What Is a Linking Verb? | Definition & Examples
A linking verb (or copular verb) connects the subject of a sentence with a subject complement (i.e., a noun, pronoun, or adjective that renames or describes the subject). For example, in the statement “Max is excited,” the verb “is” links the subject “Max” to the adjective “excited.”
Linking verbs are used to indicate conditions or states of being. They’re often contrasted with action verbs, which describe physical or mental actions (e.g., “run”). Some verbs can be classed as either linking or action verbs, depending on how they’re used.
How are linking verbs used in sentences?
Linking verbs must follow subject-verb agreement and be conjugated for tense.
A linking verb is always followed by a subject complement (i.e., a word or phrase that identifies or describes the subject). There are two main types of subject complements:
- Predicate nominatives (or predicate nouns) identify the subject using a noun or noun phrase.
- Predicate adjectives describe the subject using an adjective or adjectival phrase.
The linking verb “be” can also be used along with an adverb or prepositional phrase to indicate time or location.
Linking verbs and stative verbs
Stative verbs describe states of being or perception. Many verbs can be classed as both linking verbs and stative verbs (for example, the sense verbs “taste,” “sound,” “smell,” “feel,” and “look”). However, not all stative verbs are linking verbs.
While linking verbs always connect a subject with a subject complement, some stative verbs do not. For example, in the statement “I recognize that woman,” “that woman” is not a subject complement; it is a direct object receiving the action of the stative verb “recognize.”
Linking verbs vs. auxiliary verbs
The verb “be” can be used as either a linking verb or an auxiliary verb, depending on the context.
When used as a linking verb, “be” connects the subject of a sentence to a subject complement that identifies or describes it. When used as an auxiliary verb, “be” helps another (main) verb to indicate tense, mood, or voice.
Linking verbs vs. action verbs
Linking verbs are often contrasted with action verbs (also called dynamic verbs).
- Linking verbs indicate conditions or states of being.
- Action verbs refer to specific physical or mental actions or events.
Some verbs (including all sense verbs) can be classed as either linking or action verbs, depending on the context.
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Frequently asked questions
- What is a subject complement?
A subject complement is a noun or adjective that renames or describes the subject of a sentence. Subject complements are necessary in sentences that contain linking verbs.
For example, in the statement “Lina is a singer,” the linking verb “is” links the subject “Lina” to the subject complement “a singer.”
- Is “look” a linking verb?
The verb “look” can be used as either a linking verb or an action verb, depending on the context.
When used as a linking verb, “look” links the subject of a sentence with an adjective that describes the subject (e.g., “Ava looks happy”).
When used as an action verb, “look” describes a specific action the subject is performing (e.g., “Dan looks at his watch”).
- What are some common linking verbs?
Many verbs can function as linking verbs, including:
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