According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word "severe" is not a verb, but an adjective.

However, the word "severe" seems to have been used as a verb in the sentence below:

She has severed contact with her family, worried that the militants will punish them for her escape.

Is this usage widely accepted? Or should I deem it as just a tiny grammatical error?


  • 1
    the confusion is obvious to learners because of the spelling of the word.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 9:42
  • 1
    @MaulikV: yes, the confusion is very understandable and logical. If there were a verb severe, its past tense would be exactly severed (compare the real verb revere).
    – PLL
    Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 21:57

3 Answers 3


You are confusing "Sever" with "Severe"

Severe is definitely used as an adjective. It means:

very great; intense.

While, sever is a verb which means:

divide by cutting or slicing, especially suddenly and forcibly.

put an end to (a connection or relationship); break off.

In your quote, the word "sever" is used in the Past Participle form, which is "sever+ed"

  • 2
    Usernew, The word sever isn't always used in the past participle form. The activists are asking the government to sever all diplomatic relations with the country. To sever isn't past participle form.
    – Khan
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 17:00
  • @Khan was talking about the context :)
    – Usernew
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 7:11



put an end to (a connection or relationship); break off.

Take note of the difference between the pronunciations of severe (adj) and sever (v).

severe -> /sɪˈvɪə/

sever -> /ˈsɛvə/

  • 3
    For people who don’t read IPA: the verb sever rhymes with never, with the stress on the firs syllable; while in the adjective severe, the stress is on the second syllable, which rhymes with here and near. (I can’t think of a common word that rhymes closely with the whole of severe.)
    – PLL
    Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 21:55
  • @PLL How about 'revere'?
    – DGinzberg
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 4:52
  • 1
    @DGinzberg: yep, but I’m not sure that’s common enough or well-enough known to be terribly helpful. (I’ve heard native speakers mispronounced revered to rhyme with severed.)
    – PLL
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 12:16
  • Note that for most American English speakers, there's an /r/ at the end of each word.
    – user230
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 22:36

Further to the answers above, the confusion would be cleared up immediately if you heard someone saying those words.

  • sever = SE-ver
  • severed = SE-verd
  • severe = se-VEER or see-VEER, depending on local accent
  • 1
    +1 for touching the point which is the most important one! :)
    – Maulik V
    Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 5:19

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