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This chapter is from the book

Using Words in Special Ways

Words are used to paint pictures. Public speakers, teachers, radio broadcasters, and people who have an audience listening to a voice as their primary medium for communication paint pictures with words.

Weave in Beautiful Words

What words make you feel warm and happy? Sure, it’s different for all of us, but there are some words with universal appeal (at least in English). The British Council, which oversees education of the English language, conducted a study of the “Most Beautiful Words in the English Language.”

40,000 people participated in the study. The top ten words were the following:

  1. Mother
  2. Passion
  3. Smile
  4. Love
  5. Eternity
  6. Fantastic
  7. Destiny
  8. Freedom
  9. Liberty
  10. Tranquility

In our culture, there appears to be a growing trend of taking words that are nouns and converting them into verbs. Verbed (a word that has been used by many in the social media blogosphere to signify that so many nouns have become verbs in our everyday language) has made its way into the mainstream and is used in everyday language.

Some used more frequently are in regard to social media. The social networking site Facebook, which includes users from President Obama to our own mother and grandmother, has also become a verb itself used to describe the action of communication. Facebooking someone now means to send a message or post to his or her wall. The process works in reverse as well. The term for this is nominalization; when you turn a verb (or an adjective) into a noun, you nominalize it, creating a nominalization.

Examples include the following:











Some verbs do not change their form when nominalized, such as the following:







Another example of converting a noun into a verb is the search engine Google. Don’t know the answer to something? Then Google it. The same can be said for texts. The action of sending a text has become shortened and used as the verb texting.

Power verbs are vigorous, direct words and should be active not passive. An example of a passive approach would be, “The employee survey was conducted with a small sample.” A much better, active approach would be, “We conducted the employee survey with a small sample.” The speaker should use the passive voice when it is important to focus on the object of or recipient of the action rather than on the actor.

Power verbs used in this book denote some sort of action. Our concept of action includes, but is not limited to, movement, feelings, cognition, attention, creation, transfer of something, or change of condition. However, there will be verbs that aren’t really full of action, per se, such as resemble, relate, and so on. So, one more exception to the many rules of English: Not all of our power verbs will express direct action.

Power verbs are a way to express a critical action or condition not as a noun, but as a verb.

For example, the following sentence:

  • “The office manager made a decision in favor of an early closing due to the weather.”

could be replaced by a better construction:

  • “The office manager decided to close the office early due to the weather.”

Another example:

The sentence:

  • “Sufficient tests were conducted on the new hardware by the IT staff.”

could be replaced by a better construction:

  • “The IT staff tested the hardware sufficiently.”

In these examples, the power verbs gave the sentence more pop and more emphasis and the sentence was shortened, making it easier to read and understand.

We know we told you no grammar, but we have to support the purpose of the power verb. Verbs are the most important part of a sentence or phrase. They assert something about the subject and express action, event, or state of being. The verb is the critical element of what the sentence is about (predicate).

Here is the minimum grammar—we promise!

To determine the subject of a sentence, first identify and isolate the verb and then ask a question by placing who or what before it; your answer is the subject.

Note: Be careful of sentences that begin with there plus any form of the verb to be. In these cases, there is not the subject—it merely signals that the true subject will follow.

Sentences that give a command or an order differ from conventional sentences in that their subject, which is always you, is understood rather than expressed.

Sit for the exam. (You is understood before sit.)

The English language has three main types of verbs (there are more, but remember this isn’t a grammar book):

  1. Transitive

    A transitive verb is a power verb that takes on one or more direct objects, which is another way of saying the power verb is followed by a noun or a noun phrase. The meaning of the power verb (transitive verb) is incomplete without the direct object(s). To determine whether a power verb is transitive, simply ask if the action is done to someone or something.

    Does the subject act upon someone or something? If it does, the power verb is transitive and the person or thing that receives the action is the direct object.

    Of course, there is a grammatical term direct objects. Why? Because they refer to the object being acted upon.


    A way to identify the transitive verb is to invert the sentence, making it passive:

    1. The plan was read by my associate.
    2. The national sales contest was won by our sales team.

    The meaning of a transitive verb is incomplete without a direct object.

  2. Intransitive

    An intransitive verb is a power verb that does not have a direct object—power verbs that are not directly followed by a noun or adjective. Most of the time, intransitive verbs are followed by an adverb—a word that addresses how, where, when, what, and how often.

    The action ends or is modified by an adverb or adverb phrase rather than being transferred to someone or something else. Typically, an adverb or verb ends the sentence.

    To determine whether the power verb is intransitive, ask whether the action is done in some way, in some direction, or in some degree. Does a noun or power verb receive the action? The power verb does not pass on its act to anyone or anything in the sentence. Such intransitive verbs generally dissipate action in themselves.


  3. Linking

    Linking verbs are power verbs that do not show action; instead, the linking verb renames or describes the subject. Linking verbs do not act on an object but simply make English sentences flow correctly and smoothly. Their primary function is to connect the subject of the sentence to a complement, the part of the sentence following the verb, which is the word or group of words that complete the predicate.

    Power verbs cannot be followed by an adverb or end a sentence but instead must be followed by a noun or an adjective, whether in a single word or phrase.

    Current linking verbs indicate a state of the subject, such as appear, be, became, feel, look, remain, seem, smell, sound, stay, and taste.


  1. The chairman of the board looked worried.
  2. Tom remained a reliable employee.

    Resulting linking verbs indicate that the verb complement’s role is a result of the process described in the verb, such as become, get, grow, fall, prove, and run.

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