Linking verbs (to be verbs) are unlike any verbs we know. Although we use them often when we communicate with each other, people rarely notice them and mistake them to be action verbs or auxiliary verbs. So, how do we know if the verb we’re using is a linking verb or not?
Linking Verbs CONNECT the Subject of the Verb to the Predicate
They can do this in three ways:
- shows the relationship between the subject and the sentence complement;
- connects the subject with more information that further describe the subject; and
- identifies a relationship or existing condition.
The weather is humid today.
Brian became a writer after his wife passed.
You seem a bit under the weather today.
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Notice that none of the sentences contains a direct object because none of the verbs in the sentences shows an action that needs to be received. Instead, all the predicates complement the subject as either a predicate nominative (noun) or a predicate adjective.
Some linking verbs – appear, feel, grow, look, prove, remain, smell, sound, taste, and turn – can also be action verbs depending on how they’re used.
The children feel warm under the sunny sky.
(‘Feel’ here connects the predicate adjective ‘warm’ with the subject ‘children’ giving more information about the subject. So, it is a linking verb.)
The children feel the warm rays of the sun.
(‘Feels’ here is an action. Although you can’t see the action, the direct object ‘rays of the sun’ receives the action.)
Linking Verbs can be SUBSTITUTED with ‘BE VERBS’
A rule of thumb when mastering linking verbs: If you can substitute the verb with am, is, are, was, were, has, have, or had without changing the meaning of the sentence, then the verb is a linking verb.
Veronica became a dancer of a local dance group.
- Change to: Veronica is a dancer of a local dance group.
(The meaning is still the same. So, ‘became’ is a linking verb.)
She looks for flowers in the woods.
- Change to: She is for flowers in the woods.
(The sentence doesn’t make sense at all. So, ‘looks’ in this sentence is NOT a linking verb.)
This rule of substitution won’t work for the verb ‘appear’. To distinguish if this verb is a linking verb or an action verb, you have to analyze its function in the sentence.
The mysterious woman appeared in the hallway.
(‘Appear’ here means ‘came out of’ or ‘show oneself’ and is something the woman can do. Thus, it’s an action verb.)
The mysterious woman appeared sad and lost.
(‘Appear’ here shows the woman’s state of being. Thus, it is a linking verb.)
Linking Verbs VERSUS Auxiliary Verbs
Just remember that verbs of ‘be’ can act as auxiliary verbs (helping verbs) to help establish time. Alone, they can be called linking verbs. Once they are paired with action verbs, they are automatically become auxiliary verbs.
She is in the hallway. (‘Is’ is a ‘be’ linking verb in the present tense.)
She is standing in the hallway.
(‘Is’ helps the action verb ‘standing’ by establishing the present tense showing a progressive or continuous act.)
- Written by Bianca
- Edited and posted by Sekar