Parts of Speech: Verbs

Recognition of Verbs in Their Various Forms

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Review of Parsing

     In addition to having a meaning of its own, every word also contributes to the larger meaning of the sentence it belongs to by playing some function within that structure of thought. The word's form, position, and type indicate what function it is playing, and there are only a limited number of functions. Thus, when the word "cough" occurs after "the" or "a" it can be the subject (that is, the actor or agent) of an event: "The cough exploded." Or it can be an object (the recipient of action): "He suppressed the cough." However, if it comes before another word that can play those roles in a sentence, its position demotes it to the status of an adjective or descriptor: "The cough medicine gave him a headache," where "medicine," and not "cough," is the subject, the thing about which we are making a statement. Finally, when "cough" changes form to indicate differences in time (as in "coughed" or "will cough"), it is what we call a verb, the one essential word in any sentence.
     To write effective sentences and to punctuate them correctly, we need to be able to break a sentence down into its parts. This activity is called analysis. When we combine analysis with explaining the function of each part, we are "parsing" a sentence. By telling us what makes a sentence work (or not work), parsing gives us control of it.
     The form of a word, its function, its position, and its type (or class) cannot each be discussed separately, for each aspect of any word affects the other aspects. However, we must begin somewhere, so grammarians typically begin with word classes: nouns and pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and articles (or determiners). This lesson concerns verbs, for every sentence contains a verb, even if there are no other words in it (as in "Go").
     For the purposes of this lesson, a verb is a word that changes form to indicate a change in time.