Intensive and Extensive Verbs in English

When we learn a new language, there are usually different grammar points that we find tricky along the way and English falls into that category too. Do you know what intensive and extensive verbs are in English? If you don’t then it’s lucky that we are going to talk about just that in today’s post.

Intensive Verbs

We use intensive verbs to describe the subject. Intensive verbs are also called copula 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

After reading today’s post, we certainly hope that you are a lot more clear as to what intensive and extensive verbs are in English. Remember that ABA English have a free course that is extremely easy to sign up for. The free course gives you complete access to 144 video classes ranging in level from beginner to advanced among other resources.



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

  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 answered the questions on the exercise. Please tell me the answers of the questions on the exercise so i know if I answered the questions correctly. Thank You!

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

  5. i tried heard to understand this one, but i am still confuse…

  6. thanks for this post i was confused about the difference bet intensive and extensive , now it is so much clear

  7. the source please

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