What Are Vivid Verbs? Definition, Examples, and More

When writing, your goal should not only be to be clear and concise, but you should also aim to capture the reader with your words. 

Your writing is much more enjoyable when you use expressive literary techniques to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. One method you should use to do this is vivid verbs. But what are vivid verbs?

In this article, we’ll explain what vivid verbs are and how to use them to make your writing more illustrative. 

What Are Vivid Verbs? 

A vivid verb is a descriptive verb that allows you to take your writing to another level.

Vivid verbs are a unique part of speech. The point of vivid verbs is to show rather than simply tell what is happening. They are supposed to paint a clear picture in the reader’s mind of what’s happening. Vivid verbs are often verbs accompanied by adverbs to be more descriptive. For example, instead of saying “think”, trying saying that you “envision” something!

In creative writing, you may use vivid verbs to show what’s happening to a character both physically and mentally. It allows the reader to visualize the character’s actions better, bringing them deeper into the story.

picture of two boys whispering to each other

That said, you can use vivid verbs in any writing or communication. Of course, the standard grammar rules of subject-verb agreement still apply no matter if you’re using vivid verbs or linking vs action verbs. They’re great if you’re recounting a story to a friend, trying to be specific in describing a place, or explaining a particular item you may be looking for. 

The best way to explain what vivid verbs are is to show you. To further illustrate the power of these exciting verbs, let’s look at some vivid verbs in action.

Examples of Vivid Verbs

There are a variety of circumstances in which you can use vivid verbs to strengthen the imagery in your writing.

We have all heard of common helping verbs like is vs are. But vivid verbs are slightly different! For more context on how to use vivid verbs, here are some examples.

Vivid Verb Example #1

  • Jamie went on a run.

While the above sentence gives us enough information to understand who is doing the action and what the action is, it doesn’t give us much more. However, if we switch out the common verb “run” for a vivid verb, we can get a lot more meaning out of the sentence.

  • In a panic, Jamie sprinted to save the baby stroller, rapidly rolling onto the street.

This sentence gives us a lot more context into what’s happening. “Sprinting” gives us a better idea of the pace at which Jamie was moving, and we also understand why she was moving as quickly as she was, as a stroller was “rapidly rolling.” This sentence makes you wonder if Jamie saved the baby, which means you will keep reading.

Vivid Verb Example #2

  • Amanda pushed Alexis.

The action happening here is that one person pushed another, which gives rise to many other questions. Why did Amanda push Alexis? Was she pushing her out of the way to save her from an oncoming car? Let’s find out by replacing the commonly used verb.

  • Amid her rage, Amanda violently shoved Alexis into the bush.

As you can see, Amanda’s actions were not friendly at all and were instead malicious, through the vivid verb “violently shoved.” You’d want to keep reading after this sentence to understand what Alexis did to make Amanda so upset. Many writers confuse simple predicate with vivid verbs. So be sure to understand the difference!

Vivid Verb Example #3

  • Jessica danced to the music.

What kind of music is Jessica dancing to? How is she dancing? Is she dancing alone? These are questions that you cannot answer from the common verb above.

  • Jessica gracefully twirled to classical music with her husband, Keith.

The above questions are all answered by adding vivid verbs and a few other descriptive words to give the full context of the scenario. We can assume that Jessica is happily dancing and envision the way that she is dancing thanks to the vivid verb.

More Tips for Using Vivid Verbs

Now that you’re an expert on vivid verbs, you’re ready to use them more in your writing. No more using boring standard verbs like “wear“. However, there are a few additional elements to remember to ensure that you use these exciting verbs effectively.

First of all, here are some common vivid verb examples you may want to consider using in your writing:

  • Chase
  • Climb
  • Crawl
  • Frolic
  • Glue
  • Hike
  • Plow
  • Pounce
  • Skip 
  • Stomp

Another tip is that you want to beware of using too many vivid verbs in a sentence. Verbs are critical parts of any sentence, but that doesn’t mean you can overuse them. It’s great to be as descriptive as possible, but there’s such a thing as being too descriptive, especially when combined with a series of adjectives and adverbs. Take the following example:

The bright yellow sun was intensely beaming and shining its rays over the calm, serene sea.

There are a few things wrong with this sentence. First, although “intensely beaming” is a very vivid verb, two verbs are used in this sentence — “beaming” and “shining” — and these verbs are essentially synonyms. For simplicity’s sake, it’s better to use one verb or another.

What’s more, this sentence is overrun with descriptive adjectives — “bright,” “yellow,” “calm,” and “serene.” While exceptionally descriptive, this is just too many adjectives for one sentence. It’s better to use less description and be concise rather than use too many adjectives and lose the meaning of your sentence.

How To Make Creative Writing Verbs

Try this two steps process

  1. Write your message clearly. Don’t get fancy with it. Just write your sentence using regular weak verbs.
  2. Get creative. Think of some synonym for your verbs the create a more vivid picture. A strong verb can make a huge difference in your sentences.

Take time during your editing process to change out some of your common verbs with more creative alternatives. Unique and vivid language will create interest in your readers minds and you’ll avoid repeating the same words over and over again!

Passive verbs vs active verbs

In active voice, the subject performs the action of the verb.

  • For example, “The girl kicked the ball.”

In passive voice, the subject is acted upon by the verb.

  • For example, “The ball was kicked by the girl.”

While active voice is usually more direct and concise, there are times when passive voice can be used to good effect. For instance, if you want to emphasize the results of an action rather than the actor, passive voice can be helpful. Vivid verbs aren’t the only type of verbs. You could also use a compound verb to improve your writing!

Wrap-Up: Paint the World With Vivid Verbs 

Vivid verbs are valuable when you want to improve your descriptive writing. Hopefully, you’ve learned more than just what vivid verbs are and are ready to use them to kick your writing up a notch.

Here’s a pro tip: If you ever need help finding synonyms to make your writing more vivid, writing tools such as Grammarly or ProWritingAid can give suggestions for improving your language.