Sayings like "The road to hell is paved with adverbs" deters many aspiring writers who use adverbs to describe characters' actions. However, writers say this because there are usually more meaningful verbs that you can use in place of a more boring adverb plus verb. Use this list of descriptive verbs to create stronger mood, atmosphere, and characterization:
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Sayings like "The road to hell is paved with adverbs" deters many aspiring writers who use adverbs to describe characters' actions. However, writers say this because there are usually more meaningful verbs that you can use in place of a more boring adverb plus verb. Use this list of descriptive verbs tocreate a stronger mood, atmosphereand characterization:
1. Verbs that describe movement
common words thatDescribe how your characters move(like "run", "sit" and "walk") have many vivid alternatives. Discover these alternatives:
Stronger verbs to go
"She approached" is perfect for describing an approaching character. However, here are some alternatives:
- For Sights:To describe a carefree or relaxed character. It means “walk slowly or at ease”. Example:She walked over to our cafeteria table and casually tossed her books onto one of the dirty seats.
- Stumble:A great alternative to walking, uneven terrain, injuries or a clumsy personality. Example:I stumbled through the dark undergrowth, hoping to see the city lights flash ahead of me soon.
- Go:Wear it for a purposeful or confident walk. For example:She walked across the plains with raised sword, repelling arrows that came as easily as gnats in summer.
- Scare:Use for fear or caution moves. For example:He crept to the case, his eyes widening at the iridescent gold and rubies that glittered and dazzled.
- Yesterday:You can also use words that describemotion mode,like this. For example:Late for class, she hurries and forgets about the work she has to turn in today.
Descriptive verbs for running
"He ran to the departing train" is another use of an apt but not particularly descriptive verb. Here are alternatives for the verb 'to run':
- Screws:This synonym for "run" has fear connotations (we usually speak of a startled horse or other animal as "run away"). For example:At the roar of the first fireworks, the dogs fled and Tess stumbled toward the sliding door with a loud squeak.
- bring together/bring together:It conveys a sense of violence or destructive movements (because we also use it to mean "to destroy"). For example:The thief stormed down the side street, knocking a crate of fresh fruit from the arms of a startled vendor as he passed.
- Run:This alternative word for running indicates an agile, smooth and precise movement. For example:When she realized she forgot her purse, she ran back to the checkout.
- Throw:A great synonym, foreshadowing an impending impact (often "hurled toward"). For example:The athletes raced toward the ribbon at the finish line, each doing their best to break it first.
- Fly:Metaphorical uses of synonyms (a character may not literally be in the air) are also useful synonyms. For example:She flew across the runway confident that she would beat her record by full seconds.
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Get our guide to writing character descriptions, including a workbook with exercises and video lessons.
2. Verbs that describe silence
Even if a character doesn't move, a lot can happen. Instead of "they sat down," you can use a verb thatdescribes the mental or emotional states of charactersand other qualities.
Read these livelier words for still states:
Descriptive verbs for sitting
- Transact:A useful word for expressing a character's laziness, bad posture, or a defeated, "heavy" trait. For example:She sat in the back row and looked out the window, not giving a damn what the professor said.
- Drop:A great expression to suggest an awkward resting pose over which the character has no control (e.g. asleep or even dead). For example:In the middle of the meeting, she collapsed without warning as a loud, awkward snort echoed through the shocked conference room.
- Plop [down]:Words that sound like the actions they describe (called "onomatopoeia") are also useful for adding variety and liveliness to your writing. For example:He flopped onto the couch and sipped his beer with his eyes closed, like he wished the world would go away.
- Occupy:This is another great word to use for humorous effect. Suggests a bird on a branch - you feel like you're ready to pounce again at any moment. For example: "I have to go to bed,” she said, and Emma groaned, wishing her mother hadn't described going to the bathroom so lively and dirty in front of her friends.
- Solve:This is a good word to show that a character intends to stay put. For example:He sat down in the most comfortable chair in the room, even though she reserved it with a handkerchief. Seeing her annoyed expression, he gave her a teasing wink.
Describing verbs for standing
Even if a person (or object) stands up, you can add tone and humor to this not-too-active action.
- For tower:A grand word for imposing, awe-inspiring, or terrifying height. For example:The palace towered over peasant huts. They murmured among themselves about cakes and gold brocade cloaks and other luxuries they imagined gliding down golden corridors.
- Place:A good substitute for "stand up" when you want to suggest self-awareness or achievement. For example:The actress posed at the meetup and greeted each time lightning went off, the same practiced smile on her face.
- Upload:You can invest in large, immobile objects with a sense of movement—the movement a character's eyes would make if they were seeing everything. For example:The great mountain loomed over the plains, casting deep shadows across the travellers' long, dusty path.
- Stand out:A good synonym for "stand on your feet", suggesting "stick out". For example:Her head was towering over all the other guests and she felt like an ostrich bemoaning her 6 inch heels.
- Stand out:A word to suggest something that stands out in a way that breaks through an even surface. For example:His hand was projected over the heads of the audience. He was eager to ask the speaker a clever question - some would say trolling.
3. Livelier verbs for the voice
Actionsinclude the voice– speaking and laughing – also have many descriptive alternatives (e.gDialog-Tagsspecial,see this blog post).
Synonyms of 'speak'
- To rattle:A great word when you want to convey that a character talks a lot but expresses very little value or interest. For example:She chatted away, not even noticing when the other guests approached the fireplace or headed in both directions through the door in search of conversation.
- To preach:Metaphorically used professional words (like priesthood) are also great alternatives. For example, when a character in the dialogue is holier than you. For example:The more she preached, the heavier Emma's eyelids became. In the middle of a lecture on the dangers of boys driving red convertibles, she woke with a start when her mother, still talking, shook her shoulders violently.[As you can see here, the occasional adverb '-ly' is not the end of the world.]
- To whisper:Synonyms for "talk" like these are great for building volume and humor. For example:The closer they got to the abandoned house, the softer her brother whispered his protests until she turned away, eyes shining. "Either shut up or talk."
- Speak slowly:Words like "carried treatment" are great for characterization. It means "to speak slowly and lazily with lengthened vowels". For example:The bastard looked her up and down as he spoke slowly. "A thing as beautiful as you should never collapse on such a quiet street."
- stutter/stutter:Although their causes aren't necessarily nervous, speech disorders are useful for conveying shaky speech in a tense or anxious situation. For example:"I d-never t-touched-:" (he swallowed) "something here." The clerk eyed the broken glass.
Verbs for laughing and joking
Here are some words you can use in place of "laugh":
- Laugh:This synonym for "laugh" conveys a feeling of high-pitched, uninhibited laughter. For example:He slapped his knee and burst out laughing as the groom stumbled down the steps to the altar, but quickly disguised his outburst as a cough when he caught his wife's warning look.
- Laugh:A great word for suppressed or youthful laughter. For example:Her friends were camped six feet away, so she laughed and cupped his face with her hand as he started unbuckling it, saying racy things in that stupid pirate voice he loved so much.
- Rir:This synonym for "laugh" conveys affection or serenity and is also good for characterization. For example:He didn't find the joke funny, but he laughed as naturally as he could, hoping she wouldn't notice.
- to be hysterical:This synonym is excellent for conveying intense joy. For exampleThe more they tried to control themselves, the more hysterical they became until their faces turned red and they started screaming, which Mr.
- Laugh:Another useful laugh substitute, this time with a mock undertone. For example:"Oh, Mr. 'I don't care if I get a D in carpentry' is building a treehouse this summer? Good luck!" She laughed as she got off the school bus.
What are some of your favorite descriptive verbs? Feel free to share them in the comments section. And when you start out as a writer, invest in a good thesaurus that will help youFind the best verbs for each context.
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Jordan is a writer, editor, community manager, and product developer. He received his BA with honors in English Literature and his degree in English Literature and Music from the University of Cape Town.
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Lol, in today's easily offended world, where every little thing can be misconstrued, I think "giggle" might evoke less raised eyebrows. Just my opinion.
Good point! The word's offensive potential wasn't immediately apparent, as the offensive version isn't used much outside of the United States. A good reminder of regionality that has been changed. Thank you for reading.
Of course, whatever word is used, the intention and attitude towards "today you're easily offended" is obvious.
How on earth would "giggle" be offensive?
Hello Bane of Desdemona, the word mentioned was "giggle" which is not offensive in contexts outside of the US where a certain horrific racial epithet implied in the word is not as common. Of course "Snigger" is originally a variant of "Snicker", but OP said people might be offended by how similar the two words are in sound and letter. Hope that clears it up 🙂
Good tips. It's like finding out there's more to the five-pack of Crayolas.
Jordan, while I understand we live in an overworked, politically correct society, the two words are spelled and pronounced differently. If someone has reason to doubt the meaning of the word, look at the preceding or following words. You must disclose the author's intent. do not you think?
Hi BKjerry it wouldn't be your fault for using the word I would say no. Obviously not the same word.
However, it might be better to be on the safe side because of the sensibilities of some than to offend more people than necessary (when a close alternative is a semantically identical substitute). You can read the context, but in the age of the internet and the soundbyte (and the social media battalion), people also love to take things out of context.
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What are some examples of descriptive verbs? ›
|Walk||Stroll, march, stomp, amble, plod, hike|
|Think||Conceive, imagine, ponder, brood|
|Speak||Whisper, shout, demand, question, natter|
|Smile||Grin, smirk, beam, leer, chuckle|
|Frown||Scowl, glare, pout, grimace, wince|
- organize, purchase, avail, requisition, become. ...
- possess, experience, enjoy, own, manage. ...
- shout, yell, whisper, schmooze, prattle, garble. ...
- skip, gallop, stroll, wander, stride, amble, saunter. ...
- gobble down, chomp, gulp, crunch, devour.
- blab. To blab has a couple meanings – it can mean simply to talk carelessly and without thinking, or it can mean to reveal something secret by talking carelessly. ...
- clutch. To clutch means to hold something very tightly. ...
- cower. ...
- crave. ...
- devour. ...
- embrace. ...
- eradicate. ...
|1||Said||Screamed, shouted, sobbed, talked, whispered, yawned, hummed|
|8||Laughed||Giggled, smiled, smirked, admired, grinned, guffawed|
|9||Found||Located, unearthed, identified, collected, gathered|
|10||Ran||Jogged, pelted, raced, stumbled, staggered, swayed, galloped|
There are sixteen verbs used in Basic English. They are: be, do, have, come, go, see, seem, give, take, keep, make, put, send, say, let, get.What is the example of boring? ›
She found her job boring. That film was dead boring. The game was boring for the spectators. Try not to make the diet boring.What are examples of boring used in a sentence? ›
I find her books totally boring. I wish this book weren't so boring; I keep falling asleep whenever I try to read it.
|Present Simple||Past Simple||Past Participle|
|Run||bolt, dash, jog|
|Walk||slink, wander, meander|
|Make||create, fashion, forge|
What are the 200 verbs? ›
|BASE FORM||PAST PARTICIPLE|
|Primary Auxiliary Verbs||Be Verb: is, am, are, was, were, been, being Have Verb: have, has, had, having Do Verb: do, does, did|
|Modal Auxiliary Verbs||can, could, shall, should, will, would, may, might, must, dare, need, used to, ought to|
|V1 Base Form||V2 Past Simple||V3 Past Participle|
Beg, cheat, jog, jump, roast, marry, live, laugh, cough, etc., are some examples of regular verbs.What are 6 descriptive adjectives? ›
The following list gives just a few examples of descriptive adjectives: angry, blue, careful, dry, eager, fast, great, hot, incredible, jumpy, klutzy, little, mighty, nice, outlandish, prim, quiet, rude, special, ticklish, undercover, vicious, wide, young, zesty.What is a good descriptive word? ›
The top 10 regular verbs in English are: want, look, use, work, start, try, ask, need, talk, and help.What are the 100 irregular verbs? ›
- be-begin, bet-break, bring-catch, choose-dig, do-eat, fall-fly, forget-give.
- go-hear, hide-keep, know-learn, leave-make, mean-read, ring-see,
- sell-shoot, show-sit, sleep-spend, spit-stand, steal-take, teach-throw, understand-write.
- Being stuck in traffic.
- Standing in line.
- Being on hold.
- Junk mail.
- Slow internet connections.
- Listening to politicians.
- Watching TV adverts.
- The routine of everyday life.
How do you describe boring things? ›
On this page you'll find 103 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to boring, such as: dull, humdrum, lifeless, monotonous, mundane, and stale.What is a simple word for boring? ›
dull, humdrum, lifeless, monotonous, mundane, stale, stodgy, stuffy, stupid, tame, tedious, tiresome, tiring, trite, uninteresting, bomb, bummer, cloying, commonplace, dead.How many types of boring are there? ›
There are several boring techniques like auger boring, rotary drilling, wash boring, percussion drilling, auger drilling, and test pits that are employed to collect disturbed and undisturbed samples of soils.When something is very boring? ›
If you want to emphasize that something is very dull, you can use the phrase (as) dull as dishwater/ditchwater: The leaders' debate itself was as dull as dishwater. Another useful alternative to 'boring' is the adjective tedious: I very rarely iron clothes – I find it so tedious.What are the 6 verbs? ›
- Simple present.
- Present perfect.
- Simple past.
- Past perfect.
- Future perfect.
There are four forms of a verb: the base form, the past, the past participle, and the present participle.What are 3 strong verbs? ›
20 Action words with sentences and Pictures A list of action words Cook Write Wash Kiss Talk Climb Ride Eat Play Bathe Jump Drink Smell Hug Wait Cry Fight Snore Crawl Dig Action words with sentences and Pictures Cook She cooks food for me.What are the super 8 verbs? ›
This lists the 8 verbs that are essentially in order to be comprehensible in Spanish. This idea is originally from Terry Waltz who came up with the Super 7. The verbs include: Tener, Poder, Ser, Ir, Estar, Querer, Gustar, and Hay.What's a descriptive verb? ›
What Are Descriptive Verbs? A verb is a word that's used to describe an action. Descriptive verbs, or “strong verbs,” are single-word actions that add to the tableau in the reader's mind, giving it a boost of color and energy.
What are 3 examples of descriptive sentences? ›
“Drops of rain exit the pillowcases, drowsily float like feathers, soar in many directions.” “It is raining today; the crystal clear raindrops hit the ground silently.” “It's a dim, gluey, rainy day that feels like dark green, sticky frogs are on my skin.”What are verbs give 10 examples? ›
Identify−Students need to memorize the “to be” verbs to avoid using them and to revise those that they have used in essays: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been.What are the verbs that describe actions? ›
Run, walk, jump, talk, sing, speak, eat, drink, cry, skip, pull, push, fetch, give, make, bake, try, bring, teach, study, etc. are some examples of action verbs.What are descriptive verbs for says? ›
An adverb describes or modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb, but never a noun. It usually answers the questions of when, where, how, why, under what conditions, or to what degree. Adverbs often end in -ly.What is 1 example of descriptive writing? ›
Plain writing: The flowers were pretty. Descriptive writing: The colorful flowers brought life to an otherwise lifeless sidewalk. The different shades of the green stems and leaves were the perfect backdrops to the yellow, orange, and red petals that seemed to sway softly with the breeze.What is a sample sentence for descriptive? ›
She gave a descriptive account of the journey. a talent for descriptive writing a poem full of descriptive detail The black cat was given the descriptive name “Midnight.” The book is a descriptive grammar.
Primarily, there are three descriptive research methods: Observation, Survey, & Case Study.What are 20 examples of verbs? ›
|Achieve||The student achieved a high score on her SATs.|
|Win||They won the big tournament.|
|Wish||She wished her friend a happy birthday.|
|Write||I wrote four practice essays.|
|Watch||We all watch the same TV show on Saturday nights.|
What are the 5 types of verbs? ›
There are five basic types of construction of English verbs (as indicated above): intransitive verbs, linking verbs, mono-transitive (having one object), di-transitive (having two objects) and complex-transitive (having an object and a complement).What are the 8 being verbs? ›
The eight “be” verbs: Is, Am, Are, Was, Were, Be, Being, Been. Since these words indicate a state of being, we call them “be” verbs.