Linking Verbs Explained

Verbs come in all shapes and sizes. Some show action and some do not. Some describe or rename the subject in the sentence. Verbs that describe or rename the subject are called linking verbs.

What are linking verbs?

Another way to define linking verbs is that linking verbs do not express action but connect the subject and verb to more information. Some words can function both as a linking verb and an action verb as you will see in some of the sentences below.

 Examples of linking verbs

Michael is a football fan.

Is isn’t something that Michael can actually do. Instead, it connects the subject, Michael to more information about him, that he really enjoys playing or watching the ball. So in this sentence is is a linking verb.

The dogs are barking angrily at the cat.

Are isn’t something dogs can do. Are connects the subject, dogs, to information about them, that they are mad at the cat.

Tomas always feels tired when he stays up playing video games all night.

Feels connects the subject, Thomas, to his state of being, tired.

Learning to speak a new language seems impossibly hard at first.

Seems connects the subject, a new language, with something said about it, that it’s difficulty can be deceiving at first.

There are other verbs that are known as true linking verbs and they are as follows:

Any form of the verb be which includes am, it, is, are, were, was, has been, are being, etc. Also, become and seem are linking verbs. These verbs are called true linking verbs because they are always linking verbs.

Then there are verbs that can be linking verbs or action verbs. These include feel, look, remain, grow, appear, smell, taste, turn, and sounds.

But how do you tell when these words are being used as an action verb and when they are connecting the subject of the verb to more information? It’s not as difficult as you may think.

One handy little trick is to see if you can substitute is, and, or are and see if the sentence still makes sense. If it does then you’re dealing with a linking verb. If it doesn’t make sense after the substitution, then it’s an action verb. Here are a few examples of this trick in action:

Stella tasted anchovy pizza for the first time.

Stella is anchovy pizza? Of course not! So in this case, tasted is an action verb and expresses something Stella is doing.

The anchovy pizza tasted delicious.

The anchovy pizza is delicious? Some people think so! Sense tasted can be replaced with is, the verb tasted is a linking verb in this sentence.

I smelled the cookies baking as soon as I walked in the door.

I am the cookies? Not me. Smell, in this case is acting as an action verb.

The cookies smell divine.

The cookies are divine? Absolutely! Have one! Smell is a linking verb in the above sentence.

When Karen felt the slimy fish, she dropped it immediately.

Karen is the slimy fish? Of course not! Again, here we’re dealing with an action verb. Felt is something Karen is doing.

Are you beginning to see how this works? Just remember that linking verbs do not show action but describes or renames the subject and gives us more information about it.