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What Are Action Verbs? | Definition, Examples & List

Verbs updated on  February 5, 2024 6 min read
Action verbs are also known as dynamic verbs, and they describe an action performed by (or on) the subject (e.g., “jump,” “sing,” “buy”).

Stative verbs, on the other hand, describe the state, condition, or perception of the subject (e.g., “believe,” “know,” “feel”).

Action verb examples
I work at a restaurant.
My mother writes books.
A bird flew into my window.
He is jumping for joy.


What is an action verb?    

Action verbs (aka dynamic verbs) are used to describe something’s action as opposed to its state, condition, or perception.

An action verb can be transitive and followed by a direct object (the noun or pronoun receiving the action); be followed by an adverb or adverbial phrase describing the action; or stand alone if the verb is intransitive (doesn’t need an object to receive the action).


Action verb examples in a sentence
I invited Raoul.
Melanie ran quickly.
The bird chirped.


Action verbs vs stative verbs

While action verbs describe an action, stative verbs describe the state, condition, or perception of the subject. The state can be physical, mental, or emotional.

For example, stative verbs are used to describe the subject’s feelings, opinions, senses, physical qualities, composition, or what it possesses.

Stative verb examples
He thinks you’re amazing.
I love skiing.
They have three children.
The bread contains gluten.


Sometimes the same verb can be either active or stative depending on whether it’s describing a state or an action—the action can be mental as well as physical.

One difference between active and stative verbs is that stative verbs aren’t usually used in continuous tenses, while active verbs can be.

Active verbs vs stative verbs examples
My shirt smells funny.
My shirt is smelling funny.

The dog smelled the flowers.
The dog is smelling the flowers.


Note
Although stative verbs aren’t usually used in continuous tenses in formal or written English, they are sometimes used in continuous tenses in casual, spoken English.

I love this game.
I am loving this game.

It looks good.
It's looking good.

Action verbs vs linking verbs

Linking verbs are also stative verbs—that is, they describe the state or condition of the subject rather than an action—but not all stative verbs are linking verbs.

Like action verbs, stative verbs can be transitive (followed by an object), but linking verbs are always followed by a subject complement (e.g., a predicate nominative) that describes, identifies, or redefines the subject.

Examples: Action verbs vs stative verbs vs linking verbs
She threw the book.
She liked the book.
Her favorite book was Great Expectations. [linking and stative]


Note
To determine whether a verb is a linking verb or an action verb, you can replace it with a conjugated form of “be” to see if it still makes sense. If so, even if the meaning is slightly different, it’s probably a linking verb.

He appeared sad. → He was sad.
He appeared suddenly. → He was suddenly.


Action verbs for resume

Using expressive and varied action verbs is one way to improve your resume and cover letter to make sure they accurately describe your achievements and make the best possible impression.

For example, it’s common to write “I was tasked with” or “I was responsible for” in resumes, but these constructions should be used sparingly.

“I was tasked with” is in the passive voice, describing something done to you rather than something you did, and “I was responsible for” describes your state rather than your actions. You don’t need to completely avoid these types of sentences, but try replacing them with action verbs in the active voice for a stronger and more evocative sentence where possible.

Examples: Action verbs for resume
I was tasked with a client mailing project.
I oversaw a client mailing project.

I was responsible for finding a new management system.
When the company needed a new management system, I researched appropriate options, identified the best solutions for our needs, and successfully integrated it into the business.


Action verb list

Need help finding the right action verbs? Find some categorized action verb examples for your resume below.

Describing something you created

Whether you’re talking about a school project or a system you put into place at work, emphasize your accomplishment with creative action verbs.

Authored

Established

Composed

Founded

Conceptualized

Initiated

Created

Innovated

Developed

Introduced

Devised

Modeled

Distributed

Published

Examples: Action verbs for creativity and innovation
I made a new filing system.
I devised and introduced a new filing system.

I wrote a popular blog and email newsletter about Thai food.
I independently authored and published a blog on Thai food and distributed weekly email newsletters to my 5,000 subscribers.


Describing something you managed

“Led” and “managed” are also action verbs, but they tend to be overused and aren’t always the most descriptive options. Try some of the examples below for a stronger and clearer description of your experience.

Chaired

Facilitated

Conducted

Guided

Coordinated

Headed

Delegated

Organized

Directed

Oversaw

Evaluated

Examples: Action verbs for managing others
I led a study group.
I coordinated and directed a study group.

Managed task distribution.
Delegated tasks according to team members’ availability and strengths.


Describing how you worked with others

Teamwork and communication are desirable skills. Make sure your prospective employer knows exactly how you’ve developed and used these skills in the past and what you can bring to the role.

Advised

Mediated

Authorized

Mentored

Coached

Motivated

Encouraged

Supervised

Fielded

Supported

Instructed

Trained

Liaised

Unified

Examples: Action verbs for working with others
I helped new employees understand their roles.
I supported and coached new employees to help them understand their roles.

Experienced in customer service.
I fielded customer enquiries and advised them on the best products for their needs.


Describing how you handled information

These action verbs are useful for describing how you handled information at school and college as well as in professional environments.

Analyzed

Inspected

Budgeted

Investigated

Compiled

Monitored

Documented

Reported

Evaluated

Researched

Examined

Reviewed

Identified

Examples: Action verbs for information management
Developed research skills.
Examined and evaluated data to compile accurate reports.

I did the invoicing.
I monitored and inspected the invoices to ensure accurate budgeting.


Describing technical tasks

Make sure you clearly describe your technical experience using descriptive action verbs; you want whoever is reading your resume to understand what you did and what skills you have regardless of their level of technical knowledge.

Calculated

Logged

Computed

Maintained

Developed

Programmed

Engineered

Standardized

Inspected

Tested

Installed

Tracked

Integrated

Verified

Examples: Action verbs for technical skills
I was tasked with checking builds.
I tested builds, inspecting them thoroughly and logging any issues or bugs.

Responsible for the Jira databases.
Maintained the Jira database and tracked project progress.


Do you want to know more about commas, parts of speech, email, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


Commas

Parts of speech

Commonly confused words

Comma before because

Nouns

Flier vs flyer

Comma before such as

Collective nouns

Its vs it’s

Comma splice

Verbs

Use to or used to

Comma before or after but

Noun clauses

Alright vs all right

Comma before too

Predicate nominative

Affective vs effective


Frequently asked questions about action verbs

What are some action verb examples?

Action verbs (aka dynamic verbs) describe an action performed by something as opposed to the state or condition of something.

Some verbs can be action verbs or another type of verb (e.g., a linking verb and/or a stative verb) depending on the context. For example, “look” is an action verb in “she looked at me” but is a stative and linking verb in “she looked happy.”

Here are some examples of common action verbs in the simple present tense:

  • Cough
  • Cry
  • Drink
  • Eat 
  • Laugh
  • Play
  • Read
  • Run
  • Shout
  • Sigh
  • Sleep 
  • Wash

Is have an action verb?

When used as the main verb, “have” can either be an action verb or a stative verb depending on the context.

Usually, “have” is a stative verb, as it describes the state of the subject—what it possesses, includes, or contains (e.g., “the car has a scratch on the door,” “I have a degree”).

However, there are some cases where “have” describes an action. For example, “I’m having dinner,” “I’ll have a ten-minute break,” or “he had fun at the party.”

“Have” can also be an auxiliary verb modifying the main verb (e.g., “I have finished”).

Is are an action verb?

“Are,” like other forms of the verb “be” (e.g., am, is, was, were), is almost always a stative verb when used as the main verb. This means it describes the subject’s state or condition rather than an action.

It can be used in the continuous tense along with “being” to mean “behaving.” This expresses a temporary action rather than a permanent state or quality.

For example, “they are annoying” means they are always annoying: that is their permanent state. “They are being annoying” means they are not always annoying, but they are behaving in an annoying way at the moment.

“Are” (and other forms of “be”) can also be an auxiliary verb modifying the main verb, which is usually an action verb (e.g., “they are running a marathon”).

What is a transitive action verb?

Action verbs can be either transitive or intransitive. A transitive action verb needs a direct object to receive the action. Without an object, the sentence won’t be complete or make sense.

One example of a transitive action verb is “caught.” “He caught” is incomplete and doesn’t give us enough information. It needs to be followed by an object to tell us what he caught (e.g., “he caught a cold”).

An intransitive action verb doesn’t need a direct object. It can follow the subject on its own or be followed by an adverb or adverbial phrase to describe the action; for example, “she laughed,” “she laughed loudly,” or “she laughed at the clown.”

Some action verbs can be either transitive or intransitive depending on the context. For example, “run” in “I run a weekly book club” is transitive, but it is intransitive in “I run every morning.”


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Sophie Shores

Sophie has a BA in English Literature, an MA in Publishing, and a passion for great writing. She’s taught English overseas and has experience editing both business and academic writing.

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