Verbes d’action vs verbes d’état
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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.
|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.
|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.
|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 …
|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.
|J’ai acheté un chien.||I bought a dog.|
|Je suis devenu professeur.||I became a teacher.|
- Auxiliary verbs
- Compound tenses / moods
- Direct objects
- State-of-being verbs
- Verb conjugation tables
- Introduction to French verbs
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