Linking verbs in English: examples, tips and list

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Linking verbs
Linking verbs

In this post, we learn what linking verbs are, and what they do in a sentence.

What are linking verbs in English?

Linking verb definition: A linking verb is a type of a main verb that links the subject of a sentence to its complement (a word or a group of words that identifies the subject and either renames it or modifies it).

A word or a group of words that comes after a linking verb and identifies is called a subject complement. It tells what the subject is or how it is.

Linking verbs explanation
Linking verbs explanation

Here’s a complete list of linking verbs in English

Linking verbs list

TO BE
TO BE: is, am, are, was, were, may be, might be,
should be, would be, can be, could be, must be, will be, shall be,

BEING: is being, am being, are being, was being, were being

BEEN: has been, have been, had been, may have been, must have been, could have, should have been,
will have been, shall have been, might have been
To be form of verbs
TO SEEMseem, seems, seemed
TO LOOKlook, looks, looked
TO FEELfeel, feels, felt
TO SOUNDsound, sounds, sounded
TO TASTEtaste, tastes, tasted
TO SMELLsmell, smells, smelt
TO STAYstay, stays, stayed
TO BECOMEbecome, becomes, became
TO GOgo, goes, went, gone
TO REMAINremain, remains, remained
TO TURNturn, turns, turned
TO GETget, gets, got
TO APPEARappear, appears, appeared
A list of linking verbs

Linking verb examples

  • You are a wonderful singer. (The linking verb ‘are‘ is linking the subject ‘you’ to its complement a wonderful singer, which is giving the subject a name. You = a wonderful singer)
  • Jon was sad last night. (The linking verb ‘was’ is connecting the subject ‘Jon’ with the subject complement ‘sad’. Jon = sad)

A linking verb is either followed by a noun (predicate nominative) or an adjective (predicate adjective).

More linking verbs examples

  • I am really excited for the party.
  • Akshay was the best bowler of our team.
  • The teacher is upset with all the students.
  • My friends are the best.
  • You were the love of my life.
  • Sam is being extremely polite to me.
  • All the interviewers were being very rude to me.
  • This year has been terrible for most people.
  • Knowing how many skillful workers the company has lost, the employers have been very positive about the future.
  • Jon had been very helpful in those days.
  • You will be the mother of my baby in some time.
  • We shall be happy to contribute to this amazing cause.
  • Tina may be upset with you.
  • This trip might be a failure.
  • You must be a fighter. You look like one.
  • The team should be satisfied with their performance as it was quite a historical win.
  • If he didn’t come on time, I would be dead.
  • Because of you, the party could be exciting.
  • Jennifer could have been the lead actress of this movie.
  • Max should have been more careful with the money he won in the lottery.
  • Your family must have been disappointed with your results.
  • Everyone seemed clueless when he announced his retirement.
  • This jacket looks perfect on you.
  • You look beautiful without makeup.
  • The task seems difficult to solve.
  • My mom appears mad at me.
  • The food smells delicious.
  • I felt terrible when they stranded the dog.
  • If you put in the work, dreams come true.
  • Jimmy stayed calm and composed even after getting a death threat.
  • You must try this. It tasted extremely good.
  • The crowd went silent after Virat lost his wicket.
  • Even after losing his dream job, Max remained positive.
  • Sometimes, we get demotivated when things don’t go the way we want them to go.
  • He remained faithful to the company.
  • Your story never falls true.

Linking verbs vs action verbs

Some verbs act as both linking verbs and action verbs. Here’s the list of verbs that can be both linking verbs and action verbs:

  • Appear
  • Look
  • Smell
  • Go
  • Taste
  • Stay
  • Fell
  • Get
  • Turn

How to identify if any of these verbs function as a linking verb or an action verb in a sentence?

If a verb functions as an action verb, it is followed by a noun (object) or an adverb or a prepositional phrase. None of these things will refer to the subject; they will be different from the subject.

But if a verb functions as a linking verb, it will be followed by a noun (predicate nominative) or an adjective (predicate adjective): subject complement. And both the things will identify the subject; the subject complement either renames the subject (noun) or modifies it (adjective).

Examples:-

  • He appeared before the court yesterday. (Action verb)
  • He appeared lost before the court. (Linking verb)
  • She looked at me in a weird way. (Action verb)
  • She looked beautiful in that dress. (Linking verb)
  • He smells his food before eating it. (Action verb)
  • He smells nice today. (Linking verb)
  • We go to new places every now and then. (Action verb)
  • We go crazy after having some drinks. (Linking verb)
  • The chef tasted the food himself. (Action verb)
  • The food tasted delicious. (Linking verb)
  • We stayed at his place last night. (Action verb)
  • We stayed motivated even after losing the match. (Linking verb)
  • I felt the pain in his voice. (Action verb)
  • I felt helpless when I got lost in the forest. (Linking verb)
  • He got some bonus money. (Action verb)
  • He got emotional after hearing his sad story. (Linking verb)
  • He turned the chair towards me. (Action verb)
  • He turned violent as soon as he got fired. (Linking verb)

Linking verbs vs helping verbs

All the ‘to be’ verbs can function as both linking verbs and helping verbs.

When ‘to be’ verbs function as helping verbs, they are followed by an action verb, and when they are followed by a noun or an adjective, they function as a linking verb.

Examples:

  • I am a teacher. (am = linking verb, a teacher = subject complement)
  • I am working on something. (am = helping verb, working = main verb)
  • Ron has been very loyal to me. (has been =linking verb, very loyal = subject complement)
  • Ron has been living here for years. (has been = helping verb, living = main verb)
  • You might be right. (might be = linking verb, right = subject complement)
  • You might be sleeping. (might be = helping verb, sleeping = main verb)
  • She could have been the lead actor. (could have been = linking verb, the lead actor = subject complement)
  • She could have been doing something at that time. (could have been = helping verb, doing = main verb)

Don’t use an adverb after a linking verb!

Don’t make the mistake of using an adverb after a linking verb.

  • It tasted strongly. ❌
  • It tasted strong. ✔️
  • You smell nicely. ❌
  • You smell nice. ✔️

NOTE: adverbs are not used right after linking verbs, but, sometimes, they can be used before linking verbs.

  • You always look pretty.
  • Jon never goes mad.

Using a pronoun after linking verbs

When a subject complement renames the subject, it’s usually a noun, but it can also be a pronoun. When a subject complement is a pronoun, some people use a subjective pronoun, and some use an objective pronoun.

  • It was me who called her.
  • It was I who called her.

A subject complement refers back to the subject, which can only be a noun or a subjective pronoun. So with this logic, we should use I. But people have been using an objective pronoun in this case for so long that it has almost become acceptable. So, there’s no loser; everyone wins.

Subjective pronoun: I, we, you, he, she, it, they
Objective pronoun: me, us, you, him, her, it, us

FAQs

How do you identify a linking verb?

A linking verb, unlike any other verb, is followed by a subject complement: a noun or an adjective. The subject complement refers back to the subject; it either gives it another name or modifies it with an adjective.

You are my friend. (you = my friend)
You are smart. (you = smart)
You are doing this well. (There is no subject complement here, and the verb ‘and’ is an auxiliary(helping) verb.)

If a verb is linking, it works like equal (=) sign. If it does not, it won’t work as equal sign.

What is the difference between helping and linking verbs?

A helping verb is followed by a main verb, and a linking is not; it is followed by the subject complement.

Jon is living here. (helping verb)
Jon is upset. (linking verb)

She has been fired from the job. (helping verb)
She has been supportive throughput the journey. (linking verb)

Notice when the verbs (underlined) function as helping verbs, above, they are followed by a main verb. But they function as linking verbs, they are not followed by a main verb; they are followed by a noun or an adjective: subject complement.

What is difference between main and linking verb?

A linking verb is one of the main verbs we have in English. When we talk about the main verb, we often think of it as an action verb, which it usually is. But there are other types of main verbs too.

Types of main verbs in English

1. Action/dynamic verbs
2. Stative verbs
3. Linking verbs

An action verb indicates the action the subject performs, a stative verb shows the state the subject is in, and a linking verb links the subject to its complement.

1. Ashish teaches English. (action verb)
2. Ashish loves English. (stative verb)
3. Ashish is a teacher. (linking verb)

What comes after linking verb?

A linking verb is followed by the subject complement: noun, adjective, or prepositional phrase. It either renames the subject (noun) or modifies it (adjective or prepositional phrase).

Examples:

1. Jon is a cop. (noun phrase)
2. Jon is smart. (adjective)
3. Jon is in a lot of pain. (prepositional phrase)

What is another word for linking verb?

A linking verb is also known as a copula or copular verb.

Do linking verbs have objects?

No, a linking verb does not have an object. It has a complement. Verbs and prepositions have objects.

Can linking verbs be passive?

A linking verb is neither active nor passive. Sentences that have a dynamic verb can be in active or in passive voice. A verb can only be in the active voice or passive voice if it has an object, if it is an action or stative verb that is transitive in nature.

I understand everything. (active voice, stative verb)
I am not understood by most people. (passive voice, stative verb)
We offered him a job. (active voice, action verb)
He was offered a job. (passive voice, action verb)
I am a teacher. (no voice)
We were upset.(no voice)

Hope you enjoyed the post! Feel free to correct any typing errors and share the post with others to help them! Contact me at [email protected] for one-on-one classes.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I have learned in my English class to not use the words “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” and “why” after linking verbs. Is this statement true? I have listed some examples of both incorrect sentences and correct sentences. Will you please reply to me and see if my information is accurate? Thank you.

    Examples:
    Pine Street is where I live. (Incorrect)
    Pine Street is the address where I live. (Correct)

    My mother is who I am upset with. (Incorrect)
    My mother is the person I am upset with. (Correct)

    Yesterday is when I went to see the doctor. (Incorrect)
    Yesterday is the day I saw the doctor. (Correct)

    Being sick is why I am not at work today. (Incorrect)
    Being sick is the reason I am not at work today. (Correct)

    Paying attention is what I need to do. (Incorrect)
    Paying attention is the thing to do. (Correct)

    • Hello, Kenneth!
      I am afraid that’s incorrect. If these words are a part of a noun clause (conjunction), they can come after a linking verb.
      The sentences you wrote ‘incorrect’ are grammatically correct. Can they be better? Absolutely yes.

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