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:

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.

  • It’s a verb that tells you about a state rather than an action, like seem in it seemed a good idea.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 3:49
  • 2
    Steven you need to learn about the verb “to be,”
    – Xanne
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 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. Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 7:42
  • 3
    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
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 20:13
  • A verb does not only describe an action. It can also describe a state. Or an occurence. You were taught a very very basic thing about a verb, there is MUCH more to it than it being an action. Verbs can describe a state of being, an emotion, a sense or an opinion.. so you have ACTION verbs (I turn the page), but also BEING verbs (I turned green). And thirdly, you also have HELPING verbs, they never stand alone as main verbs.. and there are only 24 of those (I WILL play piano.
    – sara
    Commented Dec 31, 2019 at 8:35

1 Answer 1


"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
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 23:16

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