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A weak verb is typically an auxiliary verb that is used along with a main verb which results in a sentence that feels weak or passive. This type of verb is often used in sentences that have passive voice, though auxiliary verbs may be more effective in some instances and are commonly used on their own. The most commonly used weak verbs are various forms of “to be” and “to have.” A weak verb can also refer to a regular verb that can be changed to the past tense through a basic suffix such as “-ed.”
While the use of a weak verb is not inherently damaging to a piece of writing, overuse of such verbs can result in writing that feels “weak.” The most common issue with this type of verb is that it can create writing commonly referred to as “passive voice.” This means that the action in a sentence is happening to the subject of the sentence, rather than the subject of the sentence taking or doing the action itself. Passive voice created through the use of a weak verb does not always make a sentence improper or poorly written, but it can make a written work less impactful.
A clear example of passive voice created due to a weak verb is in a sentence like “The ball was kicked by the boy.” In this sentence, “The ball” is the subject of the sentence and the action of the sentence, “kicked,” is being done to it rather than by it. This creates passive voice within the sentence through the use of the weak auxiliary verb “was,” a form of “to be.” The same sentence can be written without a weak verb and becomes active rather than passive as “The boy kicked the ball,” in which the new subject “The boy” is doing the action.
In some contexts, however, the term “weak verb” can refer to how a verb is conjugated, rather than to the idea of passive and active voice. This meaning of the term refers to regular verbs that are considered “weak” because they require the use of a suffix, usually “-ed,” to form the past tense of the verb. Strong verbs, in this case, are irregular verbs that can form the past tense through some internal change rather than “help” from a suffix. An example of this type of weak verb is “walk,” in which the past tense “walked” requires a suffix, while “run” is a strong verb since the internal change to “ran” shifts it to past tense.