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Verb vs. Action Verb — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Urooj Arif — Published on April 17, 2024
A verb is a word that describes an action, state, or occurrence in a sentence, while an action verb specifically denotes physical or mental actions performed by the subject.
Verb vs. Action Verb — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Verb and Action Verb


Key Differences

Verbs are a fundamental part of speech in English, encompassing a wide range of words that describe actions, states of being (linking verbs), or occurrences. They are essential for forming sentences and conveying actions or states. Action verbs are a subset of verbs that specifically indicate actions taken by the subject, whether they are visible actions like 'run' or 'write', or mental actions like 'think' or 'consider'.
Every sentence must have a verb to be complete, and that verb can be an action verb or a different type of verb, such as a linking verb, which connects the subject to a subject complement. For example, in the sentence "She is a teacher," 'is' is a linking verb, not an action verb, as it describes a state of being rather than an action.
Action verbs can be further classified into two types: transitive verbs, which require a direct object to receive the action, and intransitive verbs, which do not. For instance, in "She reads a book," 'reads' is a transitive action verb, while in "He runs quickly," 'runs' is an intransitive action verb.
The distinction between verbs and action verbs is crucial for understanding how to construct sentences that clearly articulate the intended actions or states. Identifying action verbs can also be important in writing, particularly in active voice, where the subject of the sentence performs the action of the verb.
All action verbs are verbs, but not all verbs are action verbs. This distinction helps in understanding the role of the verb in a sentence and in choosing the correct verb form to convey the desired meaning, whether it is an action, a state of being, or an occurrence.

Comparison Chart


A word that describes an action, state, or occurrence.
A verb that specifically indicates a physical or mental action performed by the subject.


Action verbs, linking verbs, helping verbs.
Transitive and intransitive action verbs.


Run, is, seem, have.
Jump (transitive: "jump the hurdle"), think (intransitive: "think carefully").


Essential for sentence construction, indicating action, occurrence, or state.
Indicates specific actions taken by the subject, important for active voice.

Requirement for Objects

Depends on the type of verb (transitive verbs require an object, intransitive verbs do not).
Transitive action verbs require a direct object; intransitive action verbs do not.


Fundamental part of speech, necessary for forming sentences.
Essential for expressing actions, enhances clarity and dynamism in writing.

Examples in Sentences

"She seems happy." (seems - linking verb)
"She writes a letter." (writes - transitive action verb)

Compare with Definitions


Expresses action or state.
She dances beautifully. (action) / He is tall. (state)

Action Verb

Can signify mental actions.
He believes in fairness.


Includes several types.
She has finished her work. (has - helping verb)

Action Verb

May require a direct object.
She kicks the ball. (kicks - requires object 'ball')


Can be a main or auxiliary verb.
She is running fast. ('is' as auxiliary verb)

Action Verb

Vital for active voice.
The chef cooked a meal. (cooked - action verb in active voice)


Required for complete sentences.
They laughed loudly.

Action Verb

Describes physical actions.
She swims every morning.


Can indicate occurrences.
It rained yesterday.

Action Verb

Can function without an object.
He sleeps peacefully. (sleeps - does not require an object)


The part of speech that expresses existence, action, or occurrence in most languages.


Any of the words belonging to this part of speech, as be, run, or conceive.


A phrase or other construction used as a verb.


(grammar) A word that indicates an action, event, or state of being.
The word “speak” is an English verb.


A word which affirms or predicates something of some person or thing; a part of speech expressing being, action, or the suffering of action.

Common Curiosities

What role do helping verbs play alongside action verbs?

Helping verbs modify the main verb (which can be an action verb) to create different tenses, moods, or voices, adding nuance to the action described.

Are all verbs in the imperative mood action verbs?

Typically, yes, because the imperative mood commands or requests the performance of an action, e.g., "Run!" or "Think carefully!"

How do you identify an action verb in a sentence?

An action verb can be identified by asking what action the subject of the sentence is performing. If the verb indicates a physical or mental action, it is an action verb.

Can the same action verb be both transitive and intransitive?

Yes, many action verbs can be used both transitively and intransitively depending on whether they affect a direct object, e.g., "She sings a song" (transitive) vs. "She sings beautifully" (intransitive).

What is the difference between a strong action verb and a weak verb in writing?

Strong action verbs convey actions vividly and precisely, making writing more engaging and impactful, while weak verbs are less specific and can make descriptions feel vague or passive.

Can a verb be both an action and a linking verb?

Yes, some verbs can function as both depending on the context, such as 'appear', which can describe an action or link the subject to a complement.

How does the presence of a direct object affect the classification of an action verb?

The presence of a direct object helps classify an action verb as transitive because it shows that the action is being performed on an object.

Why is understanding action verbs important?

Understanding action verbs is crucial for crafting clear and dynamic sentences, particularly in active voice writing, which emphasizes the subject performing the action.

What is the significance of action verbs in resume writing?

In resumes, action verbs are used to concisely describe responsibilities and achievements, making the candidate's experiences appear more dynamic and impactful.

Do action verbs always describe visible actions?

No, action verbs can describe both visible actions (e.g., "run", "jump") and mental actions (e.g., "think", "believe"), capturing a broad range of activities.

Can a sentence have more than one action verb?

Yes, a sentence can have multiple action verbs, especially in compound sentences or when listing multiple actions performed by the subject, e.g., "She danced, sang, and laughed at the party."

Why is it important to match the subject and action verb in number?

Matching the subject and action verb in number (singular or plural) ensures subject-verb agreement, which is crucial for grammatical correctness and clarity of the sentence.

Are there any exceptions to action verbs requiring a direct object for transitive verbs?

While transitive verbs typically require a direct object to complete their meaning, some verbs can be transitive in one context and intransitive in another, without changing the nature of the action being described.

How do action verbs contribute to the mood of a story?

Action verbs can significantly influence the mood of a story by creating a sense of urgency, calm, excitement, or suspense, depending on the verbs chosen to describe the actions taking place.

How do tense changes affect action verbs?

Tense changes affect the form of action verbs to indicate the time of the action, showing whether it happens in the past, present, or future, and can also indicate the action's completeness or duration.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

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