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As I am doing my 2nd homework task for 8th grade English, I got frustrated by trying to remember the parts of speech for a few words.

Usually Google is really helpful with examples and definitions.

However, I found out today that the word 'was' is a verb!

This is weird, because the word 'was' is often used in a way that makes a verb/adjective 'belong'* to a noun:

That was awesome!

I was reading.

See, a verb [I think] is a word that describes an action, right?

  examples of verbs:
  Thought
  Reading
  Looking

I don't see how the word 'was' can be used as a verb. Can someone help?


*I don't really know how to explain it.

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  • It’s a verb that tells you about a state rather than an action, like seem in it seemed a good idea. – Lawrence Aug 31 at 3:49
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    Steven you need to learn about the verb “to be,” – Xanne Aug 31 at 6:41
  • To be: present I am, he is, she is, we are, you are, they are. past I was, she was, he was, we were, you were, they were. – marcellothearcane Aug 31 at 7:42
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    13 years old and today you discovered that was is the past tense of the verb "be" (well by now I hope so) that's not your fault, that's the fault of whoever is teaching you English at school. – Mari-Lou A Aug 31 at 20:13
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"Was" is the past form of the verb "be". You are right that "be" is a special verb in English. When it is the main verb in a sentence is nearly always used as a linking verb. It joins the subject to noun or adjective that describes or identifies the subject. Verbs don't only describe actions.

He was happy.
He was a doctor.

Other verbs can be linking verbs. For example the verb "seem" can link a subject to an adjective.

He seemed happy.

The verb "smell" has a different meaning when used as a linking verb or a regular verb with a direct object

He smelled clean.
He smelled the flower.

So "was" is a verb, but not a typical one. It is a linking verb.

  • This property of be means things that follow be, as in X was Y, can be predicate nominatives or subject complements, but not typically objects. This is why you can say It was she, but not I talked to she. – LawrenceC Oct 28 at 23:16

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