A strong verb is a verb in a sentence that ensures active voice within that sentence, rather than weak verbs that often create passive voice in a sentence. While certain verbs may more easily create active voice and act as strong verbs quite often, most verbs can potentially be strong or weak depending on how they are used. A strong verb typically stands on its own in a sentence, often without an auxiliary verb, and clearly indicates the action performed by the subject of the sentence. In “The dog chewed the bone,” the verb “chewed” is strong, while in a sentence like “The bone was chewed by the dog,” it becomes weak.
Proper word order and elimination of weak or unnecessary words within a sentence can often help produce a sentence with a strong verb rather than a weak one. One of the main functions of a strong verb is to ensure active voice within a sentence, which makes the sentence feel stronger and more direct. This is typically done by beginning a sentence with a subject that is taking action in that sentence, rather than starting the sentence with a direct or indirect object and embedding the subject in the sentence later.
The use of a strong verb typically creates direct action within a sentence, producing a line that is clear and easy to understand for a reader. In a sentence like “The man hit the ball with the bat and ran around the bases,” the meaning is clear and the action is strong and direct. The word “hit” in this sentence is a strong verb, as is “ran,” and stands alone without any auxiliary verbs. A reader of this sentence can clearly tell what the action is and the entire event has a feeling of immediacy and “power” behind it.
When a strong verb is not used, however, a weak verb is typically found and the sentence often loses the sense of strength and action it could have had. If the previous example was rewritten as “The ball was hit by the man who ran around the bases,” the action has become somewhat diluted and the meaning made less clear. The weak verb in that sentence is the phrase “was hit,” which has taken on an auxiliary and the subject of the sentence has seemingly become the ball, rather than the man. Without using a strong verb, the secondary action in the sentence, the man running around the bases, also becomes confusing and the flow of the sentence becomes choppy and weak.