Newton's cradle in mid swing

Action Verbs

As the name states, action verbs are verbs that show an action the subject is doing. Sometimes action verbs are also called dynamic verbs. Whatever you want to call them, the important thing to remember is that they denote action, as opposed to stating existence or describing a state of being. Let’s look at some action verbs in action to get a better idea of how they work.

The sun slowly climbed over the mountains on the horizon.

Here the verb climbed is showing what the sun is doing. This verb does not just indicate the sun’s existence or describe its state or condition; it shows the sun performing an action.

The dog chomped on his new toy.

The verb chomped shows a specific action the dog is performing in the sentence.

The band students are practicing for their upcoming performance.

This time are practicing is the action verb telling us what the band students are actively doing. Also notice that action verbs often include auxiliary verbs to create different tenses. Here the auxiliary verb are goes along with the present participle practicing to form the present continuous tense. Next let’s look at some verbs that are not action verbs to see the difference.

Mr. Renaldo has been teaching all day.

In this example has and been are both auxiliary verbs working with the present participle teaching to create the present perfect continuous tense.

The kids were tired after a long day at school.

In this sentence the verb is were. Were is not an action verb. It is a linking verb linking the predicate adjective tired to the subject kids. Let’s look at another example.

This cake tastes terrible.

At first glance, tastes might look like an action verb, but it’s another linking verb. The cake itself can’t perform the action of tasting anything because cake is an inanimate object. The verb tastes isn’t describing an action; it’s linking the subject cake to the predicate adjective terrible. Think of it this way: the cake isn’t tasting something; it’s existing in a state of tasting terrible.

You may have also noticed a distinction between action verbs and stative verbs, of which linking verbs are considered a subset, showing conditions and states of being.

Alex enjoys ice cream.

Enjoy is not a dynamic action so much as an emotion or state of being and would therefore be considered a stative verb.

Lynn owns a lot of hockey gear.

Owning something is not a dynamic action. Owns simply indicates possession, so it is a stative verb.