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Every sentence written in any essay has at least a verb. Intermediate learners always have problems using verbs accurately. It is also a known fact that some lower intermediate learners know limited verbs. No doubt, they know “play”, “sleep” and “cry” but some of them do not know common verbs like “organise”, “encourage” and “attend”. Therefore, they must be equipped with a list of verbs which are commonly used in SPM 1119 narrative essays. This write-up aims to share a list of common verbs which I personally believe would be sufficient for intermediate and lower intermediate ESL learners to write narrative or descriptive essays. Surely, the list can be modified, adapted or added depending on the learners that you teach.

In making sure our lower intermediate learners know how to use all the verbs listed here, I recommend teachers to implement some activities in three phases. Here are some suggested activities for each phase:


  • Introduction of all the verbs in the list

  • Highlighting the verbs which they are not familiar with

  • Finding the meaning of each verb

  • Sentence construction practices using the verbs given


  • Individual test on the meaning of selected verbs; verbs which are regarded as “higher level” verbs for lower intermediate learners such as announce, represent and consider.

  • Drilling in pairs – to reinforce the meaning of the verbs

  • Introduction to the past tense verbs of the verbs in the list


  • Reinforcement of mastery of past tense verbs

  • Emphasizing subject-verb agreement in using verbs (singular and plural subjects)

  • Paragraph writing using selected verbs

  • Verb test – to ensure all pupils attempt to master the verbs

  • Note: Some teachers may argue that language accuracy should not be given much emphasis among weak learners. Well, to me it is true. This means that, for weak learners, what is more important is their ability to express ideas. As long as their ideas are communicated clearly, it is fine. However, as teachers, we must still expose them to the correct use of past tense verbs and subject-verb-agreement so that errors can be reduced.

It is evident there are 216 verbs in the list but actually most of the verbs are known to lower intermediate learners such as eat, play, sing, buy, check, share and cook. Depending on their vocabulary storage, pupils should focus more on the words which they do not know or are unfamiliar with. Therefore, the total “216” should not scare any pupils or teachers as they actually already know many of the verbs . Here is the list of the common verbs for SPM 1119 essay:

  1. accept

  2. achieve

  3. adapt

  4. admire

  5. agree

  6. allow

  7. am

  8. announce

  9. apply

  10. appreciate

  11. approve

  12. are

  13. arrange

  14. arrive

  15. ask

  16. attend

  17. avoid

  18. award

  19. bathe

  20. become

  21. begin

  22. believe

  23. borrow

  24. break

  25. breathe

  26. build

  27. burn

  28. buy

  29. call

  30. carry

  31. catch

  32. celebrate

  33. change

  34. check

  35. check in

  36. check out

  37. choose

  38. clap

  39. climb

  40. collect

  41. come

  42. communicate

  43. compare

  44. compete

  45. complain

  46. concentrate

  47. concern

  48. conclude

  49. confirm

  50. consider

  51. continue

  52. cook

  53. count

  54. crawl

  55. criticize

  56. cross

  57. cry

  58. cut

  59. cycle

  60. decide

  61. decrease

  62. describe

  63. destroy

  64. die

  65. disagree

  66. discuss

  67. do

  68. draw

  69. dream

  70. drive

  71. earn

  72. employ

  73. encourage

  74. enjoy

  75. ensure

  76. examine

  77. exercise

  78. expect

  79. explain

  80. explore

  81. fall

  82. feed

  83. feel

  84. find

  85. fix

  86. flow

  87. fly

  88. fold

  89. follow

  90. forget

  91. get

  92. give

  93. go

  94. gossip

  95. grow

  96. guard

  97. guess

  98. happen

  99. have

  100. hear

  101. help

  102. hike

  103. hire

  104. hit

  105. imagine

  106. include

  107. increase

  108. inform

  109. introduce

  110. investigate

  111. invite

  112. involve

  113. is

  114. jog

  115. join

  116. jump

  117. kill

  118. kiss

  119. know

  120. laugh

  121. learn

  122. leave

  123. like

  124. look

  125. lose

  126. love

  127. maintain

  128. marry

  129. meet

  130. mix

  131. need

  132. offer

  133. open

  134. order

  135. organize

  136. participate

  137. park

  138. pass

  139. pay

  140. perform

  141. persuade

  142. plan

  143. play

  144. pour

  145. pray

  146. prefer

  147. prepare

  148. press

  149. propose

  150. pull

  151. push

  152. put

  153. rain

  154. read

  155. reject

  156. relax

  157. remember

  158. remind

  159. repair

  160. repeat

  161. represent

  162. rest

  163. ride

  164. rise

  165. run

  166. rush

  167. save

  168. say

  169. scream

  170. see

  171. sell

  172. serve

  173. settle

  174. shake

  175. share

  176. shoot

  177. shop

  178. show

  179. sing

  180. sit

  181. smell

  182. smile

  183. spend

  184. stand

  185. start

  186. steal

  187. stop

  188. suggest

  189. support

  190. swim

  191. take

  192. tell

  193. thank

  194. think

  195. throw

  196. tie

  197. touch

  198. train

  199. treat

  200. try

  201. understand

  202. use

  203. wait

  204. wake

  205. walk

  206. want

  207. warn

  208. watch

  209. water

  210. wear

  211. welcome

  212. win

  213. wish

  214. work

  215. worry

  216. write

Here are five sample essays which display the common verbs. The essays use simpler words and structures because they are prepared for lower intermediate and intermediate learners. Hopefully, these sample essays are able to convince lower intermediate learners that there are not many verbs which are needed for them to write essays. It also shows them that some of the verbs can be repeated in their essays.


SPM 2005 - Describe an enjoyable weekend you have experienced.

SPM 2015 - Describe what makes you happy and explain why

(what makes you happy is to meet and go out with your idol)

I am a 20-year-old girl. My name is Lofa. I am cute. I am still single. I have many idols. One of my idols is Fatah Amin. He is a very handsome actor. Some of my friends say Shuib Sepah is more handsome than Fatah Amin. I disagree with them. I watch all his dramas and movies. Fatah Amin is my hero. He is my prince. Last weekend, I went to Bintang Mall for shopping. I went there alone. I went to my favourite boutique, Kaseh Atikah Boutique. I wanted to buy a blouse. It was the most enjoyable weekend.

It was the best weekend in my life because I met Fatah Amin at the boutique! Fatah Amin was alone. He wanted to buy a dress for his sister. He came to me and said, “Excuse me, can you help me? Can you help me choose a dress for my sister?” I was too shocked to see my idol in front of me. He was so handsome. He was more handsome than all his photos that I kept in my album! I quickly said, “Yes!” I helped my hero to choose a pink dress for his sister. I walked close to him. I could smell his perfume. I was in heaven!

I told Fatah Amin I was his great fan. I told him I watched all his dramas. I told him he was my greatest idol. He smiled. He thanked me. Then, Fatah Amin asked me to choose a blouse. He said he wanted to buy the blouse for me because I was his great fan. I screamed happily. I wanted to cry. I felt like I wanted to hug him but I knew I should not do that. I took his photos a lot. He was so sporting. I could take many photos with him.

Then, he asked me to have lunch with him. “OMG ….OMG…. OMG!!!” I was very happy. We walked to Mekar Cinta Café near the boutique. We walked together. I could still smell his perfume. It was really the best weekend in my life! I walked close to him. I felt so happy. I wanted to hold his hand but I was afraid people would gossip us. Many people were looking at us. I did not know what was in their mind. Maybe some of them were thinking that I was his girlfriend. I would be happy to be his real girlfriend!

I ordered chicken chop and apple juice. He also ordered the same thing. He said he wanted to eat what I ordered. Wow! He was so romantic! Suddenly, his mobile phone rang. He said he had an emergency. He had to leave. He quickly ate his food and then he left. He gave me his contact number. I continued eating alone but I was the happiest and luckiest girl that weekend!



SPM 2006 - How to keep oneself healthy

SPM 2016 - What is the best way to help teenagers to stay fit and healthy?

I am Dean. I am 16 years old. I am a handsome boy. I have a girlfriend, Nina. I want to be slim and healthy all the time. I do not want to be fat. People always laugh at fat people. They must not do that. I know I must keep myself healthy. I must not eat a lot. I must exercise a lot.

Firstly, I love to swim to exercise. I swim at Nina’s house. She comes from a rich family. She has a big house. The house has a big swimming pool. I swim because I want to keep myself healthy, not to show my sexy body. I go to Nina’s house on Friday, Tuesday and Monday. I swim from 10.00 a.m. until 11.30 a.m. sometimes I swim alone. Sometimes I swim with Nina. Sometimes I swim with Nina’s mother. Nina does not like to swim. She likes cycling.

Sometimes, I also cycle to exercise. Nina likes to cycle so Nina always joins me cycling. She rides her pink bicycle. I ride my green bicycle. We always cycle at Taman Kempas. The roads at Taman Kempas are not busy. Sometimes we cycle at Taman Jati and Taman Kemuning. Cycling is good for my health. Cycling makes me sweat more. I like to cycle in the morning. Sometimes, I start cycling at 7.00 a.m. If I wake up late, I will start cycling at 9.00 a.m. I do not like to cycle in the afternoon.

My friends get angry because I always exercise with Nina. They also want to exercise with me so sometimes, I jog with my friends. I jog with Nurin, Misha, Chung, Kent and Vishnu. They are classmates. We go jogging at the playground near my house. The playground has a good jogging track. There are many trees. Some trees are very big and tall. The air is fresh. We can breathe in fresh and clean air while jogging. It is a safe place too. We always jog for two rounds. Sometimes we jog for six rounds. All of us want to stay fit and healthy.

I love to exercise. I like to do many things to exercise. I know I must not stop exercising if I want to stay healthy.



SPM 2017: Describe the first time you went on a camping trip. You should write about the activities at the camp and explain how you felt about the experience.

The bus was ready in front of the school at 7.00 a.m. I was among the first to reach school last Saturday. I was so delirious with joy to go camping. It was my first experience. The bus only left school one hour later and reached Ulu Rembau Forest Reserve at 10.00 a.m. The forest reserve was so serene. I could only hear nature and smell fresh air.

We hiked a small hill for ten minutes. All forty students and ten teachers found it was an easy hike. Then, we reached our campsite. It was an open space and it was surrounded by virgin forest. There was a rocky cliff and a pristine river flowing in the middle of the camp. I was all agog to see two big pools in the river. I could not wait to jump into the river and have fun with my friends. I took a lot of photos.

Our first activity was setting up our tent. I was in group seven together with my classmates Shaun, Halim, Gopal, Budriz and Jason. They were able to build our tent in less than twenty minutes. I was flabbergasted to see how fast they worked. Jason and Budriz really had a flair to do the task. I wanted to help but I did not know what to do. I looked carefully what they did and learned slowly how to build a tent. I felt bad for not helping them much but they said it was alright.

Then, we had lunch. After the scrumptious lunch we had a break. I went to the river bank and I had to hold my breath to see a group of fish swimming freely in the river. At 2.30 p.m. we went jungle trekking in the forest. Mr. Khan, our History teacher was with us. We walked for about one hour and I was elated to see some wild animals such as monkeys and colourful birds on the trees. I was so radiant and could not believe my eyes when I saw a very beautiful and majestic waterfall in front of me. I took so many photos along the way. Before it got dark, we walked back to the campsite. It was really a great jungle trekking.

After dinner, our teachers told us to sit in our group and discuss our plan for our performance. My group members agreed to sing an English song, Perfect by Ed Sheeran. All of knew the song very well. We practised until 10.00 p.m. We were poised we could sing well but had to stop as we were so deadbeat. I could hardly open my eyes but I was super thrilled for the next day. I knew there would be other challenging yet exhilarating activities for me to experience.

[464 words]


SPM 2018:

Describe a problem you once had while you were travelling. Explain what you did to solve the problem and what you have learnt from the experience.

Last week, my friends and I went to Cameron Highlands. We left Taiping at about 8.00 a.m. and reached Cameron Highlands three hours later. The weather was good. It was still cold as it just rained when we arrived there. I loved Cameron Highlands for its cool invigorating weather and majestic mountain views. We stopped at New World Strawberry Farm on our way to our hotel.

New World Strawberry Farm was opened last month. It was the newest and biggest strawberry farm in Cameron Highlands. My friends and I took a lot of photos. I loved to look at red strawberries. We also had strawberry ice-cream. It was really lip-smacking. I took photos of my strawberry ice-cream. I even took a video of my friends enjoying their ice-cream. Before leaving the farm, I went to the toilet.

My friend, Idham, drove straight to Brinchang Green Resort. I suggested the resort to my friends. My family always stayed at the three-star resort each time we went to Cameron Highlands. We reached Brinchang Green Resort at about 3.00 p.m. We quickly checked in. I stayed with Din. Idham stayed together with Bob. My room had a breathtaking view of virgin rainforest. I looked around but I could not see my mobile phone. I searched for my Huawei Nova 3i in my bag but I could not find it. I asked Din but he said he had not seen my phone.

I took the car key from Idham and searched the whole car. Bob came down too to help me. Both of us could not find my mobile phone. I began to worry. It was my best birthday gift. My father gave it to me last month on my birthday. I called all my friends and discussed what should be done. I could not think straight. Idham asked me a few questions and it was confirmed that the last time I used my Huawei phone was at New World Strawberry Farm. I remembered clearly I took photos and a video there.

My friends and I decided to go back to the farm. I was praying hard in the car that I would get it back. When we reached there, I rushed to the table that we had our ice-cream. however, the phone was not there. Suddenly, an old man who introduced himself as Mr. Liew came. He did not say a word. He looked at me for some time and then he took out my phone from his pocket. Mr Liew, a cleaner at the farm, said I accidentally left my phone there. He kept it because he was sure I would return to search for it.

I thanked Mr Liew repeatedly. I hugged him before we went to our resort. The experience taught me to be extra careful with all my valuable things. I must not be careless. I learnt that I must take good care of not only my phone but all my valuable items.

[493 words]


It is crucial for teachers to introduce this list of common verbs which their learners must master. Learners’ mastery of those verbs will be very helpful in their attempt to write narrative or descriptive essays. Undoubtedly, some weak learners need more time to know, understand and master all those verbs but this reality should not be an excuse not to expose them to those verbs.

The activities which gear towards learners’ mastery of all those verbs vary. It depends on various factors such as teacher’s creativity, learners’ background and availability of time. Whatever it is, we the ESL teachers should do our best so that effective teaching and meaningful learning can take place. Let us work hard and work smart and allow our success be a jubilant noise, in shaa Allah.

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