Answers: writing about verbs (Text 2)

Verbs in Text 2

The verbs are printed in red, and then listed according to their type.


Washing was a skill. I have watched my mother twist the clothes into a spiral pole as long as her arm as she wrung out the water. Then the rinsing, and after that the blue bag dip. But the mangle was the magic. My father bought one for my mother as soon as he had a bit of spare money. Not everyone could afford one and it was our pride and joy. I can see my mother now, turning and tossing sheets into the air, twisting, folding, mangling. Then she would hang it all on the long line in the garden to blow in the weather – whatever the weather. That long back garden was full of washing winter and summer. I had to pass her the gypsy-made wooden pegs as she stretched to hang the washing. And I had to help her carry it in, remembering winters when the clothes were so stiff they wouldn’t pass through the door.

Daisy, A Norfolk Childhood, Hilda Hobart (2007)

Dynamic verbs

watched, twist, wrung out, bought, turning, tossing, twisting, folding, mangling, hang, blow, pass, stretched, help, carry

Stative verbs

was, had, afford, see, remembering, were

Lexical verbs

was, watched, twist, wrung out, bought, had, afford, see, turning, tossing, twisting, folding, mangling, hang, blow, pass, stretched, help, carry, remembering, were

Primary auxiliary verbs


Modal auxiliary verbs

could (= was able), can (= immediate state of being able to do something), would (= predictable behaviour in the past), had to (verb idiom = obligation), wouldn’t (= could not)

Finite verbs

Past tense: was, wrung out, bought, had, had to …, stretched, were

Present tense: have

Finite, but not usually tensed: could, can, would, wouldn’t

Non-finite verbs

-ed participles: watched

-ing participles: turning, tossing, twisting, folding, mangling, remembering

Base form verbs: twist, afford, see, hang, pass, help, carry

Infinitives: to blow, to hang

Multi-word verbs

wrung out

Note 1

Verbal nouns are nouns formed from a verb + -ing suffix which communicate a sense of process or action (washing, rinsing)

Note 2

Participles can function as verb modifiers (gypsy-made)

Verbs and text type

This text is an example of an autobiography, an account of the author’s memories of her childhood. The audience will be quite general: readers who enjoy personal life stories or period pieces (recollections of life between the two world wars), or readers who have a connection with the specific location (Norfolk). The dominant purpose is to entertain, with a secondary purpose to inform. The context is formal and public since the  book has been published and is available for purchase.

Five key points about the verbs:

  1. many verbs are in the past tense as would be expected of a sequence of recollections (was, wrung out, bought, were)
  2. typical of an autobiography, the writer distinguishes between past experiences and current reflection using the modal can to indicate an immediate state of being able to do something (can see i.e. in the mind’s eye)
  3. the extract is about a physical process so most of the verbs are dynamic (twist, hang, carry) and many are -ing participles conveying a sense of continuous action (twisting, folding, mangling)
  4. there are also, however, a number of stative verbs which describe a state or condition at the heart of the memory (was, were) e.g. descriptions of the mangle, the garden and the clothes in winter; the emphatic statement of fact in the opening sentence
  5. the range of modals enables the writer to communicate shades of meaning: ability (could afford, wouldn’t pass); separation of the memory itself from the moment of recollection (can see); habitual action in the past (would hang); obligation (had to = must)

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