Verbs for Kids

by Craig Shrives

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What Are Verbs? (for Kids)

Verbs are "action" words. Here are five sentences with the verbs highlighted:
  • The cat chased the mouse.
  • Simon jumped in the pool.
  • Jane swims every morning.
  • My uncle drives a bus.
  • The mayor's daughters will sing after the break.
Notice how the verbs describe actions. In these examples, the verbs all describe physical actions. They tell us what the subject of the sentence is doing.

Get Smart about Verbs

Verbs can also describe mental actions or even actions about just existing (called "states of being" verbs).

Verbs describing mental actions:

  • John guessed the right number.
  • Claire thinks she is clever.
  • Mark will consider your idea.

Verbs describing just "existing" ("states of being" verbs):

  • Grimaldi was at the party.
  • Aliens exist in far away galaxies.
  • The mascot will be at the game.
verbs for kids
Verbs are very important. Every sentence has a verb.

Verb Tense

Look again at the examples above. Did you notice that each one describes an action from the past, the present, or the future? This is called the tense of a verb.

So, as well as telling us what the action is, a verb also tells us whether the action was in the past, present, or future.

The verb "to chase" in all three tenses:

  • The cat chased the mouse.
  • ("Chased" is the past tense.)
  • The cat chases the mouse.
  • ("Chases" is the present tense.)
  • The cat will chase the mouse.
  • ("Will chase" is the future tense.)

The verb "to jump" in all three tenses:

  • Simon jumped in the pool.
  • Simon jumps in the pool.
  • Simon will jump in the pool.

The verb "to swim" in all three tenses:

  • Jane swam yesterday morning.
  • Jane swims every morning.
  • Jane will swim tomorrow morning.
  • (Notice that the future tense requires the help of "will.")
verb tense for kids

Auxiliary Verbs

So far, we have looked only at the simple tenses. As you learn more about tense, you will see other tenses. Just like the simple future tense ("will chase," "will jump," "will swim"), the other tenses also need helping verbs (like "will"). These "helping verbs" are more commonly called auxiliary verbs.

The most common auxiliary verbs are:
  • was, were (for the past tense)
  • am, is, are (for the present tense)
  • will be (for the future tense)

Three examples of auxiliary verbs used with the main verb "to drive":

  • My uncle was driving a bus when he met my auntie.
  • My uncle is driving a bus around Europe.
  • My uncle will be driving a bus to Paris next year.
All the auxiliary verbs are in bold. Did you notice that "to drive" changed to "driving" in every example?

Three examples with auxiliary verbs used with the main verb "to sing":

  • The mayor's daughters were singing before the break.
  • The mayor's daughters are singing now.
  • The mayor's daughters will be singing after the break.
Did you notice that "to sing" changed to "singing" in every example?

Get Smart about Verbs

  • Words ending "-ing" formed from verbs are called present participles.
  • When a verb is preceded with "to" (e.g., "to drive," "to sing"), it is called the infinitive form of the verb.
  • The main verb and any accompanying auxiliary verbs are called a verb phrase. (The highlighted texts in all the examples on this page are verb phrases.)

More about Auxiliary Verbs

After "was," "were," "am," "is," "are," and "will be" (all from the verb to be), the next most common auxiliary verb is the verb to have. It has the following forms:
  • had (for the past tense)
  • has, have (for the present tense)
  • will have (for the future tense)

Three examples with the auxiliary verb "to have" and the main verb "to drive":

  • My uncle had driven a bus before he became an astronaut.
  • My uncle has driven for twenty years.
  • My uncle will have driven for thirty years when he retires.
Did you notice that "to drive" changed to "driven" in every example?

Get Smart about Verbs

  • Words used with "to have" to form verb tense are called past participles.
  • (Past participles usually end "-ed," "-d," "-t," "-en," or "-n.")
  • The word in a verb phrase that tells you whether the action was in the past, present, or future is called a finite verb. The participles are called non-finite verbs.
    • The mayor's daughters were singing before the break.
    • ("Were" tells us the action was in the past, so "were" is the finite verb. The present participle "singing" is a non-finite verb.)
    • My uncle will have driven for thirty years when he retires.
    • ("Will have" tells us the action will be in the future, so "will have" is the finite verb. The past participle "driven" is a non-finite verb.)

Modal Auxiliary Verbs

There is another type of auxiliary verb called a modal auxiliary verb. The main modal verbs are:
  • can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, and must.

Three example sentences with modal auxiliary verbs (in bold):

  • The cat might chase the mouse.
  • ("Might" helps to express possibility.)
  • Simon must jump in the pool.
  • ("Must" helps to express obligation.)
  • Jane can swim for hours.
  • ("Can" helps to express ability.)

Linking Verbs

When a verb links the subject of a sentence to a description, it is called a linking verb.

Three example sentences with linking verbs (highlighted):

  • The cat is hungry.
  • ("Is" links "The cat" to "hungry.")
  • My ancestor was a pirate.
  • ("Was" links "My ancestor" to "a pirate.")
  • Your dog smells awful.
  • ("smells" links "The dog" to "awful.")
Here is a video summarizing this lesson on verbs:

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See Also

nouns for kids nouns for adult learners regular verbs irregular verbs

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