What Are Compound Verbs?

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Verbs constitute the action in a sentence. They can be active, passive, helping, linking, transitive and intransitive or auxiliary. Compound verbs are a combination of some of these types of verbs. Not all verb forms can be considered compound, even if there are a number of them in a sentence.

More Than One Action

  • Compound verbs are two or more verbs used in a sentence that describe the action of a subject or subjects. The simplest way to identify compound verbs is to find simple action verbs that are separated by commas, or by conjunctions, such as “and,” “or,” “nor,” “but,” or “yet.” For example: We ate, watched TV and slept. In this case, “ate,” “watched,” and “slept” are all compound verbs. Another example: I watched the movie and enjoyed the company of good friends. In this case, “watched” and “enjoyed” are both compound verbs.

Helping Verbs Don't Count

  • Helping verbs, such as forms of “to be,” “have” and “do,” cannot be considered compound verbs; however, the verbs they modify can. For example: The children are watching TV and are playing the piano. “Are” is a helping verb and not a compound verb; however, “watching” and “playing” are considered compound verbs as they describe actions that the subjects are doing.

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