Lexical Verbs – Examples

In English grammar, there are different types of verbs. While they all aim at describing an action or state of being, each has its own functions and applicability that help bring out unique meanings.

Today, we will focus on one such group of verbs that are known as lexical verbs. Lexical verbs are simply defined as the main verbs. That means they are any verb that carries the key or the semantic meaning in a sentence.

However, not all verbs are lexical verbs. Let us discuss below with proper explanations and examples to get a better understanding.

What are lexical verbs?

By definition, a lexical verb is the main verb in a sentence. It means it carries the key meaning of a complete action by itself, even without any help of secondary verbs. In simple words, lexical verbs are the verbs that describe an action that the main subject of a sentence engages in.

So basically, they are any verbs that play the main role in a sentence, meaning they are open-class verbs. But, the main point of lexical verbs is that it does not include auxiliary verbs or helping verbs. That indicates they are any verbs but helping verbs because lexical verbs describe the main action and do not need any auxiliary verbs to make sense. Whereas helping or auxiliary verbs are only present to link or help lexical verbs.

Let us understand with some examples.

  • John eats fruits.
  • I danced in the class.
  • He jumped over the bridge.
  • I taught her Spanish.

These are lexical verbs because they directly express what the subject does or is doing. They are the information regarding the subject and not just grammatical structures linking a verb to another.

Difference between lexical verbs and auxiliary verbs

So, we learned that lexical verbs are any type of verb but auxiliary. Now let us try to understand why or how.

Lexical verbs, as mentioned earlier, are verbs that have real-semantic meaning. They describe or provide information of a complete action that the subject of a sentence engages in and can stand alone in an independent clause and make sense.

On the other hand, auxiliary verbs are far from giving information. Instead, they aid grammar. They are the grammatical structures that help or complement the lexical verb in a sentence. They are words like was, is, can be, might, etc. And since they do not provide any information, auxiliary verbs cannot stand alone.

For example:

I am playing.

Here, “am” is the helping verb aiding the main verb “playing”.

I was writing till the last bell in today’s exams.

Here, “was” is the auxiliary verb that helps the lexical verb “writing”.

So, lexical verbs clearly give away the explanation of what the subject does. They can make sense even without the help of auxiliary verbs. For example,

  • She ate.
  • I cried.

But, in the case of auxiliary verbs, they are always dependent on a lexical verb. Thus, lexical verbs are the key verbs of a sentence.

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