Linking Verbs

What are Linking Verbs?

Not all verbs express actions. The ones that refer to a subject’s state of being, its nature, condition, or appearance are called Linking Verbs. Let’s look at the following examples:

  • Laura is a preschool teacher.
  • Jarek and Marita are volunteers for the food drive.
  • You seem out of sorts today.
  • The weather felt great when they woke up.

Linking verbs, as indicated by their name, link or connect a sentence’s subject to its complement. A subject complement is a part of speech, modifier, or phrase that defines or describes the subject. In the first example above, the linking verb “is” connects the subject “Laura” to its subject complement “a preschool teacher.”

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Linking Verbs Rules

Subject-Verb AgreementBoth action and linking verbs follow the rules of subject-verb agreement apply: singular subjects take singular verbs and plural subjects take plural verbs.Singular Subjects:
– She is scared to walk in the dark.
– Bobby looks confused.

Plural Subjects:
– They are excited to see you!
– Fermented vegetables smell strong.

Subject-verb agreement rules are observed whether the predicate nominative is singular or plural. The verb must conform to the subject of the sentence.

– The hardest thing to correct is essays.

– Essays are the hardest thing to correct.
Subject Complements are Never AdverbsBoth adjectives and adverbs are modifiers. Adjectives modify nouns, while adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.

Most adverbs are derived from their adjective counterparts and formed by adding the suffix –ly, which sometimes causes confusion.

Remember that linking verbs connect subjects to their subject complements, and so subject complements could only either be adjectives or nouns.
– The policeman was carefully.
– Jackson is sadly.
– They are happily to be here.

Correct: – The policeman was careful.
– Jackson is sad.
– They are happy to be here.  
Spelling To Be Verbs In ContractionsThere are a number of words that sound and look like contractions of pronouns and the linking verb to be. Read the following to avoid writing them correctly.

Normally, we use the apostrophe to indicate possession as in “Clint’s bag” but we don’t do it with the pronoun “it.”

The words they’re, their, and there sound the same, but:

– They’re – the contraction of they + are
– Their – shows possession (possessive adjective/pronoun)
– There – an adverb or a pronoun.
The word “You’re” is the contraction of “you + are.” “Your” is a possessive pronoun/adjective.

1. It’s/Its

The organization reached it’s first year as the leading company in the market.

The organization reached its first year as the leading company in the market.

2. They’re/Their/There

Their here.Correct:
They’re here.

3. You’re/Your

Your my favorite person.

You’re my favorite person.
Table of Rules for Linking Verbs
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Linking Verbs & Auxiliary Verbs

You may have encountered some English references or textbooks that classify 3 chief types of verbs: action verbs, linking verbs, and auxiliary verbs. Some references group linking and auxiliary groups together and state the distinction between them as “linking verbs that act as main verbs” and “linking verbs that act as auxiliary verbs.”

The similarity between linking and auxiliary verbs is that many of the same words can function as both. The main thing is to know how to differentiate the two. Linking verbs are the main verbs in sentences and serve as links or bridges between subjects and their subject complements.

Auxiliary verbs (or helping verbs), on the other hand, help or connect with other verbs to function grammatically. Auxiliary verbs are used together with verb tenses and their aspects. They are also used together with other verbs to express verb moods such as indicative, interrogative, and so on.

Let’s study some examples:

  • This house is a hundred years old.
  • She is leaving early for her trip.

In the first sentence, the verb “is” connects the subject “this house” to its subject complement “a hundred years old.” This makes “is” a linking verb.

In the second sentence, the verb “is” goes together with the main verb “leaving” to express the present tense and its aspect the present progressive or continuous tense.

Linking Or Action Verb?

There are verbs that can either function as linking verbs or action verbs, determined by their usage in sentences. Let’s look at the following sentences to observe the difference:

  • It tastes a bit too salty.
  • She tasted the broth before putting in more meat.

The verb “taste” in the first sentence is a linking verb as “a bit too salty” is a complement for the subject “it.” In the second sentence, “taste” is an action verb as the subject “she” is doing an action involving the broth.

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Examples of Linking Verbs

1. Yolanda is 23 years old tomorrow.
2. He seemed stressed when he entered the office today.
3. They were the accountants from Segfried Inc.
4. The crust appeared intact when you put the pie in the box.
5. I am the leader of the Delta delegation.
6. Fili was the last person to submit his photographs.
7. The cream tasted funny so we checked the expiry date.
8. They became agitated when the timer buzzed.
9. Wanda, you look great today. Is that a new dress?
10. I can’t tell if Roy is happy or disappointed.

Linking Verbs Exercise with Answers

Exercise on Linking Verbs

Identify whether the verb in bold is a linking verb or an action verb.

1. Gillian looked fine when we checked on her this afternoon.

a. linking verb

b. action verb

2. It felt good to bask under the summer sun.

a. linking verb

b. action verb

3. Samuel looked into the reasons behind the delay.

a. linking verb

b. action verb

4. They said Niko is the best chef in his bracket.

a. linking verb

b. action verb

5. Meryl was at her best in her new film.

a. linking verb

b. action verb

6. They tasted the desserts and decided to order more.

a. linking verb

b. action verb

7. That sounds like a fantastic opportunity.

a. linking verb

b. action verb


1. looked – a. linking verb

2. felt -a. linking verb

3. looked– b. action verb

4. is – a. linking verb

5. was– a. linking verb

6. tasted -b. action verb

7. sounds-a. linking verb

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Linking Verbs List

List of Linking Verbs
True Linking VerbsSensory Linking VerbsLinking Verbs/Action Verbs
– these are linking verbs that can’t function as action verbs– these are linking verbs that are related to the senses– these are linking verbs that can both be linking verbs and action verbs
to be and all its forms(am, is, was, are, were)
to become
to seem
all sensory linking verbs
Table of Linking Verbs

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

Learning about linking verbs can be confusing because there are a number of words that can have multiple functions as verbs. There are also a lot of terms that students need to memorize that identify certain sentence parts or label functionalities that can confound the average English Learner. Not to mention all the other types of verbs that have unique and overlapping grammatical roles. Here are a few general guidelines that you could add to your study habits to help you manage the challenges in your English language studies:

1. Use Grammar Lists

Study materials like lists, tables, charts, and diagrams can be exhausting due to their great quantity. The best way to maximize their utility is to find ones that are easy to follow. You can also personalize them according to your individual learning methods and routine. These materials aren’t the only ways to learn. Nonetheless, they serve as great introductions to all grammar subjects, not just linking verbs. They break down complex concepts into more “bite-sized” patterns, formats, and rules that make them a lot more comprehensible. Additionally, most of them (as you would see in this blog) include real-world sentence examples that are useful in improving vocabulary and sentence construction skills.

2. Use Audio-Visual Resources

Self-directed instruction is an inevitable part of studying languages. The amount of time you use in a traditional classroom setup isn’t sufficient to achieve a high level of language proficiency in a given timeframe. You need to learn independently, and this requires commitment. Sounds tedious, doesn’t it? But it isn’t just thorns and struggles. A great way to absorb how native and non-native speakers use English in a variety of contexts is to have ample exposure to audio-visual materials: podcasts, TV shows, YouTube videos, music, TikTok, films, and so on. You literally have the best resources at your fingertips. It’s also something you can actually enjoy. The English language is believed to be the most creative language in the world (possibly because it’s the only language known around the globe) and it is ever-changing. A huge part of these changes is influenced by pop culture. By using media as a tool, you’ll also learn things that are culturally and socially relevant. Learning and entertainment can supplement each other, as long as you listen actively and consume media with the intent of learning.

3. Practical Use

In all academic fields, theory remains static without practice. Have you ever met a grammar whiz who, ironically, strains to carry a long conversation in English? Chances are, the bulk of their studies is via books and their real-world practice is almost nonexistent. The only real path to fluency is to talk. When your skills are limited to reading and writing, it’s still commendable, but not at all close to ideal. You’re not going to answer standardized tests all the time. You’re studying English to communicate for future necessities: networking, building relationships at work, being based overseas, etc. So speak every time an opportunity presents itself. And if it doesn’t, organize an English club or a study group. The bonus? You can cultivate friendships with fellow English students and learn how the language is used in their respective countries.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand be verbs and helping verbs or auxiliary verbs.

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Common Errors Made by English Learners

There are language pitfalls that English learners encounter as they study. Look at the table below to know what they are so you can avoid them.

Common ErrorsExplanation
Wrong ConjugationSome linking verbs are irregular verbs such as “be” and “become.” Remember to conjugate them properly when used with auxiliary verbs in different tenses.
Subject-Verb AgreementSubject-verb agreement errors recur even with native speakers. In casual conversations, they are tolerable, but never in academic or professional writing – the reason why editing is important. Keep that in mind.
Linking Verbs as ModifiersDon’t use linking verbs to modify the subject. Many students say “She seems.” or “They taste.” Subjects are modified by their complements so make sure that your sentences are complete.
Adverbs as Subject ComplementsAs mentioned in the rules, using adverbs to describe the subject is wrong. For example, “He is loudly.”
Table of Common Errors with Linking Verbs
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Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Linking Verbs

Below is a list of useful tips for studying Verbs:

Best PracticesExplanation
Study the different conjugations of new verbsEvery time you come across a new verb, write its forms in different tenses. For example, you learned a new verb “become.” It’s not enough to learn its meaning. Learn its past tense and past participle forms. In this instance, became is the past from, and become is the participle (which goes with auxiliary verbs). Use what you’ve learned to write sentences and ask a teacher or a fellow student to check them.
Welcome corrections from othersWe hear mistakes in language better when others are making them. This is why many English learners record themselves and listen to their mistakes. You may do this yourself. Or you can ask fellow students or teachers to correct you when you make mistakes because they’ll be able to hear errors in grammar more easily than you can. Welcome these corrections and don’t feel discouraged. Instead, receive them as learning opportunities.
Learn through sentencesIn most language references or resources, the sentences included as examples are taken from real-life situations. Copy them or make your own based on their structures. You’ll be able to improve your ability in crafting sentences and using various ways of expressing them. This is crucial in developing fluency.
Table of Learning Strategies for Linking Verbs
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Linking Verbs Frequently Asked Questions

Linking verbs connects the subjects of sentences to details that describe them. They are bridges to descriptions of a subject’s state or condition. Linking verbs can function as main verbs and don’t need other verbs to make sense.

Look for a subject complement. If the sentence has one, then the main verb is a linking verb. You can also try to determine if the verb exhibits some kind of action. If it doesn’t, then you’re looking at a linking verb.

Actually, there are over 10 types of verbs. But as mentioned previously, some textbooks classify three main types of verbs: main verbs, linking verbs, and auxiliary. Let’s look at some examples:

Main verbs:

– Dylan wasted wrapping paper.
– Cleo glued some plastic leaves around the lamp.

Linking verbs:

– They were overjoyed at the news.
– Bo Yang is 45.

Auxiliary verbs:

– I would go there if I could.
– I am doing my homework.

No, it’s an auxiliary verb. “Should” is in its modal form. Modal verbs include “can,” could,” “may,” “might,” “shall,” “should,” “shall,” “will,” “would,” “must,” and “ought to.” The word should is typically used in conditional sentences or when someone is giving advice.

The number of types varies depending on the source. Verbs have been classified in countless ways according to their functions, which aren’t always exclusive of each other, which is why there’s a lot of overlap: a verb can be a main, linking, action, transitive, active-voice, and regular verb at the same time.

The main types of verbs are main, auxiliary, and linking verbs. The other types include action and stative, transitive and intransitive, active voice and passive voice, regular and irregular verbs, modal verbs, and phrasal verbs. This doesn’t include tenses, infinitives, and verbals which are considered as either sub-types or types of their own.

There are two. When the subject complement is a noun or a noun phrase, it is called a predicative nominative. For example, “He is a doctor.”

The second type is the predicate adjective. It’s an adjective or adjective phrase that describes the subject. For example, “I am lonely.”

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