What Are Action Verbs? List And Examples

Lights, camera, action! It takes a lot of hard work to make a movie. Directors tell everyone what to do. Actors memorize all of their lines. The crew makes all the scenery and props. Camera operators film all the exciting scenes and dramatic moments. Stunt people perform dangerous antics. The producer manages the entire project. Everybody has a job that they must do.

Don’t worry, we aren’t making a movie. Instead, we are going to learn a bit more about all the exciting words that we used to describe the work that goes on behind the scenes. All of these words are verbs, which are used to express actions or states of beings. While there are many types of verbs that we use in sentences and clauses, we are going to shine the spotlight on the verbs that really want to be action stars: action verbs.

What is an action verb?

An action verb is a verb that expresses something that a person, animal, object, or process in nature (such as a storm) can do rather than expressing a state of being. What exactly does this mean? Let’s look at this example:

  • Andre plays rugby.

In this sentence, the verb plays expresses an action that Andre does: Andre physically plays the sport of rugby. That is why plays is an action verb.

Action verbs are often contrasted and should not be confused with two other types of verbs: stative verbs and linking verbs. Unlike action verbs, stative verbs express states of being or conditions. Stative verbs are typically used to provide more information about the subject rather than say what the subject does. For example, the sentence The skunks smells really bad uses the stative verb smells to say what kind of odor the skunk has and the sentence Paula hates pineapple on pizza expresses an opinion that Paula has. These sentences both use stative verbs to provide more information about the subject rather than express an action that the subject did.

Grammatically, linking verbs are used differently than both stative and action verbs. A linking verb “serves as a connecting link or establishes an identity between subject and complement.” For example, the sentence The blanket is green uses the linking verb is to link the subject the blanket with the adjective green that provides information about the subject. The following sentences show the difference between action and linking verbs:

  • The children happily opened their gifts. (In this sentence, opened is an action verb.)
  • Tomorrow is Thursday. (In this sentence, is is a linking verb. The verb is linking the subject with a subject complement rather than expressing an action.)

Study the differences between action and linking verbs (and more) in our guide on the types of verbs.

It is possible for some verbs to be used as either action or stative verbs depending on meaning or context. For example, the following two sentences use the verb think as an action and stative verb:

  • Nicole thinks that Freddy is a hard worker.
  • Albert is thinking of funny jokes to tell his nieces.

In the first sentence, thinks is a stative verb that expresses an opinion that Nicole has. In the second sentence, the verb thinking is expressing a mental action that Albert is doing. Lots of verbs have multiple meanings, which means it is a good idea to stop and think—like Albert—for a little bit about what the verb is actually referring to in order to determine if it is an action or stative verb.

List of action verbs

There are many examples of action verbs. Action verbs come in two main types: verbs that refer to physical actions and verbs that refer to mental actions.

Physical action verbs

Generally speaking, we say that an action verb describes a physical action if it refers to an action that requires movement of bodies or objects. Here are examples of action verbs that refer to physical actions:

  • ask, bend, climb, drive, eat, frolic, go, hang, inch, jiggle, kick, leap, mumble, nod, open, pull, quake, run, swim, tumble, unlock, vibrate, walk, yell, zip

Mental action verbs

Action verbs that refer to mental actions are a bit trickier. At first glance, many of these verbs may not seem like action verbs at all. However, all of these verbs can still refer to things that a person can do. Rather than physical activities, these verbs refer to actions that you can use your brain to do. It may not surprise you to learn that many of these verbs can also be used as stative verbs to express states of being or conditions:

  • consider, dream, imagine, ponder, think, remember, forget, memorize, learn, doubt, condemn, analyze, review, dread, worry, fear, fantasize, appreciate, evaluate

Action verb examples

Let’s look at sentences that use action verbs. Remember, an action verb expresses something that a person or thing can do, either physically or mentally. As you read each example, consider if each action verb is referring to a physical or mental action.

  • I ride my bicycle to work.
  • The teacher asked Zach for the answer, but he forgot what it was.
  • Our grandparents will visit us next week, so we are preparing the guest room.
  • The art collector has spent millions of dollars on fabulous masterpieces.
  • The cunning thieves formulated a plan to steal the diamonds.
  • The angry queen exiled the corrupt minister from the country.
  • Brianna was smiling because the university accepted her application.
  • Lord Horatio passionately argued that the government should lower taxes, but Duchess Cecilia fiercely rebutted his position.

Action verbs in grammar vs. résumés

Now you know what an action verb means when we’re speaking about grammar. But the phrase action verbs is also used in the process of writing and editing résumés, and it refers to writing that is vivid and effective. A résumé filled with action verbs uses verbs that are powerful enough to convey not only what an applicant did on the job, but also how they excelled at tasks and on-the-job challenges. The verbs are both effective and specific. To learn more about writing a résumé take a look at our comprehensive list of the most effective action verbs to include.

Action verb rules & best practices

Now back to grammar: by now you’ve realized we use many different action verbs when we speak or write sentences. An action verb is a specific type of verb, but it follows other general rules of verbs. For example, action verbs can be used in the active or passive voice and can be used in all 12 of the verb tenses.

Let’s put your understanding of action verbs to the test. Carefully read each of the following sentences and see if you can tell if the bolded verb is or is not an action verb. (Check your answers below!)

  1. The busy squirrels quickly climbed the tree.
  2. That idea sounds foolish.
  3. Romeo loves Juliet.
  4. Tabitha remembered the right answer.
  5. My mom remembers every bad decision I make.

Take action with Grammar Coach™

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Answers: 1. Action verb 2. Not an action verb (linking verb) 3. Not an action verb (stative verb) 4. Action verb (Remembered is an action verb because it refers to a mental action that Tabitha did.) 5. Not an action verb (Remembers is a stative verb that is referring to the mom’s ability to retain information for future use.)

Do you know what transitive verbs are? Take a look at them here.

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