The English Verbal Group (Types with Examples)

The English Verbal Group (Types with Examples)

The verbal group is another interesting group in the English Language. Everything about the verbal group rests solely on the versatile Part of Speech, the Verb.  The post, The English Verbal Group (Types with Examples) explains the different structures of the verbal group and the various types of verbs that exist in English.

What is a Verbal Group?

 The verbal group is one of the groups in English and it consists of a group of verbs usually with the lexical verb as the headword. The structure of the verbal group is a dynamic one. A verbal group can consist of a lexical verb or a lexical preceded by an auxiliary verb. There are other types of verbs that can function in the verbal group but of all these, the lexical verb is the obligatory element while other forms, as we shall see presently, could be optional. The verbal group is one that occurs under the predicator; that is everything under the predicator is verbal in nature. The structure is auxiliary (a) and lexical (l). It is not possible to have more than one lexical verb in a sentence.

The English Verbal Group (Types with Examples)

Like I pointed out above, the structure of the verbal group basically admits the auxiliary and the lexical elements. However, it also admits some other elements such as listed below:


Negation is the operation of changing a sentence or other unit into its negative form, especially by using ‘not’. The normal form of negation in English is to add not or its contracted form (n’t) after the operator; that is, after the first auxiliary verb or the finite verb ‘be’. In the examples we use below, (a) represents ‘auxiliary’, (n) means ‘negator’ and (l) stands for ‘lexical’. Consider the following:

  • We did not like the samples she brought. [a, n, l]
  • He won’t leave until you pay his money. [a, n, l]
  • She could not come for the meeting. [a, n, l]

Introduction of the Verb DO

In the absence of an operator (modal auxiliary or non-modal auxiliary), we introduce one of the primary auxiliary verbs, specifically, the verb do.  For instance:

  • Tommy hates sweating – Tommy does not hate
  • The women travel together – The women do not travel together
  • She cooked the food – She did not cook the food.

 Contracted Negative Forms

We normally use the contracted negative forms in an informal style, mostly in conversation. The contracted forms include: isn’t, aren’t, wasn’t, weren’t, hasn’t, haven’t, hadn’t, doesn’t, don’t, didn’t, won’t, shan’t, can’t, mustn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t, and mightn’t. There are some operators that we have no negative form for e. g. may not (though mayn’t is in some written expressions, it is hardly used in speech) and am not. So we have to use their expanded forms.

Encarta Dictionary has this to say about ain’t: “Ain’t is one of the most informal verb contractions in English, and its use in formal contexts may be criticized because it is associated with careless speech. It is, however, accepted in folk and popular song lyrics, show titles, direct quotations, and fictional dialogue. Otherwise ain’t is best avoided, except as a deliberate rhetorical device and in allusive expressions such as ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet.’”  Read more about Modal Auxiliary Verbs and Non-Modal Auxiliary Verbs.


We can also have a particle (pt) in the structure of the verbal group. Particles are prepositions. Sometimes, a preposition combines with a lexical verb to form a verbal group. When this occurs it is termed a Prepositional Verb. When a preposition is dependent on a lexical verb, it becomes a particle, when it is not, it is not a particle. E.g.

  • The car ran over the boy.

We can replace ‘ran over’ with another lexical verb and the meaning is not lost. E. g.

  • The car hit the boy.
  • The car killed the boy.

See another illustration:

  • We carried away the box.

If we delete ‘away’ it does not affect the sentence; in this regard, it is not a particle but an adjunct. Once the preposition can move, it becomes an adjunct. E. g.

  • The players looked after their injured colleagues.

‘After’ is a particle to the verb ‘looked’.

  • She put aside the letter.

‘Aside’ is not part of the lexical verb.

Phrasal Verb

I have written extensively on Phrasal Verbs. See the post 550 Phrasal Verbs in English. Many cannot make a clear distinction among these prepositional concepts which I have written on in separate posts, do well to check each of them out:

The Catenatives

The catenative verb is another element that can exist in the verbal group. Geoffrey Leech (2006) defines a catenative verb  as a verb “which takes a non-finite clause as its complement like ‘want’ in I want to invite you; or ‘love’ in We love playing scrabble.” He added that “The term catenative (from Latin ‘catena’, a chain) alludes to the possibility of a recursive chain of such verbs since the verb in the complement of the previous catenative verb can itself be a catenative verb with a non-finite complement, and so on indefinitely.” He gave another example which he termed “a possible but rather improbable chain structure”.

  • Someone will need to try getting him to help mend the dishwasher.

 Other examples of catenative verbs include:

  • The man kept slapping the boy.
  • He got worked up yesterday.
  • He keeps judging me.
  • The police continue chasing the thief.
  • We managed to cross the river.

In the examples above, these words: kept, got, keeps, continue and manage are lexically empty.

 It is another detailed discussion on the English verbal group! I have written also on other groups in English. See the Nominal Group and the Adverbial Group. You can also see different Types of Verbs that we have in English. It would be great if you take a look at these posts and share within your circle of influence. Thanks for always reading Akademia! See you around!


 Leech, Geoffrey (2006). A Glossary of English Grammar. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press

 Microsoft® Encarta® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

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