It seems unlikely

An unnamed teacher at DeAnza College (external link) wrote at some length on how difficult it was to find the verb in the sentence below. The verb being the word ‘seems.’ To make things clear, nearly every English grammar book states that a verb indicates either action or a state of being:

“Taking dangerous risks seems to frighten most hardworking people.”

The teacher’s remarks, in part, were these:

“You may argue, and with reason, that not all of these words indicate action to you. But even if you only see taking and hardworking as action words, you still won’t be able to find a verb–because the verb in this sentence is not an action word at all. Nor is it clearly a state of being. And anyway, what exactly is a state of being? It’s tough to define. So how do you find a verb?”

The teacher went on to write that verbs “[A]lways tell the time (also called the tense) of the sentence.” Without discussing that assertion, which is true, consider another sentence in a book on better writing:

“The students seemed confident.”

In this case the author argues that seemed is indeed a word indicating a state of being. She writes that it could be said “[T]hat the students are in a condition of being confident.”

Good grief!  Even English teachers have to produce tortured explanations for the most basic rules. I’m learning what I can, but I am sometimes more confused than I think I should be.






By thomasfarley01

Business writer and graphic arts gadfly.

One reply on “It seems unlikely”

Obviously, the verb is “to frighten”. Isn’t this the same college that has a monthly flea market? Maybe that’s where they find their english teachers.

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