I have heard that two letter verbs are the shortest verbs in English. Is this totally true? Are any of the letters official recognized as verbs?

  • Probably E, meaning to receive a grade of "E" (was "F") in a class. He thinks he's gonna pass, but I bet he'll E out calculus. "E" is pronounced /i/, and that's a high front tense vowel, as short as any other English vowel. May 17, 2013 at 0:25
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    There's no such thing as an "officially recognized word". You've got it backwards: dictionaries don't determine what the language is; the language determines what's in the dictionaries. It's not a matter of definition; who would do the defining? The Academy? May 17, 2013 at 0:40
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    I've heard "U" used for "make a U-turn", as in "we need to go back, can you U here?". Perhaps this is not (yet...) in common use. May 17, 2013 at 0:54
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    WHen I was writing my dissertation back before mere graduate students had word processors I often had to x out entire pages. May 17, 2013 at 1:13
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it concerns trivia rather than useful advice on usage. May 3, 2018 at 20:37

4 Answers 4


From OED:

x, v.

Pronunciation: /ɛks/

Forms: Pa. tense x-ed, x'd.

  1. trans. To supply with x's in place of types that are wanting. rare—1.

1849 E. A. Poe X-ing a Paragrab in Wks. (1856) IV. 265 ‘I shell have to x this ere paragrab,’ said he to himself, as he read it over... So x it he did, unflinchingly, and to press it went x-ed.

I'm sure there are others.

  • This answer makes me wonder why the O.P. asked about vowels specifically, as opposed to any single-letter verb. (Maybe the O.P. should x out the word vowels, and change it to letters.)
    – J.R.
    May 17, 2013 at 9:13
  • I think many English learners are taught that a syllable is defined by the inclusion of at least one vowel, & that a word must have at least one syllable. Also there is the idea that, for example, /ɛks/ is somehow an improper pronunciation of the symbol "x". I propose that "." can stand for "stop", and be so pronounced. I now assert "." as the smallest English verb.
    – commonhare
    May 17, 2013 at 19:05
  • I wondered about symbols, too, but that's blurring the line between English and mathematics. There are also numbers like "86", which, in the restaurant business, can function as a verb meaning "declare we are out of," as in "86 the lobsters for the night" as the chef drops the last one into the pot.
    – J.R.
    May 17, 2013 at 19:46
  • I said vowels because I have been taught that all words must have a vowel (such as a and I). It appears I am mistaken.
    – Ian
    May 17, 2013 at 20:01
  • Hmm...I think that x is definitely the most plausible--I have heard it used before, such as "x out that sentence" or even in Windows "x out that window". Do you think it needs an object? For example, would it be proper to say "[you] X."?
    – Ian
    May 17, 2013 at 20:20

"Go" isn't any shorter than "do" or "be", so you heard a partial truth. The whole truth is that "Go, do, and be are the shortest verbs in English".

None of the vowels is officially recognized as a verb: an indefinite article -- a; a personal pronoun --I; an interjection -- O (variant of Oh); a texting abbreviation for why -- y; and a texting abbreviation for you --u.


eye, as in "I've been eyeing that cookie for a while now," is pronounced simply as the diphthong /aI/. Then you have ooh, "to make the sound ooh," which is pronounced as a single monophthong /u/. And how about err, which, depending on the dialect, might come out as a single rhotacized vowel.


None of the single vowel combinations are verbs - 'A' is an article, 'O' is an exclamation, and 'I' is a pronoun. Depending on how far you want to stretch the definition of "officially recognized" 'U' is a common shorthands for "you", and are hence is a noun and noun/adverb/exclamation respectively. None are verbs, and the others are not standard English words.

The shortest verb, technically, is 'X':

X (v):

Mark or make a sign with an X.

Although it is reasonably uncommon.

There are, however, several two-letter verbs in common usage - such as "be", "do" and "go".

  • Matt: You should x this out; you erred by examining only the consonants. :^) See commonhare's answer.
    – J.R.
    May 17, 2013 at 9:24
  • @J.R. In fact, I should have examined the consonants harder. Even so, I think the whole "'X' as a verb" is a little spurious, even if it's mentioned by the OED. Why can't I 'Q' a document with a 'Q'? or 'F' an exam paper with an 'F'? "be", "do" and "go" are at least in common general English.
    – Matt
    May 17, 2013 at 9:30
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    Whenever a question asks about English superlatives (e.g., What's the shortest verb, what's the longest word, etc.), then the question inherently lends itself to what you call "spurious" answers.
    – J.R.
    May 17, 2013 at 9:43

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