Grammar-QuizzesClausesClause Structure › A Verb Phrase (Clause Structure)

A Verb Phrase

Recognize its parts



verbA verb:

  • expresses an action (eat, walk, drive, breathe), an occurrence (happen, become), or a state of being (be, appear, seem). A verb has lexical meaning (one or more that can be found in a dictionary.)
  • functions as the predicate. It completes the idea about the subject in regards to what it does or is.
  • takes form as plain form (walk), or an inflected (suffixed) form: past (walked), participle form (walked), and 3rd person plural suffix (walks)She walks. She becomes stronger. She seems healthier.

verb groupA verb group:

  • functions as the predicate and expresses the action in the clause.
  • takes form as an auxiliary (is, has, will) or combination of auxiliaries (has been, is being, will have been) and a plain form (walk), present participle (walking) or past participle verb form (walked).  She may walk. She has been walking. The dog has been walked.
  • expresses more than just the action of the verb. An auxiliary verb in a verb group can express:
    • aspect—how the activity  relates to time (ongoing, continuous, repetitive, habitual) is walking, has walked, had been walking.
    • mood—opinion, prediction, or inference about the action in the clause we may walk, we should walk, we will walk.
    • voice—whether the focus or interest is on the agent (active verb) or the patient (passive verb) in regard to the action taken. She walked her dog.  The dog was walked twice a day.

verb phraseA verb phrase:

  • completes the idea about the subject in regards to what it does or is, and may include other items (objects) or people (recipients or beneficiaries) involved in the action along with information on timing, location, etc.
  • includes, in linguistic description, the predicate (verb or verb group) and may also include dependents:
    • complements—an element or elements required by a word or structure to complete its meaning in the clause; in this case, elements required by the verb to make sense—a direct object, an indirect object, a predicate complement such as a locational prepositional phrase or a predicate adjective, an infinitive or gerund (nonfinite clause).
    • adjuncts—elements that modify (are closely related to) the verb but are not essential— adverbs (manner, frequency, degree).

The predicate:

  • In traditional description, the "predicate" includes the verb or verb group and its dependents—adverbs, objects, phrases and clauses related to the action of the verb.
  • In linguistic description, the "predicate" expresses the action, in the form of a verb or verb group. Only!  (A verb phrase which may include complements such as adverbs and objects, is similar to but not exactly like the traditional "predicate".)