Action vs Being Verbs

Verbes d’action vs verbes d’état

Action vs state-of being verbs
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With regard to how they function in a sentence, verbs can be divided into three categories: action, state-of-being, and auxiliary.

I. Action Verbs | Verbes d’action

Action verbs express what someone or something is doing, the action that they are performing. The vast majority of verbs (99%+) are action verbs, and they can be further divided into sub-categories:

1) Transitive verbs

Transitive verbs require a direct object, something that the subject of the verb is acting upon.

Par exemple…

J’achète un chien.   I’m buying a dog.
Qui jetait la balle ?   Who was throwing the ball?

2) Intransitive verbs

Intransitive verbs do not have a direct object.

Par exemple…

Où allez-vous ?   Where are you going?
Il est tombé.   He fell.

3) Ambitransitive verbs

Ambitransitive verbs are both of the above: they are verbs that can be either transitive or intransitive, depending on how they’re used.

Par exemple…

Elle chante une romance. She’s singing a ballad.   (direct object transitive)
Elle chante bien. She sings well.   (no direct object intransitive)

II. State-of-Being Verbs | Verbes d’état

State-of-being verbs connect the subject to something that describes or defines it – either an adjective …

Par exemple…

Je suis heureux.   I am happy.
Franck a l’air fatigué.   Franck looks tired.

(The adjectives heureux and fatigué describe their respective subjects.)

… or a noun:

Je suis professeur.   I am a teacher.
Franck a l’air d’un footballeur.   Franck looks like a soccer player.

 The noun that follows a state-of-being verb is not a direct object (something being acted upon, as is the case with transitive verbs, above), but is instead something called a "subject complement": a word that can, in essence, replace the subject because they are one and the same. In these examples, the nouns professeur and footballeur are equivalent to their subjects, je and Franck, respectively. I’m not "doing something" to a teacher, I am a teacher. The word "teacher" defines me. Likewise, Franck isn’t performing some action on a soccer player, he has the appearance of one.

Learn more: State-of-being verbs

III. Auxiliary Verbs | Verbes auxiliaires

Also known as helping verbs, auxiliary verbs are used in the creation of compound tenses and moods. They are placed in front of an action or state-of-being verb to offer additional information such as tense and possibility.

French has just two auxiliary verbs: avoir and être.

Par exemple…

J’ai acheté un chien.   I bought a dog.
Je suis devenu professeur.   I became a teacher.

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French action verbs

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