Critical Verbs

Verbs are the heartbeat of any literary critical argument. We need lively, precise verbs to describe the work of literary texts and to do justice to the arguments made by others. You’ll find these lists of verbs helpful as you write “state of the art” footnotes, bibliographic annotations, and your own proposals/arguments/papers.

Verbs to describe what we do with what has been said before:

  • distinguish [what we say from what they say, using “voice markers”]
  • acknowledge [who said what]
  • cite [details of the venue in which it was said]
  • group [similar utterances together, according to methodology, conclusions, focus of attention]
  • summarize [what someone has said]
  • evaluate [the merits, shortcomings, and utility of someone’s contribution]

Helpful verbs to describe what a journal or book series does:

  • is receptive to, is interested in, solicits, favours, seeks, actively seeks, disseminates, accepts, encourages, prefers, welcomes, covers, includes, concentrates on, provides a forum for [a certain kind of approach, topic, author, period]
  • publishes, prints, includes [reviews, notes, advertising], publishes articles that demonstrate
  • aims to, strives or claims [to do something], seeks to represent, insists that contributors [do something]
  • represents [the interests of a scholarly group, the latest scholarship, a particular approach, the best of something]

Tips for Writing Annotations:

  • Omit implied subject (e.g., “The article,” “The author).
  • Combine two verbs in one sentence using —ing versions of one of them.
  • Add a preposition to the —ing phrase: in, by, through (e.g., “By gathering evidence from [sources], shows that…”)
  • Add qualifying adverbs (e.g., “briefly”).

Sample verbs to describe what an argument, critic, book, chapter, or article does:

abstains
accentuates
accounts (for)
acknowledges
addresses
adds
adheres to (an approach)
advocates
aligns
allows
alludes
analyzes
anticipates
applies
argues
articulates
ascertains
asks
asserts
assumes
attends to
attenuates
bases
breaks
brings forth
carries
celebrates
challenges
checks
claims
coins
combines
compares
concedes
concludes
connects
considers
constitutes
contends
contradicts
deals with
defends
defines
demonstrates
depicts
derives
describes
detects
develops
distils
draws (parallels between)
emerges
emphasizes
employs
encounters
ensures
examines
exemplifies
explains
explores
expostulates
extends
extenuates
facilitates
finds
finds that
follows
gathers
gestures towards
hints
hopes
hypothesizes
identifies
illuminates
illustrates
implies
improves upon
includes
incorporates
infers
informs
inspires
interprets
interrogates
introduces
invokes
involves
justifies
knows
lays out
leads
links
loops
mediates
muses
navigates
needs
negates (the claim that)
negotiates
observes
obviates
offers
parses
points out
prefers
presents
presupposes
prioritizes
promises
prompts
proposes
proves
reads
recognizes
reconstitutes
records
recovers
recreates
refers
reflects
relies
repudiates
reserves
restores
reuses
reveals
revises
scrutinizes
selects
sets up
settles
shapes
shows
studies
succeeds
suggests
surfaces (i.e., brings a hitherto unknown artifact or collection into view)
summarizes
supports
surveys
sustains
theorizes
thinks
traces
tries
unpacks
upholds
uses
warrants
works

Credits

Compiled by English 500, Fall 2011. Revised by English 521, Spring 2014. Revised Janelle Jenstad, 2016.