The Verb – a “doing” Word

Alexander the Great got much done

“Verb” comes from the Latin “verbum,” meaning, “word,” and “verb.”

The verb is a do-ing word. It expresses an action or a state of its subject.

The verb has several forms and qualities: the finite; the infinitive; the gerund; the supine; etc. In its finite form its qualities include person, number, tense, mood and voice. Another quality is the verb’s ability to take a direct object or not; id est, whether the verb is transitive or intransitive.

“Doing” comes from the verb, “to do.” “To do” originally meant to “put,” or “place,” before it came to mean “do,” or “make,” as we know it. It is a word “cognate” with other Indo-European words, as Skt, “dha,” Gk, “the,” and Latin, “fa,” which also originally meant to “put/place,” before going on to mean “do/make.”

In English this meaning of “to put/place” remains in three words; “to don,” “to doff” and “to dup,” meaning “to put on,” “to put off,” and “to put up.”

The verb is the start of the predicate. The shortest sentence in the Bible is, “Jesus wept.” The subject, “Jesus,” and the predicate, the verb, “wept.” The verb tells the action or state of the subject in the “active” voice, and the received action or state in the “passive” voice. There is a “middle” voice in some languages. English assumes a middle voice with the use of the reflexive pronoun, so that the active agent does something to or for himself, thus meeting the requirements of a middle verb; “to kick oneself” may be thought to express the middle voice, exempli gratia.

Besides giving information in its own right as the start of the predicate, it also acts as a pivot to direct the subject in his action or state to wherever or however he will, through whatever he will. Per exemplum, subject, “he,” verb, “goes,” is a sentence in its own right. But to add more meaning for us it might be said, “he goes to, into, toward, with, by, on, in, over, under, about, around, from, out,” et cetera. These prepositions take the place of the old case endings and really direct the motion of the verb, so that we may discover much more information and meaning about the subject and the predicate.

ADDENDUM: English has in recent years developed a nasty habit of using a concept it has developed because most of the good English grammarians have died. There are, however, some of us left, who know what we’re talking about. 

There is a concept of a thing called a “phrasal verb.” This term merely means two or more words used as a verb. This use is a good example of sloppiness in action, coming from an ignorance of grammar.

Without even getting into semantics, the so-called “phrasal verb” is a verb with an adverbial suffix on the end of it. 

The verb has its meaning modified by the attendant adverb. “To hang on,” for example, means “to continue hanging.” The adverb has a temporal meaning here. “To hang on,” is “to hang onwards in Time.”

‘”On,’ is a preposition,” you might say, “and not an adverb.” But prepositions are only “specialized” adverbs. They are adverbs, which are used before nouns, thus becoming prepositions. But they may retain there adverbial flexibility.

Thus a “phrasal verb” is a verb proper with an adverb stuck on the end of it. That’s all.

Because the adverb is not specialized in the phrasal verb, the phrasal verb has no validity, as a term, when it is composed merely of a verb and adverb.

“To hang – on, off, in, out, up, down, over, under, around, straight,” et cetera, are not phrasal verbs, but merely verbs with attending adverbs.

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