Level I

§        Understand the three main functions of verbs.

§        Distinguish between transitive and intransitive verbs.


Level II

§        Recognize the functions and specific uses of active- and passive-voice verbs.

§        Understand and apply subjunctive mood correctly.


Level III

§        Use gerunds, infinitives, and participles correctly.

§        Identify and remedy dangling verbal phrases and other misplaced modifiers.

Level I




n    Transitive.  Transitive verbs express an action directed toward a person or thing. Transitive verbs require objects (nouns or pronouns) to complete their meanings.

    The committee developed guidelines for its task.
       (The transitive verb developed directs action
       toward its object guidelines.)

Try Your Skill


What are the transitive verbs and their objects in the following sentences?


1.       McDonald’s gave coupons to the winners.

2.       The winners ate free Big Macs.

3.       Please lay the coupons on the counter.







KEY: 1. gave, coupons   2. ate, Big Macs   3. lay, coupons

n    Intransitive.  Intransitive verbs express action but do not require objects to complete their meanings.


        Marcia walked to her office each day.
        (The intransitive verb walked requires no object.)


Try Your Skill


Pick out the intransitive verbs below.


1.   Greg listened carefully to the proposal.

2.   I worked at that job for nine years.

3.   Before the test Jackie studied very hard.


KEY: 1. listened   2. worked   3. studied




n    Linking Verbs.  Linking verbs “link” or join to subjects words that rename or describe the subject. A noun, pronoun, or adjective that renames the subject is called a complement.


    Betty Ray is the new vice president. (The linking verb is
    joins the complement vice president to the subject.)

Some linking verbs are derived from the verb “to be”: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been. Other linking verbs are words that sense experience: feel, appear, taste, seem, sound, smell, etc.

    The engine sounds good. (The linking verb sounds
    joins the complement good, which is an adjective
    that describes the subject engine.)


Try Your Skill


Identify the linking verbs and complements in these sentences.


1.   The caller could have been Jeremy.

2.   It was he who called yesterday.

3.   Sheila felt bad about the news.

















KEY: 1. L.V. = been, complement = Jeremy   2. was, he   3. felt, bad

Level II


VERB VOICES: Two Categories of Transitive Verbs


n    Active Voice. When the verb expresses an action directed by the subject toward the object of the verb, the verb is in the active voice. Writing that incorporates active-voice verbs is clear, direct, and forceful.

We answer e-mail messages within 24 hours.
DataPro expanded its operations in the Southwest.
Mr. Lee miscalculated current operating expenses.

n    Passive Voice. When the action of a transitive verb is directed toward the subject, the verb is in the passive voice. Passive-voice verbs may be used to disguise the “doer” or agent of an action. They may also be used when indirectness is desired.

     E-mail messages are answered within 24 hours.

          Operations in the Southwest were expanded.
          Current operating expenses were miscalculated.

Try Your Skill


Identify the voices of the verbs in these sentences.


1.   The bank stopped payment on the check last week.

2.   Taylor discovered the losses.

3.   The losses were discovered last week.

4.   Statements were issued for all past-due accounts.

KEY: 1. stopped (active)   2. discovered (active)   3. were discovered (passive)   4. were issued (passive)



Three verb moods express attitude toward a subject:

1.   Indicative Mood: Expresses facts

2.   Imperative Mood: Expresses commands

3.   Subjunctive Mood: Expresses doubts, conjectures
     (guesses), or suggestions.


Subjunctive Mood. Generally, only the subjunctive mood causes difficulty. Learn to use it correctly in the following three constructions:

1.   Doubtful Statement. When a statement that is doubtful
        or contrary to fact is introduced by if, as if, or wish, the
        subjunctive form were is substituted for the indicative
        form was.

           If I were (not was) boss, things would be different.
           He acts as if he were (not was) his father.

        BUT if a statement could possibly be true, use the
        indicative form.

           If Mr. Cavello was at the meeting, I did not see him.

   2.  That Clause. Use the subjunctive verb be when a that
        clause follows a verb expressing a command,
        recommendation, request, suggestion, or requirement.

           Connie Aragon suggested that all budget requests
              be (not are) sent to her.
           The doctor asked that the patient be (not is) confined
              to bed.

3.  Motion. Use a subjunctive verb form when a motion is
        stated in a that clause.

           The treasurer moved that a survey be (not is) made.





Try Your Skill


Choose the correct verb to complete these sentences.


1.   I wish I (was/were) in your position.

2.   If Troy (was/were) here earlier, he did not sign the checks.

3.   The attorney recommended that we (are/be) present at the hearing.

4.   One member moved that the motion (is/be) tabled until next week.

KEY: 1. were   2. was   3. be   4. be

Level III




Three verbals are important: gerunds, infinitives, and participles.


n    Gerunds.  A verb form that ends in ing and is used as a noun is called a gerund.

    Investing is important to our economy.
    (Gerund used as subject.)

    Travis sought a career in marketing.
    (Gerund used as object of preposition.)

In using gerunds, be sure that nouns and pronouns modifying gerunds are possessive.

    We appreciate your (not you) informing us of the

    The auditor questioned Mr. Lee’s (not Mr. Lee) traveling

n    Infinitives. When the present form of a verb is preceded by to, the most basic verb form results: the infinitive.

In using infinitives, do not substitute the conjunction and  for to.

    Try to (not and) arrive early.

    Check to (not and) see that the door is locked.

In using infinitives, avoid split infinitives that result in awkward sentences.

Awkward:    Angela was asked to, as soon as
                   possible, complete the report.

Better:                Angela was asked to complete the
                   report as soon as possible.




Try Your Skill


Choose the correct word to complete these sentences.


1.       We objected to (Jeff/Jeff’s) accepting the shipment without prior approval.

2.       Be sure (to/and) set your alarm.

3.       (a)   We expect to, when all the facts are gathered, make
       a recommendation.
(b)  When all the facts are gathered, we expect to
       make a recommendation.

4.       We appreciate (you/your) not smoking in the building.

5.       I saw (Susan/Susan’s) dancing when she got the contract.

6.       I admired (Susan/Susan’s) dancing in the ballroom competition.


KEY: 1. Jeff’s   2. to   3. b   4. your   5. Susan   6. Susan’s



n    Introductory Verbal Phrases. To avoid dangling modifiers, verbal phrases must be followed by the words they can logically modify (describe).

Illogical:        Locked securely in the vault, only Ms. McKee
                        had access to the jewels.

Logical:                   Locked securely in the vault, the jewels were
                        accessible only to Ms. McKee.

n    Other Verbal Phrases. To avoid dangling modifiers, verbal phrases in other sentence positions must also be placed close to the words they describe.

Illogical:        We saw a four-car accident driving to the office.

Logical:                   Driving to the office, we saw a four-car accident.

Try Your Skill


How could the following sentences be improved?


1.       To receive a certificate, 30 credit units must be completed.

2.       Working overtime, the printing job was finally finished.

3.       His wallet was found by Mr. Irwin lying behind the counter.




1. To receive a certificate, a student (or one) must complete 30 credit units.
2. Working overtime, we finally finished the printing job.
3. Mr. Irwin found his wallet lying behind the counter.