Teaching and Learning Verbs

Verbs are doing words and some of the most important words in the English language. Every sentence includes at least one of them and they convey a physical action, a mental action or a state of being.

Understanding them is key to creating a solid foundation on which to build a love of language, and helps children to construct interesting, exciting, action-filled sentences of their own.

In this blog, we look at verbs in more detail, at their different tenses, the types of verbs and how they always agree with the subject of the sentence. Throughout, we’ll be referencing Activities and Learn Screens from EducationCity that can help your students first grasp the concepts, and then put them into practice. (You’ll see the Content ID numbers beneath each screenshot. All you need to do is pop these numbers into the Search bar once you’ve logged into EducationCity.)

Identifying Verbs

Verbs, as explained above, are action words and explain what the subject of the sentence is doing. Here are some examples:

Stig was running away.

Sten and Klara eat jam doughnuts every morning.

Manu seized his bag and left immediately.

‘Was running’, ‘eat’, ‘seized’ and ‘left’ are the action parts of the sentences – telling you, the reader, what the children are doing – so they are the verbs.

This Activity on EducationCity is great for helping children identify which part of the sentence is the verb.

Hot and Spicy Activity #25728
Hot and Spicy Activity #25728

Verb Tenses

Verbs change depending on the tense of the sentence, for example, if the action is happening now, happened in the past or is yet to happen (future).

When verbs alter, sometimes they follow a regular pattern; some verbs, however, are irregular and need to be memorised. Below is an example of two verbs and how they form some of their tenses:

Sample verbs in different tenses
Sample verbs in different tenses

EducationCity has lots of Learn Screens and Activities focused on tenses. A selection are provided below:

As well as having a tense, sentences can be written in either the active or passive voice.

In active sentences, which are the most common, the person doing the action is the subject of the sentence and the other noun is usually the object.

An example of the subject, verb and object in a sentence

In passive sentences, the person receiving the action is the subject of the sentence. The person doing the action (agent) is usually at the end of the sentence following ‘by’. The passive form is generally used if you do not know who is doing the action or if you don’t want to mention them. It is often featured in formal language.

An example of a passive sentence
An example of a passive sentence

EducationCity’s Grammar Adventure 1 Learn Screen explores the active and passive voice, and asks students to change one to another.

Grammar Adventure 1 Learn Screen #34989

Verb Types

In addition to giving information by their tense, there are some special verbs that express ideas like ability, possibility, permission or obligation.

These are known as modal verbs, and include various forms of ‘can’, ‘could’, ‘may’, ‘might’, ‘ought to’, ‘shall’, ‘should’, ‘will’ and ‘would’.

An example would be:

Sten might do his homework later.

The might indicates that it is possible that Sten completes his homework later on.

Modal verbs are explored within our Grammar Adventure 4a Learn Screen below:

Grammar Adventure 4a Learn Screen #34993

It is also important that children understand that ‘to be’ is a verb, although it is not technically ‘doing’ anything. ‘Am’, ‘is’ and ‘be’ all relate to states of being and are very important in language.

Subject and Verb Agreement

Whenever using verbs, children need to understand that the correct form of the verb should be used, which agrees with the subject. If the subject is singular, the verb should be too; if the subject is plural, the verb that follows should be in plural form too.

An example is given below:

The school was friendly. (‘School’ is singular, ‘was’ is the past tense in singular form.)

The children ride their bikes. (The ‘children’ is plural, ‘ride’ is the present tense in plural form.)

Children very often take this on board naturally as their language develops, but some students may need support with correct usage.

There are several activities on EducationCity that allow students to practise these, including the Adventure Holiday and Stig on Tour Activities below:

Powerful Verbs

The final point of this blog has to be on powerful verbs. At the very beginning, we mentioned that verbs help us to write interesting, exciting, action-filled narrative, but to do this, we need to ensure we are selecting the verbs we use carefully. ‘Went’, ‘said’ and ‘walks’ are all very over-used in the primary school classroom, when so much more can be expressed by ‘staggered’, ‘yelled’ or ‘tottered’. Encouraging your students to review and revise their work to include more descriptive synonyms makes for much more engaging stories.

This process of replacing boring verbs with less ordinary ones can be introduced with EducationCity’s Mystery Mansion Activity. This looks at ordinary words and seeks to find synonyms. It’s also a good idea to read students’ stories aloud to the class once in a while, so that they can hear for themselves how captivating stories based on interesting, dynamic verbs are, compared to flat ones based on ordinary, everyday verbs.

Mystery Mansion Activity #25710

We hope you check out some of EducationCity’s resources based around verbs. To access them, all you need is either their name or Content ID number. If you don’t already have a subscription with EducationCity, you can access our resources by simply taking a free trial.