38 Verbs of Movement in English

38 Verbs of Movement in English

Today, you’re going to learn 38 verbs of movement. Also check out Sound Words in English: Bang, Smash, Crash & 39 More.

There are loads of verbs of movement in English.

Think about how you walk, how you run, how you move things around and how things move without you even touching them.

So today, let’s look at some motion verbs — words to describe movement in English.

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Ways of walking

Ways of walking slowly

1. Shuffle

Verbs of movement: shuffle

When he walks, his feet never leave the ground. He’s shuffling.

“Shuffle” can also mean “mix” when you’re talking about cards.

2. Stagger

Verbs of movement: stagger

He’s had one zombie cocktail too many.

He’s trying to walk, but he can barely stay vertical.

“Stagger” also has another meaning.

If you have too much work to do, don’t do it all at once!

Stagger it!

Do a bit, take a break, then do a bit more.

Ways of walking quickly

3. Bolt

Verbs of movement: bolt

She was right here.

Now she’s gone.

She ran away suddenly — very suddenly.

Horses can also bolt, and there’s an idiom about it: to close the stable (“horse house”) door after the horse has bolted. It means “try to prevent a problem when it’s already too late.”

4. Skip

Verbs of movement: skip

The birds are singing; the sun is shining!

What a beautiful day.

Makes me want to skip to work.

So I will.

“Skip” means “walk with a little jump on each foot. Like you’re made of air.”

5. Sprint

Verbs of movement: sprint

Must be the fastest!

Go! Go! Go!

“Sprint” means “run as fast as you can.”

As a noun, it’s also an Olympic event: the 100 m sprint.

Ways of walking with attitude

6. March

Verbs of movement: march

Technically, this is the word we use for soldiers all walking at the same time in the same way — to show off how organised and scary the army is.

But if you’re walking quickly in a determined way — like when you’re angry, or when you want to feel like you own the room — then you march.

“He just marched in here and stole my sandwich. I was eating it!”

7. Strut

Verbs of movement: strut

You know those guys who walk around in an arrogant way?

That’s strutting.

Think of macho guys at the gym.

Or peacocks.

8. Swagger

Verbs of movement: swagger

“Swagger” is similar to “strut.”

It’s basically an arrogant walk, but can be a little more aggressive.

I avoid people who swagger.

Ways of walking in a limited way

9. Crawl

Verbs of movement: crawl

It’s kind of like walking — but on your knees as well as on your feet.

It’s what babies do.

10. Hop

Verbs of movement: hop

Walking. But with only one foot. Not two.

So … kind of jumping, I guess.

Other body movements

11. Duck

Verbs of movement: duck

Not the animal.

The act of getting down quickly because some maniac has decided to start having fun with the cannon again.

I wish he wouldn’t keep doing that.

12. Leap

Verbs of movement: leap

Jump! But jump far!

We also have the phrase “Look before you leap.”

It means “Don’t do anything risky without thinking about it properly first.”

13. Clap

Verbs of movement: clap

You do it when you see someone play the piano amazingly.

Or when you’ve seen someone play the piano terribly, but because they’re only four years old, you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

So you clap.

14. Punch

Verbs of movement: punch

Take your hand.

Close it into a fist.

Then punch the bag.

Try to only punch the bag, though, yeah?

15. Shrug

Verbs of movement: shrug

I don’t know what’s happening.

I don’t know what he’s doing.

I don’t know where we are.

That’s why I’m shrugging.

Stop asking me questions.

16. Tap

Verbs of movement: tap

This means to hit something lightly.

Right now, I’m tapping my finger on the keyboard to create these wonderful words you’re reading.

You can also tap on the window for no reason whatsoever.

Like the guy in the picture above.

17. Swipe

I tried to draw a picture of a cat swiping, but it turned out like, uh, this:

Verbs of movement: swipe

So here’s the internet fixing it for you:


Ways of moving something

18. Drop

Verbs of movement: drop

Hold something. Then let go of it.

That’s dropping it!

If someone keeps talking about the same thing again and again and again, you can say “Drop it!”

It means “stop talking about this before I go mad.”

19. Bend

Verbs of movement: bend

Take a metal pipe and try to break it.

Difficult, right?

You probably won’t break it.

But you might bend it — move it so that it’s not straight anymore.

Also, you can “bend the rules.” Not quite break them … but push them to their limit.

20. Flip

Verbs of movement: flip

This means “quickly turn something over.”

Like when that gorilla flipped over your uncle’s car on safari once.

Or when you flip a coin to decide who has to tell Humphrey the bad news again.

Also, “flip out” means “go completely mad with anger.” Like Humphrey when he gets the bad news.

21. Poke

Verbs of movement: poke

You might know this one from Facebook.

This basically means “push something sharp (but not too sharp) into something else.”

So you can poke someone (with your finger) as a friendly gesture (like on Facebook) or as an aggressive one (see the picture).

You can also poke someone with something.

“He poked the snake with a stick to make sure it was dead.”

22. Lift

Verbs of movement: lift

Hold it. Pull it up.

Well done! You’ve lifted it!

23. Propel

Verbs of movement: propel

Let’s make sure this thing goes as far as possible!

Kids might propel small pieces of paper across a classroom.

Or clowns might propel themselves out of cannons.

Does that really happen? Or is it a myth, like the elephants standing on top of each other?

24. Shake

Verbs of movement: shake

Moving something side to side very fast.

You can shake a cocktail shaker.

Or you can shake your fist at the moon if you’re feeling particularly mad.

25. Twist

Verbs of movement: twist

OK. This may not be entirely clear from the picture.

When you twist something, you move it in one direction with one hand and in the other direction with the other so it looks like this:

Twisted rope

Ways of describing things moving

26. Bounce

Verbs of movement: bounce

It goes up.

It goes down.

It hits the ground.

Then it goes up again.

It bounces!

The whole sport of basketball is completely based on this phenomenon.

There’s also this rather ridiculous song. (Warning: loud and sudden.)

27. Glide

Verbs of movement: glide

When things move beautifully through the air.

Like when you drop paper from a height.

Or the way birds move when they’re not flapping their wings.

28. Rise

Verbs of movement: rise

When you lift something, you move it up.

If something lifts by itself, then it rises.

Like the sun in the morning.

Or bread in the oven.

29. Roll

Verbs of movement: roll

When something turns over and over and over, it rolls.

Think about how your pen keeps rolling off the table. Annoying, isn’t it?

We can also roll something.

Like a cigarette.

Or those delicious stuffed vine leaves:

Stuffed vine leaves
Mahshi by Fadyatef | CC BY 3.0

30. Slide

Verbs of movement: slide

Moving along a smooth surface — usually downhill.

You can also slide something.

Have you ever seen people play curling? When they slide this big metal thing that looks like it belongs in Star Wars along the ice.


Weird, isn’t it?

31. Soar

Verbs of movement: soar

Go up! And up! And up!

And just keep going up!

Think about how a rocket takes off.

Or the opposite of what the global economy did in 2008.

32. Spin

Verbs of movement: spin

This means to go round and round and round in the same place.

Something can spin:

“The ballerina spun and spun and spun. No one knew when she would stop. Or whether she wasn’t, in fact, a robot.”

Or you can spin something:

“The girl spun the bottle once more, wondering whether or not she was a complete teenage cliché from the ‘80s created by a writer with no idea about what teenagers do these days.”

33. Sway

Verbs of movement: sway

Think about how the trees move when it’s windy.

They creak and sway, right?

They move back and forth in the wind.

Or how a ship moves on a windy day.

34. Swing

Verbs of movement: swing

The difference between “swing” and “sway” is very small.

They both involve moving backwards and forwards or from side to side.

However, when you swing, you’re usually moving from an unmoving point.

Think about the swing in the picture — the swing is attached to some rope, which is attached to the tree branch, which isn’t moving. So the movement is predictable and under control.

However, if you think about the plants swaying in the wind or the ship swaying in the storm, the movement is more unpredictable and less of a straight line.

It’s a small difference, but under it all, it’s all about “controlled” versus “random and organic.”

35. Swerve

Verbs of movement: swerve

Go forward. Keep going forward!

Look out for the rabbit in the middle of the road!

Turn right very suddenly!

“Swerve” means “make a sudden turn” — usually to avoid something.

36. Swoop

Verbs of movement: swoop

This is usually used for birds. It means “move downwards from the air quickly.”

37. Tumble

Verbs of movement: tumble

This means “fall in a clumsy and chaotic way.”

I usually think of rocks tumbling down a mountain.

Or someone tumbling down the stairs.

38. Wobble

Verbs of movement: wobble

This is such a pleasing word to say.

Go ahead — say it!

Feels good, doesn’t it?

What does it mean?

Good question.

This means “move from side to side randomly.”

Sometimes it’s used for things that aren’t very solid, like jelly.

Or sometimes we use it to show how unsteady something is:

“I still wobble when I try this yoga pose.”

OK. There we go: 38 verbs of movement in English to increase your movement vocabulary.

So now, let’s practise!

Can you answer these two “Have you ever … ?” questions:

  1. Have you ever had a job flipping burgers?
  2. Have you ever not looked before you leapt? Did you regret it?

Answer in the comments!

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38 thoughts on “38 Verbs of Movement in English

  1. Thank you Gabriel for sharing this. I enjoy reading your posts; very funny 🙂 I’m a native speaker of Arabic and I’m not sure I know as many verbs of movement in my mother tongue…

  2. Thanks brother Gabriel. These lessons are help me as a teacher of English, especially that its not my native language

  3. thanks for clearing up a lot of my doubts about movement verbs and it was such a pleasure to read this blog. I would love to see more exciting blogs from you and especially vocabulary like advanced words for facial expressions etc.

    1. Oh yeah! Facial expressions is a good one. Thanks — I’ll definitely consider it.

      And thanks for the positive feedback. It feels good knowing that there are people like you out there — taking initiative to learn! Keep up the good work! 🙂

  4. I read all your sentences and your catchy slogans. That’ was Awesome.. We can get the students to enact all the action verbs in the class.

  5. Gaby,
    I, sometimes make errors when it comes to Punctuation. Can you send me some work sheets wherein
    i can do the exercise and forward it to you for a check. susan

    1. Hi, Susan.

      This is a common problem, and it’s great that you’re going to work on it.

      Can I recommend that you Google “punctuation quiz” or “punctuation quiz ESL”? I’ve just tried it, and there are loads of free quizzes that offer immediate feedback, so you can find out your issues straight away.

      Hope that helps! 🙂

  6. I just looked into the sentences and found that those were single sentences. Gaby, My
    problem is when it comes to paragraphs. I am good when it comes to single sentences. I get
    confused when it comes to paragraphs. There is a lot of Direct Speech in it.

    1. Thanks for raising this issue.

      Yes — larger amounts of text, whether it’s speaking or writing, can be tricky to do.

      This is a good idea for a future blog post. I’m definitely going to look into it as see if it’s doable.

      Cheers! 🙂

  7. I don’t know what to say actually because this was the first time to learn something from the internet and to be very amused.

  8. I’m currently writing poems to read to pupils on World Book Day and one poem will be about movement – your list of verbs will be very useful. Many thanks.

  9. I Really like your posts they are useful to the people whos in need of these words and all
    it helped me to i learned a lot of verbs that i don’t know thanks!

  10. I’m a native speaker of English, but I find your list valuable in my Russian studies. To my dismay, I realized that I don’t know how to say these actions in Russian. Thanks for providing a list I can focus on!

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