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§ 1. According to content, verbs can be described as words denoting actions, the term «actions» embracing the meaning of activity (e.g. to walk, to speak, to play, to study), process (e.g. to sleep, to wait, to live), state (e.g. to be, to like, to know), relation (e.g. to consist, to resemble, to lack) and the like.

According to form, verbs can be described as words that have certain grammatical features that are not shared by other parts of speech, e.g. they have the categories of tense, aspect, voice, etc.

According to function, verbs can be defined as words making up the predicate of the sentence.

§ 2. Verbs can be classified under different heads.

1) According to their meaning verbs can be divided into two groups — terminative and durative verbs.

Terminative verbs imply a limit beyond which the action cannot continue. To put it differently, they have a final aim in view, e.g. to open, to close, to bring, to recognize, to refuse, to break. With the verb to open, for example, that means that after opening the door it is impossible to go on with the action as the door is already open.

Durative verbs do not imply any such limit, and the action can go on indefinitely, e.g. to carry, to live, to speak, to know, to sit, to play.

But as most verbs in English are polysemantic they may be terminative in one meaning and durative in another. For example, to see may have the terminative meaning ‘увидеть’ and the durative meaning ‘видеть’; to know may denote ‘знать’ and ‘узнать’. The meaning of the verb becomes clear from the context. Compare: I saw him at once and I saw his face quite clearly. As will be seen, the distinction between terminative and durative verbs is of great importance as it affects the use of certain tense-aspect-phase forms.

2) According to their relation to the continuous form, English verbs fall into two groups: dynamic verbs, i.e. verbs which admit of the continuous form (a) and stative verbs, i.e. verbs which do not admit of the continuous form (b).

e.g.     a) We were eating dinner when he called.

You’ll find Mother in the kitchen. She is making a cake,

b) I understand what you mean.

I don’t see him in the crowd.

The distinction between dynamic, and stative verbs is fundamental in English grammar, and it is also reflected in a number of other ways than in the continuous form.

It is normal for verbs to be dynamic, and even the minority that are almost always stative can be given a dynamic use on occasion.

The following is the list of most commonly used stative verbs:

a) verbs denoting physical perceptions: to hear, to notice, to see;

b) verbs denoting emotions: to adore, to care for, to detest, to dislike, to hate, to like, to love, to respect;

c) verbs denoting wish: to desire, to want, to wish;

d) verbs denoting mental processes: to admire (= to be of high opinion), to appreciate, to assume, to believe (= to consider), to consider (= to regard),  to doubt, to expect (= to suppose), to feel (= to consider), to imagine, to know, to mind (= to object),  to perceive, to presume, to recall, to recognize, to recollect, to regard, to remember, to suppose, to think (= to consider), to trust, to understand;

e) relational verbs: to apply, to be, to belong, to concern, to consist, to contain, to depend, to deserve, to differ, to equal, to fit, to have, to hold (= to contain), to include, to involve, to lack, to matter, to need, to owe, to own, to possess, to remain, to require, to resemble, to result, to signify, to suffice;

f) some other verbs: to agree, to allow, to appear (= to seem), to astonish, to claim, to consent, to displease, to envy, to fail to do, to feel (intr)l, to find, to forbid, to forgive, to intend, to interest, to keep doing, to manage to do, to mean, to object, to please, to prefer, to prevent, to puzzle, to realize, to refuse, to remind, to satisfy, to seem, to smell (intr),1 to sound (intr),1 to succeed, to suit, to surprise, to taste (intr),1 to tend, to value.

1 As in: The surface feels rough. The song sounds nice. The soup tastes (smells) nice.

3) English verbs are also classified according to the type of object they take. Verbs that do not require any object are called intransitive.

e.g.      We walked across the fields.

Nobody knew where the old man lived.

Verbs that require some kind of object to complete their meaning are called transitive. The objects transitive verbs take may be direct (a), indirect (b) or prepositional (c).

e.g.      a) I swear I’m telling the truth.

b) His mother never gave him advice.

c) Now let’s talk of something sensible.

Polysemantic verbs may be transitive in one meaning and intransitive in another.

e.g.      I didn’t know where to find him as he had changed his address.

I was glad to see that he had not changed at all.

He ran uphill past a block of houses.

She ran the shop quite competently.

§ 3. According to their meaning and function in the sentence English verbs are classified into notional and structural ones.

Notional verbs always have a lexical meaning of their own and can have an independent syntactic function in the sentence.

e.g.      During the war he lived in London.

When a verb is used as a structural word, it may either preserve or lose its lexical meaning. But even if it has a lexical meaning of its own, the latter is of a specific character and the verb cannot have an independent syntactic function in the sentence — it is always closely connected with some other word. Here belong modal verbs and link-verbs.

A modal verb is always accompanied by an infinitive — together they form a modal predicate.

e.g.      The party is at eight. You must dress suitably for it.

I couldn’t do anything under the circumstances.

A link-verb is followed by a predicative; together they form a nominal predicate.

e.g.      He was a middle-aged man. It became very hot by noon.

The hotel remained empty all through the winter. The cottage seemed deserted.

Sometimes a verb is entirely devoid of lexical meaning and is then called an auxiliary verb. Combined with a notional verb it serves to build up analytical forms.

e.g.      We had arranged to meet in the usual place.

Do you know why he said that?

The young man was sitting at the table alone.

Polysemantic verbs may be notional as well as structural words.

e.g.      He is married and has three children (a notional verb used in the meaning ‘to possess’).

I had to reconsider my position (a structural word: a modal verb denoting obligation, part of a modal predicate).

«It has happened now,» he said, «so there’s nothing to do» (a structural word: an auxiliary verb which serves to build up an analytical form).

He looked at me, waiting for the next words ( notional verb meaning ‘glanced’).

He looked quite happy (a structural word: a link-verb meaning ’seemed’).

§ 4. English verbs are characterized by a great variety of forms which can be divided into two main groups according to the function they perform in the sentence: the finite forms and the non-finite forms.

The finite forms have the function of the predicate in the sentence and may also be called the predicative forms.

The non-finite or non-predicative forms can have various other functions; they are used as the predicate of the sentence only by way of exception. These forms are often called the verbals (see «Verbs», §§ 163-254).

The finite forms of the verb have the following grammatical categories:

1) Person and Number. These categories of the verb serve to show the connection between the subject and the predicate of the sentence — the subject agrees with the predicate in person and number. We find three persons (the first, the second, and the third ) and two numbers (the singular and the plural) in finite verbs (see the formation of finite forms, «Verbs», §§ 9, 11, 15, 17, 22, 25, 29, 33, 38, 40, 43, 45).

2) Tense, Aspect and Phase (see «Verbs», § 7).

3) Voice (see «Verbs», §§ 61-63).

4) Mood (see «Verbs», §§ 122-125).

§ 5. The forms that serve to express the above mentioned grammatical categories may be built up in different ways.

We find three basic forms that serve as a foundation for building up all the other forms of the English verb. These forms are:

1) the plain verb stem which is also often referred to as the infinitive without the particle to,

2) the Past Indefinite, and

3) the participle.


According to the way of forming the Past Indefinite and the participle, all verbs can be divided into two classes: regular and irregular verbs.

With regular verbs, the Past Indefinite and the participle are formed by adding the suffix -ed. It is pronounced [d] after vowels and voiced consonants (e.g. played, answered, opened, closed), [t] after voiceless consonants (e.g. looked, passed), and [id] after verbs ending in [t] or [d] (e.g. wanted, wasted, ended, landed).

In writing the following spelling rules should be observed:

1) Verbs ending in -y preceded by a consonant change the -y into -led (e.g. study — studied, envy — envied). But if the -y is preceded by a vowel, it remains unchanged (e.g. play — played, stay — stayed).

2) A final consonant is doubled if it is preceded by a short stressed vowel or if a verb ends in a stressed -er (-ur) (e.g. stopstopped, admit — admitted, occur — occurred, prefer — preferred). But if the preceding vowel is long or unstressed, the final consonant remains single (e.g. limit — limited, perform — performed, conquer — conquered, appear — appeared).

3) A final -l is always doubled in British English (e.g. travel — travelled, quarrel — quarrelled).

All other verbs should be regarded as irregular in modern English. They are a miscellaneous group comprising various patterns

(e.g. sing — sang — sung, write — wrote — written, sendsent — sent, teach — taught — taught, etc.)- Some verbs have a regular form by the side of an irregular one (e.g. learn — learntlearnt and also learn — learned — learned). A number of verbs remain unchanged (e.g. cut — cut — cut, hit — hit — hit). Two verbs take their forms from different roots and are called suppletive systems. They are the verbs to be and to go. (For a complete list of irregular verbs see Appendix.)

§ 6. The forms of the verb which are built up with the help of the above described basic forms may be of two different kinds — synthetic or analytical.

Synthetic forms are built up by a change in the word itself: by means of suffixes (e.g. I work, he works, we worked), by means of vowel change (e.g. I find, I found), and sometimes by combining both means (e.g. I think, I thought).

Analytical forms consist of two components, e.g. He has worked hard. The first component is an auxiliary verb which has no lexical meaning — it expresses only grammatical meaning. The second component is a notional verb which is the bearer of lexical meaning (‘носитель лексического значения’). The auxiliary verb shows that has worked is the third person singular, the Indicative Mood, the Active Voice. But the specific meaning of this particular form, that of the Present Perfect, results only from the combination of both components.

In the analytical form was written (as in: The letter was written yesterday), written is the bearer of lexical meaning; was shows that we are dealing with the third person singular, the Indicative Mood, the Past Indefinite, But again the specific grammatical meaning of this particular form, that of the Passive Voice, is expressed by the whole combination of the auxiliary and the notional verb.

Thus an analytical form consists of two words — a structural word and a notional word — which form a very close, inseparable unit. It functions in English as the form of a single word by the side of synthetic forms (e.g. he works, he has worked, he worked, he was working, he had worked, etc.).

The auxiliary verb itself may be an analytical form (e.g. He has been working. He will be working. The letter has been written, etc.). Such forms may be called complex analytical forms.

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