It’s important for English language learners to understand that an action verb is not necessarily a transitive verb. If I’m cooking, I’m still doing an action, correct? I don’t necessarily have to specify that I’m cooking dinner (verb + direct object). In contrast, if my cooking tastes good, no action is being done. There’s only mention of a state or quality.
Understanding the difference between action and non-action verbs is especially challenging when faced with verbs that can be used both ways. Have, smell, taste, look, and think are several examples:
- (have) I have a good grammar teacher. / I‘m having trouble understanding this grammar topic.
- (smell) The rooms smells clean./ I think someone forgot to empty the trash because I smell rotten food.
- (taste) Homemade ice cream tastes delicious!/ I happily tasted all the flavors of ice cream in the store.
- (look) You look tired./ What are you looking at?
- (think) I think you’re right./ I‘m thinking of a number from 1 to 10. Guess!
To help students recognize the differences in form and meaning between action and non-action verbs, I offer the amusing activity called Too Many Cooks. The format is inspired by Mad Libs (a favorite childhood activity of mine). Click here to view my Action vs. Non-action Verbs_handout.