Action Verbs

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What are they?

Action verbs express action. They are words that tell you what the subject of a sentence is doing. With them, these verbs carry meaning beyond their literal definition through the expression of a specific emotion or action. Action verbs are powerful in creating engaging, descriptive content that conveys the meaning and intensity you intend. They bring direction to your sentences. Consider the following examples:

Example 1: She danced across the stage with grace.

Example 2: She pirouetted across the stage with grace.

In example 1, “danced” is the action verb. In example 2, “pirouetted” is the action verb. While “danced” is a stronger action verb than saying she “moved” because it tells you how she is moving, “pirouetted” provides even more specific information; it tells you how she danced across the stage, not just that she danced across the stage.

Telling time with action verbs

Action verbs can also clue your readers in on when an action occurred by using the correct tense. Consider the below example with the same action verb used in different tenses.

Example:

  • My cat purrs louder than yours (present tense).
  • My cat purred louder than yours (past tense).
  • My cat will purr louder than yours (future tense).

The way in which the action verb is used sets the stage for the time of when the action is occurring. In the case of the future tense, the helping verb of “will” is used to create the verb phrase “will purr” in the future tense.

Replacing overused verbs

If you are like many writers, you probably sometimes overuse certain verbs because they fit in with what you are trying to convey. “Put,” “get” and “went” are three overused verbs. While these verbs do convey an action, they are weak in describing the action. The “state of being” (forms of the verb “to be”) verbs are also overused. These verbs are static, meaning they do not convey an action; instead, they convey a state of being. Instead of always using these easy-to-resort-to verbs, try to replace words that lack imagination with more powerful action verbs that provide more precise information. Consider the following examples:

Example 1: Sarah is on the chair. (“Is” is static and only explains the basics of Sarah’s situation.)

Example 2:

  • Sarah fell into the chair.
  • Sarah collapses into the chair.
  • Sarah plops into the chair.

Any of the above sentences in example 2 use action verbs (fell, collapses and plops) to express the action Sarah used to sit in the chair. Changing the verb choice to something more descriptive creates better imagery for your readers.

Writing with power

When you are writing, you can create more powerful pieces when you use action verbs to replace static verbs or those that do not express action. Action verbs give more color, more passion and more feeling to your words. They help you create content that is more compelling, meaning your readers are more engaged and interested in what you write. Try practicing replacing non-action verbs in your sentences with verbs that convey action, and start writing content that is powerful, descriptive and compelling. Doing so benefits you in virtually all areas of writing. It can even help you in writing a resume that is succinct, informative and attractive to prospective employers.