Grammar 6 min read

Linking Verbs: Easy Examples and Tricks to Identify Them

Main Linking Verbs Takeaways:

  • 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).

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

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:

ishasdoes
cancouldmust
bearehave
dowillwould
maybeenam
haddidshall
shouldmightbeing
waswere🧐
List of Helping Verbs

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.”

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.

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