Below are 10 English verbs you ought to know how to use:
The verbs are given a rank on a scale from very low to very high usage in everyday English conversation. The various tenses of the verb are provided, as well as the verb’s particular nuances and meaning
1. To Explain. (Regular)
Meaning: To clarify, to make something clear to someone, to give someone details about something, to demonstrate something as being true or untrue
The various forms: Explain, is explaining, explained, was explaining, has explained, had
explained, will explain, is going to explain, will have explained, would have explained, be explained.
Level of Usage: High
Nuance: This verb takes a preposition. Always put an object and preposition between explain and indirect object or complement.
Example: Let me explain something to you. (correct)
Let me explain you something. (incorrect)
2. To Tell (Irregular)
Meaning: To give someone information or details. Or to give someone an order.
The various forms: Tell, is telling, told, was telling, has told, had told, will tell, is going to tell, will have told, would have told, be told
Level of usage: Very High
Nuance: Many English expressions use the verb to tell and there is no rule so these expressions must be memorized.
Examples: Tell a story; tell the time; tell the truth; tell a lie.
(Normally tell is not followed by the preposition to. You never say “Told to”)
3. To Say (Irregular)
Meaning: To speak directly to someone; to report someone else’s speech
The various forms: Say, is saying, said, was saying, has said, had said, will say, is going to say, will have said, would have said, be said
Level of Usage: Very high
Nuance: You say something to someone. Often, say is followed by “to” or “that.”
Example: He said that he was an executive.
He said to her, “I am an executive.”
4. To Make (Irregular)
Meaning: To construct, create, formulate
The various forms: Make, is making, made, was making, has made, had made, will make, is going to make, will have made, would have made, be made
Level of usage: Moderate
Nuance: Many English learners mix up “Make” and “Do”
Try to remember that making is a form of doing but doing is not necessarily making. Making often pertains to “constructing” while doing often pertains to a task. But this rule is full of exceptions.
Common expressions with make: make a mistake, make your bed; make noise; make dinner; make a pie; make friends; make nice; make plans
5. To Do (Irregular)
Meaning: To engage in an activity or task.
The various forms: Do, is doing, did, was doing, had done, had done, will do, is going to do, will have done, would have done, be done
Level of usage: High
Nuance: This verb is often confused with the verb “to make”
Example: He did the presentation exceptionally well. (Correct) He presented very well. (Better)
He made the presentation exceptionally well. (incorrect)
Common expressions with do: Do the banking: do the reports; do business; do well; do badly.
6. To Ask (Regular)
Meaning: To request information, clarification ot explanation
The various forms: Ask, is asking, asked, was asking, has asked, had asked, will ask, is going to
ask, will have asked, would have asked, be asked
Level of usage: Very high
Nuance: This verb is used to pose questions or to report someone else’s question. With direct questions, a question make is used. With indirect speech, question mark is used.
Example: Can I ask you a question? What did you just ask me?
She asked you if she could ask you a question.
7. To Propose (Regular)
Meaning: Suggest or recommend
The various forms: Propose, is proposing, proposed, was proposing, has proposed, had
proposed, will propose, is going to propose, would have proposed, be
Level of usage: Moderate
Nuance: Many learners of English forget to put the preposition ‘to” after this verb.
This verb is like the verb “say”. You say something to someone. You propose something to someone.
For example: Let me propose something to you. (correct)
Let me propose you something. (incorrect)
8. Analyze (Regular)
Meaning: Examine a person or situation systematically; to take a close look at data in order to
determine cause, effect, probability, possibility, etc.
The various forms: Analyze, is analyzing, analyzed, was analyzing, has analyzed, had analyzed,
will analyze, is going to analyze, would have analyzed, be analyzed.
Level of Usage: Moderate (high in legal and business contexts)
Nuance: “Analyze” is distinguishable from “evaluate”
An analysis is based on examining existing facts in an objective or systematic way or using objective criteria to assess a situation and reach a conclusion. An evaluation can be more subjective and can be reached without an objective evaluation; and can be based on personal value judgments rather than actual facts.
9. Describe (Regular)
Meaning: To give subjective information about something; to depict using images or
Words; to give an account using adjective.
The Various forms: Describe, is describing, described, was describing, has described, had
described, will describe, is going to describe, would have described, be described
Level of Usage: Moderate
Nuance: To describe is not synonymous with “explain.”
When you explain something, you are giving information about how it works.
This can be very objective criteria. When you describe something it is more subjective; often you describe using the five senses approach. How it feels, smells, sounds, tastes and looks.
10. Suggest (Regular)
Meaning: To propose, to bring to mind a certain picture or image.
The Various Forms: Suggest, is suggesting, suggested, was suggesting, has suggested, had
suggested, is going to suggest, will suggest, would have suggested be suggested
Level of Usage: Moderate
Nuance: This verb is often followed by “that”.
Example: He suggested that we void the contract.