One of the first things that we teach students who are learning to write sentences is that every sentence must have two things: a subject and a verb. (Technically, I teach that a sentence must have FIVE things—CAVES: Capital, All Makes Sense, Verb, End Mark, Subject.) Verbs are important! Action verbs are the forward motion of sentences. They persuade in persuasive writing; inform in research-based writing; and entertain in story writing. They do all of this in spite of one man, Michel Thaler, writing a 233-page French novel in 2004 that did not contain a single verb. (And I would say it also did not contain a single sentence! 😉 ).
I love mnemonics–tricks, songs, jingles, rhymes….anything that helps students learn! I love them even more when they have something to do with the purpose for learning that topic or the topic itself. Like in the case of prepositions–songs can help you learn about three dozen of the over 200 prepositions–but Check Sentences can help you learn 150 or more because Check Sentence have to do with the function of prepositions. (Learn more here)
Earlier I said that we teach two main categories of verbs—action and Be a Helper, Link verbs (BHL verbs).
There is another “category” of verbs that you should learn, however. That is the group of verbs (also used as other parts of speech) known as the infinitive.
We teach infinitives as verbs (and early on) for a couple of reasons:
- While they might act like other parts of speech (i.e. modifying, being the sentence’s main subject, etc.) at times, more often than not, they act like verbs.
- They can describe what a subject is doing: The girl decided to write the letter.
- They can have BHL verbs with them: She had to take her medicine.
- They can have adverbs with them (when they are comprised of action verbs): She wanted to write beautifully.
- They can have direct objects with them (when they are comprised of action verbs): The girl wanted to eat chocolates.
- They can have predicate adjectives with them (when they are comprised of BHL verbs): She wanted to be careful.
They can have predicate nominatives with them (when they are comprised of BHL verbs): She wanted to be an actress.
Tomorrow—more on infinitives.