- Sarah answered the question. (Sarah answered what? The question.)
Intransitive verbs do not transfer action and will not have direct objects. Intransitive verbs will not answer the question “to what?” or “to whom?”
Examples of Intransitive Verbs:
- The plane landed at the airport.
- “At the airport” does not answer “what?” or “whom?”.
- “landed” is an intransitive verb.
- We swam in the pool.
- “in the pool” does not answer “what?” or “whom?”.
- “swam” is an intransitive verb.
Both transitive and intransitive verbs are action verbs, however. In each example sentence above, the subject is DOING something.
Action vs. Non-action Verbs
Non-action verbs, or stative verbs, do not refer to an action. Rather, they express a state of being, opinion, need, preference, or sense.
Common Non-action Verbs Include:
- to be
- sensory verbs: to look, to smell, to taste, to sound
- to believe
- to consider
- to posses
- to prefer
- to like
- to want
- to need
- to own
Examples in Sentences:
- I own the house.
- She considers her answer.
- We need a new car.
As you can see, there is not action taking place in these sentences. Rather, they are more descriptions of reality, a state of being, a preference, etc.
Action Verbs and Progressive Tenses
Because action verbs are something a subject can do, only action verbs (not non-action verbs) can take on the progressive tense.
Non-action verbs cannot be used in the progressive tense. This is because the progressive tense itself is used for ongoing action. Only an action verb can be used in the progressive tense.
- Incorrect: He is wanting dinner.
- Incorrect: They are seeming friendly.
- Incorrect: She is needing a new phone.
Rather, non-action verbs use the simple present tense.
- Correct: He wants dinner.
- Correct: They seem friendly.
- Correct: She needs a new phone.
Summary: What are Action Verbs?
Define action verb: The definition of action verb is a verb that expresses the action of the subject; a verb that does something and the subject can complete.
- Action verbs are any verb that a subject can do.
- Action verbs can be transitive or intransitive verbs.
- Additionally, only action verbs (not non-action verbs) can be used in the progressive tenses.