All verbs can be categorized as action verbs or linking verbs which are also called copulative verbs or copulas. A linking verb differs from an action verb as it does not tell us what the subject does, but what the subject is. All linking verbs are intransitive verbs as they do not take an object, but not all intransitive verbs are linking verbs. A linking verb functions as a link between a subject and a complement or subject complement. The subject complement modifies the subject, and it can be a word, an adjective, a noun, a pronoun, or a phrase acting as an adjective or noun. The most common linking verbs are the various forms of the auxiliary verb to be: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been, and verbs related to the senses: feel, look, smell, sound, taste, and appear, become, grow, remain, seem, stay, turn.
Linking verb is not action verb
A linking verb is not an action word. Any verb that takes an object or expresses an action is not a linking
- The last person to leave was my cousin, Tom.
(The word was is a linking verb, not an action verb. It names the last person.)
- She looked as if she was going to cry.
(It doesn't tell us what she did; only how she appeared to be; looked is a linking verb.)
Linking verb followed by adjective
A linking verb is often followed by an adjective but not a direct object. The adjective is also called a predicate adjective, a complement that is connected to the subject by a linking verb.
- I feel fine.
(Feel is not an action verb because it is followed by the adjective fine.)
- The meal was really delicious.
(The adjective delicious follows the linking verb was. It describes the subject meal.)
Linking verb followed by noun
A linking verb can be followed by a noun which is a subject complement or predicate noun (or predicate nominative) joined to the subject by a linking verb.
- My uncle is a wrestler.
(The subject complement wrestler describes the subject uncle.)
- She has been a nurse for the past ten years.
(The subject complement nurse tells us who she is.)
Linking verb followed by pronoun
A pronoun following a linking verb should be in the subjective case, not objective case.
- It was he they were looking for.
(He is a subjective pronoun. A subjective pronoun follows a linking verb.)
- Not: It was him they were looking for.
(Him is an objective pronoun which cannot follow the linking verb to be.)
Linking verb followed by phrase
A linking verb may be followed by a noun phrase, an adjective phrase, or a prepositional phrase.
- His father is a night train driver.
(Linking verb is is followed by the noun phrase a night train driver.)
- The new drug has proven to be very effective.
(Linking verb has proven is followed by adjectival phrase to be very effective.)
- Only four teams remain in the competition.
(Linking verb remains is followed by prepositional phrase in the competition.).
Identifying a linking verb
We can identify a linking verb by using to be and see if it makes sense. If it does, it is a linking verb. Otherwise, it isn’t. Use the following two sentences and replace the verb feels with is.
- He feels fine. = He is fine.
(The sentence makes sense, so the verb is a linking verb.)
- He feels the fine sand of the beach. = He is the fine sand of the beach.
(The sentence doesn't make sense. The verb is not a linking verb.)
Adverbs are not used with linking verbs
Adverbs modify action verbs, not linking verbs. Using adverbs instead of adjectives with linking verbs will result in incorrect sentences, as shown here. Remember regular verbs are followed by adverbs, andlinking verbs are followed by adjectives. Some common linking verbs are appear, seem, smell, sound, and taste.
- Andy appears calm.
(Not: Andy appears calmly.)
- Eddy seemed angry to me.
(Not: Eddy seemed angrily to me.)
- The pizza smelled delicious.
(Not: The pizza smelled deliciously.) .
- The idea sounds bad.
(Not: The idea sounds badly.)
- The drink tastes sweet.
(Not: The drink tastes sweetly.) .
Linking verb in contraction
The linking verb can be contracted in the following way.
The negative word not is contracted with a linking verb.
- It looks like a fish but it is not a fish.
- It looks like a fish but it isn't a fish.
- We are not ready to leave.
- We aren't ready to leave.
- He was not an important person.
- He wasn't an important person.
Difference between linking verb and action verb
Linking verbs are followed by adjectives which act as complements. Action verbs are followed by adverbs, which are their modifiers. Verbs that can be used as either linking verbs or action verbs include feel, get, grow, look, prove, remain, smell, sound, stay, taste, and turn.
- Linking verb: Weeds grow wild in the untended garden.
- Action verb: He grows a beard.
- Linking verb: The three of us got seasick, so we lied down.
- Actioin verb: You need to get a job soon.
- Linking verb: The evidence will surely prove their guilt.
- Action verb: The alternative treatments have proven highly beneficial.
- Linking verb: I tried to stay awake through the whole movie.
- Action verb: The judge agreed to stay the execution.
- Linking verb: We turned left twice and lost our way.
- Action verb: The car turned the corner too fast and overturned.