So I had a little semantics argument about English verbs, where the other side claimed, let me quote:

They are one in the same, every action is a verb, every verb is an action.

I disagree, but not being a native English speaker, unlike my opponent, I'm having problems catching up. I could disprove the second part easily using verbs "like", "have" and "want".

But as of the first part, an action that is not a verb... I know one: action It's an action actually, because you "Take action." But is there anything else?

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The Original Poster's friend is suffering from what is known as TEACHER INDUCED ERROR. People have this view because, unfortunately teachers at school have the habit of telling students that verbs denote actions, nouns denote things, adjectives describe nouns, adverbs describe adjectives and so on and so forth.

There are literally thousands of nouns that denote actions. Here are a few:

  • dismissal
  • massacre
  • baptism
  • release
  • edification
  • pugilism
  • launch

Not only are there thousand of such words, but English is fully equipped with grammatical devices for showing the thematic roles in relation to such actions. So we can show, for examples, both the actors and patients in relation to such actions:

  • The dismissal of the managing director by the board

  • The massacre of the Enterprise crew by the Romulans

  • The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist

  • The release of the prisoners by the authorities

  • The launch of the advertising campaign by the creative agency

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  • Massacre of the Enterprise crew by the ... Daleks ?! – Andrew Leach Mar 23 '15 at 16:09
  • @AndrewLeach Yes, I know, couldn't remember any names! Perhaps you could suggest one! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 23 '15 at 16:10
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    How about the Romulans? Or the Dominion? (But we all know the Enterprise crew was never massacred, so it may not actually matter) – Andrew Leach Mar 23 '15 at 16:18
  • @AndrewLeach Done ... – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 23 '15 at 16:19

You are correct that some verb are not actions: you listed states of being. "A verb . . . conveys an action . . ., an occurrence (happen, become), or a state of being." Wikipedia

In my humble opinion, English is an excellent language, in part, because of the flexibility of the words. Colloquially, what you are looking for is nouning a verb. (Short explanation.) The technical term is "gerund", which makes me think of farming not grammar, but I am a little strange.

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  • It goes deeper than this. The noun motion for instance references ... er, motion, and the verb seem, for instance, references appearance. Eventually, notional ideas of even these most major of word classes have to be at least greatly augmented by analysis involving syntactical behaviour. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 12 '15 at 7:19
  • Nouning a verb is something that didn't help me, since every verb can be nouned it's pretty much invalid. Also all non-verbs like login, logoff and workout are made from words that are implicitly verbs not nouns. – Tomáš Zato - Reinstate Monica Feb 12 '15 at 15:14

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