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12.1: Verbs and Sentence Types

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Lesson Objectives

  • Distinguish between the subject, verb, direct object and indirect object of a sentence.
  • Identify be verbs.
  • Identify linking verbs.
  • Identify intransitive verbs.
  • Identify transitive verbs.

To Be

When a form of be (am, is, are, was, were) serves as the main verb of a sentence, an adverbial of time or place, an adjectival, or a noun phrase will follow it. The following are the three sentence patterns that occur with the be verb:

For definitions and examples of the adverb, adjective, and noun phrase, see Chapter 11.

1. (subject)+(be verb)+(adverbial of time or place)

Subject Be Adverbial of time or place
The children Were Upstairs
The meeting Is Tomorrow
The nutmeg Is On the shelf

Prepositional phrases often take the form of adverbials, as seen in the third example. For a definition and examples of prepositional phrases, see Chapter 12, Lesson 2.

2. (subject)+(be verb)+(subject complement [adjective])

Subject Be Subject complement [adj.]
The children Were Excited
The meeting Is Boring
Jacob Is In a bad mood

Sometimes a prepositional phrase, in the form of an idiomatic expression, will fill the role of subject complement, as seen in the third example

3. (subject)+(be verb)+(subject complement [noun phrase])

Subject Be Subject complement [NP]
The children Were Angels
The meeting Will be A success

Review Questions

Identify the subject and be verb of each sentence—as well as the adverbial, subject complement [adj.], or subject complement [noun phrase].

  1. My neighbor is uncommonly thrifty.
  2. The Oldsmobile was on its last legs
  3. Celia is the CEO of a large multinational corporation.
  4. The last performance of Death of a Salesman was on Friday.
  5. The plumber will be here soon.


We define linking verbs as all verbs (other than be) that are completed by a subject complement—an adjectival or a noun phrase that describes or identifies the subject. Subject complements describe or redefine the subject. Common linking verbs include seem, look, smell, sound, and become.

1. (subject)+(linking verb)+(subject complement [NP or adj.])

Subject Linking Verb Subject Complement [NP or adj.]
The children Became Restless
The soup Smells Delicious
Marcel Looks Like a businessman

Noun phrases that act as subject complements are often preceded by the preposition “like,” as seen in the third example.

Review Questions

Identify the subject, linking verb, and subject complement (noun phrase or adjective) of each sentence.

  1. The taxi driver seemed like a nice man.
  2. The inside of the bakery smells delicious.
  3. On that day, Francis became a criminal.
  4. It sounds like a good idea!
  5. Ms. Yeziersky became a schoolteacher.


An intransitive verb has no complement (noun phrase or adjectival). Though an intransitive verb requires nothing more than a subject, it is often accompanied by adverbial information. In fact, a handful of intransitive verbs, such as reside, sneak, and glance, require an adverbial of place in order to be complete.

1. (subject)+(intransitive verb)

Subject Intransitive
The children Wept
My dog Sleeps

2. (subject)+(intransitive verb)+(optional adverbial)

Subject Intransitive Optional adverbial
The children Played On the jungle gym
The meeting Concluded Without a hitch
My dog Snores Loudly

Review Questions

Identify the subject, intransitive verb, and optional adverbial (if present) of each sentence.

  1. We went to the bowling alley on Friday.
  2. Mr. Billingsworth laughed at the antics of the class clown.
  3. The ambassadors from Albania arrived.
  4. Rosa walked to the park.
  5. The party of boy scouts rested.


All transitive verbs have a subject and take one or more complements. Furthermore, all transitive verbs have one complement in common—the direct object, which receives the action of the verb.

1. (subject)+(transitive verb)+(direct object [NP])

Subject Transitive Direct object [NP]
The children Kicked The ball
My dog Chews The furniture
The professor Answered The question

The second transitive-verb pattern includes a second complement, the indirect object. We traditionally define the indirect object as the recipient of the direct object.

2. (subject)+(transitive verb)+(direct object [NP])+(indirect object [NP])

Subject Transitive Indirect object [NP] Direct object [NP]
The students Bought Their teacher A present
My dog Brought Me The tennis ball
The professor Called Himself A genius

Transitive verbs take object complements. Similar to subject complements in be verbs and linking verbs, object complements describe or redefine their object. Object complements take the form of noun phrases [NP] and adjectives.

3. (subject)+(transitive verb)+(direct object [NP])+(object complement [NP])

Subject Transitive Direct object [NP] Object complement [NP]
The child Named Her cat Charlie
I Make My living The hard way

4. (subject)+(transitive verb)+(direct object [NP])+(object complement [adj.])

Subject Transitive Direct object [NP] Object complement [NP]
The children Painted The fence White
The teacher Made The test Easy

Review Questions

Identify the subject, transitive verb, and direct object of the sentence. If applicable, identify the indirect object or object complement as well.

  1. Mrs. Nakamura considers her hometown beautiful.
  2. Before setting out on the road trip, I put air in my tires.
  3. Joyce gave her father a gift card for Christmas.
  4. He hadn’t broken his promise.
  5. The voters elected Mr. Thompson mayor.

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