Understanding Linking Verbs: A Comprehensive Guide with Examples

Marcus Froland

Welcome to your comprehensive guide on linking verbs! In this guide, we’ll explore the essential role linking verbs play in English grammar and provide clear linking verb examples to help you master their usage.

Linking verbs, also known as copulas, connect the subject of a sentence to a subject complement, which can be a noun, pronoun, or adjective. They don’t express action but instead describe the subject’s state or appearance. Some common linking verbs include “be,” “seem,” “become,” and sensory verbs like “appear,” “look,” “feel,” “smell,” “sound,” and “taste.”

With this guide, you’ll not only learn how to identify linking verbs but also understand how to use them effectively in your writing. Are you ready to take your English grammar skills to the next level? Let’s dive in!

What Are Linking Verbs and Why They Matter in Grammar

Linking verbs play an integral role in the structure of English sentences by connecting the subject to additional information about itself without expressing an action. Unlike action verbs, linking verbs describe conditions, states of being, and sensory experiences related to the subject. They matter in grammar because they help to form predicates called subject complements—predicates that can be either nominative, identifying the subject, or adjectives, describing the subject. This distinction is vital for clear and correct expression in both spoken and written English.

Understanding the importance of linking verbs and how they differ from action verbs is crucial for proper grammar and sentence construction. To illustrate the significance of linking verbs, consider the following examples:

Rachel is a talented painter.

The flowers smell wonderful.

The cookies taste delicious.

In each of these sentences, the linking verbs (is, smell, and taste) connect the subject to additional information in the form of subject complements (talented painter, wonderful, and delicious). Note how the focus of the sentence is on describing the subject rather than expressing any action performed by the subject.

  1. States of being: Linking verbs can describe the essence or existence of the subject (e.g., The book is interesting).
  2. Appearance: Linking verbs can convey how something looks, smells, sounds, feels, or tastes (e.g., The cake looks appetizing).
  3. Change: Some linking verbs can represent a change or transformation in the subject (e.g., The leaves turned red in the fall).

By mastering the fundamentals of linking verbs and their grammar essentials, you’ll be better equipped to compose clear, accurate, and compelling sentences in English.

Linking Verbs Function
Be (am, is, are, was, were, being, been) Indicates the existence or state of being of the subject
Appear Describes the visual aspect of the subject
Look Describes the visual aspect of the subject
Feel Describes the tangible or emotional experience of the subject
Smell Describes the scent of the subject
Sound Describes the auditory quality of the subject
Taste Describes the flavor of the subject

Linking verbs are essential components of English grammar that connect subjects to their attributes, states, or identities, helping to form subject complements. Understanding the importance of linking verbs and their role in constructing meaningful sentences will significantly enhance your overall language proficiency and communication abilities.

The Unique Characteristics of Linking Verbs in American English

Linking verbs hold a distinctive place in American English grammar as they describe the subject’s state or identity, unlike action verbs that reflect a physical or mental activity. Mastering the use of linking verbs requires understanding their unique characteristics, differentiating them from action verbs, and recognizing the role of sensory verbs as linking verbs.

Distinguishing Linking Verbs from Action Verbs

Identifying the difference between linking verbs and action verbs is crucial for accurate grammar usage. While action verbs depict physical or mental activities, linking verbs connect the subject to its state of being, appearance, or condition. The ability to differentiate between these verb types allows for a deeper understanding of sentence structure in American English.

To distinguish linking and action verbs in a sentence, try replacing the verb with a form of ‘to be.’ If the sentence still makes sense, the verb is likely a linking verb.

Linking Verbs: More Than Just ‘To Be’

Though ‘to be’ is the most popular linking verb, other copular verbs exist that convey similar functions. Verbs like “become,” “seem,” “appear,” “feel,” “look,” “smell,” “sound,” and “taste”serve as linking verbs and often communicate sensory experiences and changes in state or condition relating to the subject.

  • He becomes nervous before presentations.
  • The problem seems difficult.
  • She looks tired today.

The Role of Sensory Verbs as Linking Verbs

Sensory verbs are particularly essential as linking verbs because they convey sensory attributes of the subject. These verbs include “appear,” “feel,” “look,” “smell,” “sound,” and “taste,” functioning as linking verbs when describing the subject’s perception through senses rather than reflecting the subject’s performed actions.

Sensory Verb Example as Linking Verb
Appear The new restaurant appears inviting.
Feel The blanket feels soft and warm.
Look Jane looks happy with her new job.
Smell The coffee smells delicious.
Sound The music sounds soothing.
Taste This cake tastes heavenly.

How to Accurately Use Linking Verbs in Sentences

Using linking verbs effectively in your sentences requires a good understanding of the sentence structure, subject-verb agreement, and predicate nominatives. Achieving grammatical accuracy with linking verbs is vital for constructing clear and meaningful sentences. In this section, we will discuss some essential pointers to ensure you accurately use linking verbs in sentences.

1. Subject-Verb Agreement

Ensuring proper subject-verb agreement is one of the essential steps in using linking verbs in sentences. For instance, if your subject is singular, the linking verb should also be in its singular form. Conversely, if you have a plural subject, the linking verb should agree by being plural too. Subject-verb agreement is crucial to perfect and fluent communication in English grammar.

2. Predicate Nominatives and Predicate Adjectives

Linking verbs require a subject complement, which can either be a predicate nominative or a predicate adjective. Predicate nominatives rename or re-identify the subject, while predicate adjectives describe the subject. Understanding the distinction between these two types of subject complements is essential to using linking verbs correctly.

3. Appropriate Conjugation for Tense

Conjugating linking verbs appropriately according to the tense involved is important for sentence structure and clarity. Be mindful of the tense while using linking verbs and ensure they match the subject and the intended message. This way, you will avoid misunderstandings and maintain grammatical accuracy in your sentences.

Incorrect: She looks happy yesterday.
Correct: She looked happy yesterday.

4. Familiarity with Common Linking Verbs

Becoming familiar with the most commonly used linking verbs can help you more effectively employ them in your sentences. As you gain greater understanding and practice using these verbs, you will notice an improvement in your overall sentence structure and grammar. The list below includes some of the most prevalent linking verbs:

  • be
  • appear
  • become
  • feel
  • grow
  • look
  • seem
  • smell
  • sound
  • taste

5. Double-Check Your Sentence Structure

Lastly, always double-check your sentence structure when using linking verbs to ensure that your subject complements are in their correct form and your sentence makes sense. It is good practice to review your work, as this can help you identify and correct any linking verb mistakes or subject-verb agreement issues.

By keeping these guidelines in mind, you will be well on your way to accurately using linking verbs and crafting grammatically sound sentences. Remember that practice makes perfect, and the more proficient you become with linking verbs, the more precise and effective your written and spoken communication will be.

Common Linking Verbs You Need to Know

When it comes to expanding your grammar vocabulary and mastering the intricacies of the English language, familiarizing yourself with both permanent and conditional linking verbs is essential. These verbs enable you to better express the state, condition, or sensory experience of a subject in a sentence. Let’s dive into the world of these crucial linking verbs and discover how they impact your communication.

Permanent Linking Verbs to Expand Your Vocabulary

Permanent linking verbs are the foundation of any grammar vocabulary. These verbs exclusively serve as linking verbs, never functioning as action verbs. They primarily connect the subject of a sentence to its state or attributes. Among the most common permanent linking verbs are:

  • be
  • become
  • seem


He is a talented pianist.
She became a doctor.
They seem happy.

These permanent linking verbs steadfastly maintain their linking function and are indispensable for constructing coherent and grammatically sound sentences.

Conditional Linking Verbs for Specific Contexts

Conditional linking verbs possess a unique quality: depending on the sentence context, they can either function as linking or action verbs. As such, they contribute to the richness and nuance of the English language. Some common conditional linking verbs include:

  • act
  • appear
  • grow
  • prove
  • remain
  • turn


The cat acted strangely. (conditional)
She appeared nervous. (conditional)
The leaves turned brown. (conditional)

He acts in a theatre play. (action)
The magician appeared on stage. (action)
She turned the pages of the book. (action)

Recognizing the role of these context-specific verbs in a sentence is crucial for accurately applying grammar and achieving a full command over the English language.

To elevate your communication skills and enhance your writing, understanding the difference between permanent and conditional linking verbs and their proper usage within various contexts is a must. By doing so, you’ll better express the nuances of your thoughts and ideas, making your communication both precise and engaging.

Linking Verbs Versus Action Verbs: Avoiding Common Mistakes

Differentiating between linking and action verbs is crucial to avoid common linguistic errors. An essential aspect of using linking verbs effectively is the appropriate use of subject complements, which are either predicate nominatives or predicate adjectives following the linking verb. Selecting the correct form of subject complement, using adjectives instead of adverbs, and ensuring subject-verb agreement are all integral to avoiding common mistakes with linking structures in sentences.

Subject Complements and Their Importance in Linking Structures

Subject complements play a significant role in linking structures as they provide additional information about the subject of a sentence. These complements can be either predicate nominatives (nouns or pronouns) or predicate adjectives. Both of these types of subject complements detail the subject’s state of being, appearance, or identity. To prevent linking structure mistakes, it’s essential to recognize when to use the proper form of subject complement.

  1. Analyze the sentence to determine whether the verb is a linking verb or an action verb.
  2. If a linking verb is identified, carefully consider the intended meaning of the sentence and choose the correct subject complement form accordingly.
  3. Ensure that adjectives, not adverbs, are used after linking verbs to describe the subject.
  4. Verify that subject-verb agreement is in place, i.e., the verb agrees with the subject in number and person.

Following these steps can help eliminate the risk of linking structure mistakes and improve the overall grammatical accuracy of your sentences.

Incorrect example: The cake tastes deliciously. (Incorrect use of adverb)
Correct example: The cake tastes delicious. (Correct use of adjective)

Becoming proficient in using linking verbs is essential for precise communication and mastery of the English language. By understanding the role of subject complements and embracing the best practices outlined above, you can avoid common linking structure mistakes and elevate your grammar aptitude.

Expert Tips for Identifying Linking Verbs in Any Sentence

Mastering the art of identifying linking verbs in any sentence is an essential skill for impeccable English grammar. To do this, you must first understand the key characteristics of linking verbs, such as their tendency to describe the subject rather than indicating any action taken by the subject. By keeping these expert grammar tips in mind, you can enhance your ability to accurately discern and utilize linking verbs in your writing.

One helpful strategy is to replace the verb in question with a form of ‘to be’ and check for consistency in meaning. If the sentence maintains its original meaning after the substitution, the verb is likely a linking verb. Familiarizing yourself with common linking verb formulations, such as sensory verbs like “appear,” “feel,” “look,” “smell,” “sound,” and “taste,” will also improve your recognition of these crucial elements in sentences.

Lastly, recognizing subject complements that follow the linking verb is key to differentiating between linking and action verbs. These complements, which can be either predicate nominatives or predicate adjectives, provide essential information about the subject. By honing your ability to identify them, you’ll further strengthen your grammatical prowess when it comes to using linking verbs correctly.