English 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 the author  ⁄ Kate

I have been teaching English for 9 years. I currently work for ABA English but I also teach English in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I love vegan cooking, my pets and everything to do with social media!

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    21 July 2014

    Are intensive verbs and linking verbs the same thing?

    • Reply
      Kate Author
      24 July 2014

      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!

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