This time and in the next few columns we're going to stare at some basic stuff, terms you might not have heard since Miss Booth's fifth grade class when she scrawled all those weird sentence diagrams on the board and announced how important they'd be for your future life. After we explore a few foundation terms, we'll consider how these work to form sentences and especially how you should use punctuation with them.

The first is a part of speech (a word in a sentence) called the verb. It's simply the site of the action, (the spot where things are happening) or "being."

Whoa. You're probably clear on the idea of action, but what about the state of being concept? To express the idea of merely sitting around existing, use the verb "to be." Its common forms are is, am, are, was, were.

 

Example 1. That camel hoards water. (action)

2. The camel is depressed from all those blastings of sand. (is: state of being)

3. Our camel hoped for cloudy days. (action)

4. Your camel is longing for a bubble bath at the next oasis. (action. To be a legitimate verb, an "ing" word must have a hunk of the verb "to be" in front of it. Are we having fun yet?)

5. The scorpion was feeling bewildered by the heat. (action. An "ing" word has part of the verb "to be.")

6. It needs a nice rock for shade. (action)

7. Scorpions always wonder if camels will step on them. (action)

8. Our favorite scorpion was anxious. (was: state of being)

9. That mirage is actually an ocean. (is: state of being)

10. Most mirages roam the desert. (action)

 

Self-test

Here are a few sentences to secretly test how successfully you've inserted this factoid. Answers and encouragement appear at www.KathyAlba.com (When you get there, click on "Factoidinsertionemia"). Underline the verbs.

1. Dogs drool.

2. Those puppies are drooling in sunshine.

3. That pooch is snoring.

4. The dog lovers freaked because of mud.

5. Canines dream about bones in the snow.

6. Cats lounge on window sills.

7. Dogs and cats feel adored.

8. They are yawning.

9. They bark and purr.

 

Factoid Answers

1. Dogs drool.

2. Those puppies are drooling in sunshine.

3. That pooch is snoring.

4. The dog lovers freaked because of mud.

5. Canines dream about bones in the snow.

6. Cats lounge on window sills.

7. Dogs and cats feel adored.

8. They are yawning.

9. They bark and purr. Two verbs here. This is called a "compound verb." Cool, huh?

 


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Kathy Alba, Ph.D. is author of Speaking and Writing Well: Empowering Yourself with "Proper" English, Your Dynamite Guide to Conquering the World.