Learn English – Linguistic name for “general action verbs” and “specific action verbs”


Is there a linguistic or academical name for those verbs which express a general action compared to those which express a specific action?


  • do, make (general) vs. perform, build (specific)
  • have (general) vs. carry (specific)
  • get (general) vs. achieve, obtain (specific)
  • use (general) vs. apply (specific)
  • say (general) vs. whisper, explain, confess (specific)

I found this, but boring verbs vs. specifical verbs does not sound very academical to me…

Best Answer

The main division is between lexical verbs, primary verbs and modal verbs. Do and have are primary verbs, that is, they can function both as auxiliary and main verbs. All the others in your list are lexical verbs. Lexical verbs can be sub-divided into several further categories, but I know of no system that specifically divides verbs in the way you suggest.

However, for words nouns and verbs a structure of hyponymy is sometimes present. This is a hierarchy in which one general word covers several specific ones. A poodle is a kind of dog, which is a kind of animal, which is a kind of creature. In your list, it might be possible to say that explain was a hyponym of say, but I don’t think the system holds up particularly well for the examples you have given.