Action Verb List

Here are some of the action verbs I have found most useful. In other books on acting and directing you will perhaps see similar lists of action verbs. But those lists invariably include words that, although identified correctly as verbs, are not what I consider to be useful for the actor's process of creating a subtext. Many of them are results of pursuing several actions. The question as to whether an action verb is doable has to be measured by the ability of the actor to pursue the action readily without any dialogue (as it lies underneath the already written text). Does it immediately enable the actor to respond? Bear in mind that every time I work with actors I discover

new possibilities and the list grows:

to accuse

to bestow

to comfort

to admire

to boast

to command

to admonish

to brag

to confess

to adore

to brood

to confide

to amuse

to brush off

to confront

to annoy

to buddy up

to congratulate

to apologize

to caress

to cuddle

to applaud

to celebrate

to defend

to attack

to challenge

to deify

to bask

to charm

to demand

to beg

to check out

to destroy

to belittle

to coax

to dis

to discard

to lure

to seduce

to discover

to mock

to seethe

to dismiss

to mother

to shock

to distract

to mourn

to show off

to embrace

to ogle

to sneak

to entertain

to patronize

to soothe

to entice

to perform

to stalk

to erupt

to pester

to startle

to escape

to plead

to strut

to examine

to ponder

to surrender

to explode

to pounce

to tantalize

to exult

to preen

to taunt

to flatter

to prepare

to teach

to flaunt

to primp

to tease

to flee

to probe

to tempt

to flirt

to protect

to test

to gloat

to provoke

to threaten

to grieve

to put down

to toss off

to hide

to question

to triumph

to idolize

to reject

to ward off

to ignore

to rescue

to warn

to impress

to retreat

to welcome

to incite

to ridicule

to withdraw

to inspect

to savor

to worship

to instruct

to scold

to yearn

to invade

to scrutinize

to invite

to search

This is of course a partial list to which additions can be made constantly. But it is important to bear in mind that acid test: does it immediately make one think of something that one can pursue without speaking? Here are some examples of verbs that are commonly mistaken for actor's verbs (as in those aforementioned lists appearing in other books), but which I believe are actually either results of pursuing several actions or not pursuable without words. To repeat, our doings must lie underneath the already written text and become part of the psychological subtext of the character.

to convince—a perceived result to persuade—can't be pursued without words, therefore becomes a perceived result to avoid—can't be pursued until there is something in the way therefore less useful to smile—a physical manifestation, not a doing in our terms to cry—an emotional manifestation, not a doing in our terms to undermine—a perceived result of doing several things to diagnose—cannot be pursued under text to smother—will result in physical activity or is a result to undress—an activity, perhaps with the action to fondle, to caress, or to attack? to enlighten—a result to build—an activity or a result to deceive—usually revealed in text or a result to fascinate—accomplished by multiple actions to dominate—again a perceived result

There are others that I believe are results of several actions and are therefore not useful enough in the communication to the actor:

to accommodate to eliminate to pamper to condemn to empower to forgive

There are some action words that I would put into what I call the gray area. They might work some of the time, depending on the context or the response of the actor, but they often do not elicit a direct response and therefore one must not assume they can be relied upon. Words such as to encourage to muse to select to skirt to think over to trap to glorify

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  • sheryl
    What is an action verb?
    9 years ago
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    Is the verb yearn action or nonaction?
    5 months ago

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