Grammar 4 min read

Linking Verbs: Definition, Examples, and how to use Them

Main Takeaways:

  • Linking verbs connect the subject of a sentence with the rest of the sentence.
  • A linking verb joins a subject with its predicate noun or adjective.
  • A linking verb is not an action word.
  • There are 12 main linking verbs in the English language.

Linking verbs prevent confusion by merging a sentence’s subject with relevant details. They aren’t action words, but they’re essential. Familiarize yourself with linking verbs by skimming this info-packed grammar guide.

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What is a Linking Verb?

A linking verb is a word or group of words that connect a subject with the rest of a sentence. Picture a linking verb as the building block that holds a sentence together. We use a linking verb to describe or identify a subject.

linking verb definition: a word or expression that joins the subject of a sentence with its predicate

A linking verb doesn’t express action. Its role is simply to connect the subject of a sentence with the subject complements. Subject complements are predicate nouns or predicate adjectives.

Linking verbs connect the subject with the rest of the sentence.
Linking verbs connect the subject with the rest of the sentence. They are not action words.

How do you Identify a Linking Verb?

You can identify a linking verb by replacing it with is or are in your sentence. “Is” and “are” can also act as a linking verb, but they are also effective substitutes for other linking verbs.

Jerica feels tired.
Samantha seems stressed when she writes essays.
The sky appears cloudy.
The flowers were dead.

In the examples above, you can replace each linking verb with “is” or “are.” The sentences still make sense.

You can also insert the equal sign when determining if a word is a linking verb.

Shayla is annoyed.
Shayla = annoyed

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

How Many Linking Verbs are There?

There are 12 popular linking verbs (is, seems, be, am, becomes, been, are, feels, being, was, appears, were). But, you can transform some of them into other forms, such as helping verbs.

iscan bemay be
arecould bemight be
amwill bemust be
waswould behas been
wereshall behave been
should behad been
List of Linking Verbs

Are Linking Verbs and Helping Verbs the Same?

Linking and helping verbs are not the same. However, some linking verbs are also helping verbs. Helping verbs appear before a sentence’s main verb. They convey time or meaning.

You can use a linking and helping verb separately or in the same sentence.

ishasdoes
cancouldmust
bearehave
dowillwould
maybeenam
haddidshall
shouldmightbeing
waswere
List of Help Verbs

You may notice that is, am, are, was, were, be, been, and being appeared on both lists. It’s because these words can act as a linking verb or a helping verb depending on the context of the sentence.

What’s the Difference Between an Action and Linking Verb?

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

“To be,” “to become,” and “to seem” are always linking verbs. Words that can perform as a linking verb or an action verb include smell, appear, look, and sound.

Daria smells like cake.
Daria smells the cake.

In the first sentence, “smells” behaves as a linking verb. In the second sentence, it’s an action verb.

To further complicate things, sometimes “is” also functions as an action verb. As you may recall, “is” also acts as a linking verb and 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.”

Thanks for hanging out with us during this quick grammar lesson. We hope you feel confident using any linking verb in your writing or verbal conversations.

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.

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