Grammar 6 min read

Linking Verbs .PDF + Easy Examples and Tricks

Main Linking Verbs Takeaways:

  • Here’s a Comprehensive Linking Verbs .pdf
  • Unlike most verbs, a linking verb is not an action word.
  • Instead, they connect the subject of a sentence with the rest of the sentence. They join a subject with its predicate noun or adjective.
  • There are 12 main and 23 total linking verbs in the English language.
  • These are always linking verbs: to seem, to become, and any form of the verb to be.
She seemed upset after the meeting.
The flowers smelled lovely.
He looked nervous when the teacher called on him during class.
The new yellow wallpaper in the dining room is stunning.
The twins were outside when the storm hit!
All of the children stayed calm during the fire drill.

What is a Linking Verb in English Grammar?

According to traditional English grammar guides, a linking verb describes the subject by connecting it with the rest of a sentence. What’s more, they can be a single word or a group of words. Unlike other verbs, this type of verb does not convey action. Instead, they describe or identify a subject. Think of them as the glue that holds a sentence together.

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There are several verbs that are always linking. These are:

  • to seem
  • to become
  • any form of the verb to be
A girl holding a rope where banners labeled as subject, adjective, and noun are attached. Additional text reads: Linking Verbs.
Linking verbs connect the subject with the rest of the sentence. They are not action words.

What is the Difference Between a Linking Verb and an Action Verb?

Typically, verbs are action words. However, linking verbs don’t express action. Instead of acting, they describe and connect. Specifically, this type of verb describes a state of being. Moreover, it connects the subject of a sentence with the subject complements. Subject complements are predicate nouns or predicate adjectives. “To be,” “to become,” and “to seem” are always linking verbs. Words that can function as a linking or an action verb include smell, appear, look, and sound.

Linking Verb Definition: a word or expression that joins the subject of a sentence with its predicate.

How Many Linking Verbs are There?

There are 23 total linking verbs in the English language. This total is made up of about eight verbs that are always linking. Examples include become, seem, and any form of the verb to be like am, is, are, was, were, and has been. Additionally, this total includes about 15 more verbs that can also be action or helping verbs.

What are the 23 Linking Verbs?

The 23 linking verbs are:

  • am
  • is
  • was
  • are
  • were
  • being
  • been
  • be
  • have
  • has
  • had
  • do
  • does
  • did
  • shall
  • will
  • should
  • would
  • may
  • might
  • must
  • can
  • could

What is the Most Common Linking Verb?

There are 12 popular linking verbs (is, seems, be, am, becomes, been, are, feels, being, was, appears, were).

  • is
  • are
  • am
  • was
  • were
  • can be
  • could be
  • will be
  • would be
  • shall be
  • should be
  • may be
  • might be
  • must be
  • has been
  • have been
  • had been

But, you can transform some of them into other forms, such as helping verbs.

Are Linking Verbs and Helping Verbs the Same?

Linking and helping verbs are not the same. For example, helping verbs come before the main verb in a sentence. They convey time or meaning. Conversely, linking verbs connect the subject to the rest of the sentence. They describe a state of being. To make matters more confusing, there is some overlap between linking and helping verbs. For instance, is, am, are, was, were, be, been, and being can be linking and helping verbs depending on the context of the sentence. You can use linking and helping verbs separately or in the same sentence.

Two panels. First panel has a triangle labeled as Subject and a circle labeled as Rest of The Sentence. A broken line meeting in between them shows they're connected. The line is labeled linking verb. Second panel shows a young man labeled as helping verb looking at his watch while assisting an elderly woman labeled as Main Verb. Additional text reads: Linking verbs and helping verbs have different functions, but some linking verbs are also helping verbs.
Linking verbs and helping verbs have different functions, but some linking verbs are also helping verbs.

Here is a list of common helping verbs. Bold verbs are also linking:

  • is
  • can
  • be
  • do
  • may
  • had
  • should
  • was
  • has
  • could
  • are
  • will
  • been
  • did
  • might
  • were
  • does
  • must
  • have
  • would
  • am
  • shall
  • being

To further complicate things, sometimes “is” can be linking, action verb, or a helping verb depending on the sentence’s context.

Benji is my neighbor.
Mrs. McCormick is my teacher.
Kylie is my boss.

In these sentences, “is” describes a state of being. The action referenced here is “to be.”

? Here’s a Comprehensive .pdf of Linking Verbs

How do you Identify a Linking Verb?

Here’s are three quick tricks for identifying a linking verb. First, replace your verb with is or are. If the sentence still makes sense, then your verb is most likely a linking verb. This is because is and are can act as linking verbs, but they are also effective substitutes for others. Similarly, another trick is to replace the verb with an equals sign (=). If the sentence still make sense, the verb is almost certainly a linking verb. The final trick is to decide whether the verb describes a state of being or an action. If the verb describes the subject’s state of being, it’s probably a linking verb. However, if the verb describes an action, it’s probably not.

1. Replace the Verb With Is or Are

Erica feels tired.
Erica is tired.
Samantha seems stressed when she writes essays.
Samantha is stressed when she writes essays.
The sky appears cloudy.
The sky is cloudy.

In the examples above, you can replace each verb in question with “is” or “are.” The sentences still make sense. Therefore, it’s confirmed that the each verb we replaced is linking.

However, in this example, the meaning of the sentence changes when we substitute the verb in question:

During the summer, my laundry dries quickly.
During the summer, my laundry is quickly.

The verb dries is an action verb because it describes an action the subject takes and not a state of being.

2. Replace the Verb With =

One of my favorite short-hand tactics for taking notes in History class. Replacing the verb in question with an equal sign can also help you determine what kind of verb a word is.

Shayla is annoyed.
Shayla = annoyed

How does Shayla feel? She’s annoyed, and we understand that after reading each example.

3. You Decide: State of Being or Action?

Action verbs express something a person or thing does. Linking verbs do not convey action. However, some are also action verbs.
Daria smells like cake.

The example above describes the subject, Daria. What’s more, the word smells connects Daria to the rest of the sentence. The linking category of verbs describes the subject and connects it to the rest of the sentence. Therefore, smells is linking here.

Daria smells the cake.

However, this example describes an action that the subject of the sentence took. In other words, this example describes something that Daria did.

What did Daria do? She smelled (the cake. We know you’re fresh as a daisy, Daria).

Therefore, smells is an action verb here.

Linking, Helping, Action, or All of the Above? Set a new High Quiz Score

Linking Verbs Question #1

A linking verb does not express action.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is TRUE. Linking verbs connect the subject of a sentence with its predicate.

Linking Verb Question #2

Identify the linking verb. John seems happy whenever he plays the piano.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is B. Seems connects the subject, John, with the rest of the sentence.

Verb "is" and "are" Question #3

“Is” and “Are” can serve as substitutes for linking verbs.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is TRUE. You can identify a linking verb in a sentence by replacing it with “is” or “are.”

Linking Verb Question #4

Which of these is NOT a linking verb?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is D. Work is an action verb.

Linking Verb Question #5

Which statement is FALSE?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is A. Unlike linking verbs, helping verbs help the main verb in a sentence by extending its meaning.

Helping Verb Question #6

Which of these is NOT a helping verb?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is B. Seems is a linking verb that connects the subject of a sentence with its predicate.

Read More: First, Second, and Third Person: Points of View in Writing

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Krista Grace Morris

Krista heads up Marketing and Content Creation here at INK. From Linguistics and History to puns and memes, she's interested in the systems we create to share our ideas with each other.

Comments (10)
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    mannat dhodi October 04 at 12:44 pm GMT

    This was genuinely so helpful!! Thank you so much!

    • Profile Image
      Krista Grace Morris Author October 05 at 3:37 pm GMT

      Thank you! We will be adding a downloadable .PDF with a full list of linking and helping verbs plus many more examples. We will let you know once it is available. Stay tuned! Thank you again for your warm comment and for reading.

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    merlin khouw October 16 at 6:52 pm GMT

    Can you give an example of using do/does/did in Sentence as a linking verb?

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      Krista Grace Morris Author October 19 at 4:42 pm GMT

      Hi Merlin, thanks for your question. Technically, do/does/did are helping verbs. We made a downloadable .pdf with tons of examples of linking and helping verbs here: https://blog.inkforall.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Linking-Verbs-List.pdf

      You can find do/does/did examples on page 3 under the Helping Verbs section in blue. Let us know what you think! Don’t be afraid to comment again for more examples. Thanks again for reading.

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    Jade Marie Bensi November 16 at 3:46 pm GMT

    Thanks so much! I found clarity here. I am teaching this to my 3rd grade students. 🙂

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      Jade Marie Bensi November 16 at 3:47 pm GMT

      Let me add this, the infographics are cute! 🙂 Keep up the good work.

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        Krista Grace Morris Author November 16 at 3:57 pm GMT

        WOW, Jade! Thank you for such warm words. We’re glad we could help. This is a tough subject at any age! The PDF in the article is also a great study guide for your students. The quizzes are also helpful practice. Thanks again for your comments!

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          Jordan Tribble November 18 at 8:36 pm GMT

          I’m in fourth grade and we are learning about this thanks to you I know a lot about this topic

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    Viktor Wang November 29 at 3:07 pm GMT

    Amazing! Can I ask how do you make these beautiful infographics?

    • Profile Image
      Krista Grace Morris Author December 02 at 7:50 am GMT

      Wow, Viktor! Thank you for your kind words. Our graphic artist are really something aren’t they! I’ll pass along the compliment. Please do share our images and infographics to show the artists how much you enjoy their work, and help others understand these concepts as well. Thanks again!

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