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Intermediate Grammar – Intensive and Extensive Verbs

Intensive Verbs

We use intensive verbs to describe the subject. Intensive verbs are also called copular verbs, are usually followed by a noun or a noun phrase, an adjective or a prepositional phrase.

Intensive means to focus on one thing; in this case, the subject. The words or phrases following an intensive verb work as the subject complement. This means they apply to the subject, not the verb.


“Rose is a student” – The focus of this sentence is Rose and what she is.
“Tomas looks very young for his age” - The focus of this sentence is Tomas and what he looks like.

Extensive Verbs

We use extensive verbs to say what the subject is doing. Extensive verbs are most other verbs, they do not have a subject complement.

Extensive means to cover a wider area, it takes information away from the subject. Words or phrases following an extensive verb work as the verb’s object. They apply to the verb, not the subject.


“John runs very fast” – The focus of this sentence is run, and how he does that.
“Mary paints quite badly” – The focus of this sentence is paints, and how she does that.


Which of the following verbs are intensive, and which are extensive?

1. I’m angry because Helen ate my breakfast.
2. George and his brothers seemed too tired to go out.
3. The kitchen is downstairs, next to living room
4. At 9pm, the sun vanished below the horizon

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About Kate

Kate is a teacher and ABA's Social Media Strategist. As well as being a lover of all things content and community, she has been teaching English for over 10 years and has taught in Cambodia, India and Spain.

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  1. Are intensive verbs and linking verbs the same thing?

    • Kate

      Hey Soha!

      Yes, they are. Intensive verbs are also known as linking verbs (or copular verbs). They all have the following structure: Subject + Linking Verb + Subject Complement.

      Hope that helped!

  2. Greeting, and thank you so much for the simplified explanation. Intensive verbs appear to have the same features of the intransitive verbs :/ Is it so? Could you help please?
    As an example: “It rains steadily.” Rains here has no object and thus is intransitive. Moreover, it links and focuses the action on the subject “IT”, and all what comes after is how IT RAINS. So it always refers to the subject. Are the intransitive verbs the same thing as intensive verbs? Thank you for helping. :)

  3. I’m so confused, please help me!!

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