Happy June Holidays and hello, again! I hope that you children will be able to catch a breather during this break even though some of my pupils have already told me about the homework that they have for this month! In my third post, I will be looking at the use of verbs and how using appropriate and precise verbs will help you to express yourself better in your writing. If you have a piece of writing to do, it will be a good opportunity to try this out!
First of all, what are verbs?
Simply put, although there are a few types of verbs, most people remember verbs as words that describe actions, such as run, jump, skip and stumble. Stories are full of verbs because they involve actions done by the characters. Writers choose their verbs carefully so that they can paint a clear picture of the actions carried out by the characters they create. Using precise verbs will also help to convey other important things about the characters, such as how they feel and what kind of people they are.
To illustrate my point, let’s start by comparing these two simple sentences:
A: Jake walked to school.
B: Jake limped to school.
Both sentences are similar because they tell the action done by Jake but what makes the second one better? By using ‘limped’, the writer is suggesting an extra detail about Jake and makes us ask, “Why is Jake limping? Is he injured?” The word ‘walked’, although a legitimate verb, is limiting because it is too simple and does not tell us more about Jake.
Let’s take a look at another example:
A: “Get out of my room!” Anna said.
B: “Get out of my room!” Anna fumed.
By using the word ‘fumed’, the writer has revealed to us Anna’s anger while ‘said’ is too generic a word because it does not reveal to us how Anna is actually feeling.
These two examples help to illustrate the importance of using vivid verbs – verbs that are appropriate to the situation as well as precise in their description of the action. So how do you ensure that you always use vivid verbs in your writing?
How do I start using vivid verbs?
1. Make sure to stay away from simple words like ‘walk’, ‘go’, ‘say’ and ‘ask’. If there is a better, more apt word, use that. Sometimes, looking the alternative up in a thesaurus might help. But be careful to check the meaning of the new word in a dictionary to see that it is appropriate for the situation.
2. The only way to learn more and better verbs is to READ as widely as you can. Take note of how writers like Roald Dahl and J.K. Rowling use vivid verbs to make their stories come alive. Here’s a short extract from a popular Roald Dahl’s book, "Matilda". Read the writer’s description of the Headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. Try spotting the vivid verbs that Mr. Dahl has used in his writing to create Miss Trunchbull's personality:
When she marched – Miss Trunchbull never walked, she always marched like a storm trooper with long strides and arms swinging – when she marched along a corridor you could actually hear her snorting as she went and if a group of children happened to be in her path, she ploughed on through them like a tank, with small people bouncing off her to the left and right.
What are some words that popped up in your mind about Miss Trunchbull as you read this? Let's take a look at how Miss Trunchbull looks like and how Mr. Dahl's description had helped to create her personality.
From his description, we could tell that Miss Trunchbull is an unpleasant person from her actions – she ‘marched’ like a storm trooper, she would ‘snort’ as she went along the corridor and ‘ploughed on’ through the children like a tank. The writer has used interesting verbs to give us a clear picture of Miss Trunchbull’s personality Try replacing 'marched' and 'ploughed on' with 'walked', you will realise that the effect is quite different.
To help you get started, I am providing a table of verbs you can use in your writing:
I hope you find this list useful and remember to keep adding on to it as you read this holiday! Let me know about the additions that you made for each column in the comments section!
About the Author: Nora is an English Teacher at Lil' but Mighty. She is committed to providing students with a dynamic and nurturing environment in which they can grow and develop. One of her greatest strengths as an educator is instilling a love for the English Language in her students.