Linking verbs in English: examples, tips and list

In this post, we learn what linking verbs are, and what they do in a sentence.

What are linking verbs in English?

Linking verb definition: A linking verb is a main verb that links the subject of a sentence to its complement (a word or a group of words that identifies the subject and either renames it or modifies it).

The word or a group of words that comes after a linking verb and identifies is called a subject complement.

Linking verbs explanation
Linking verbs explanation

Here’s a complete list of linking verbs in English

Linking verbs list

TO BE
TO BE: is, am, are, was, were, may be, might be,
should be, would be, can be, could be, must be, will be, shall be,

BEING: is being, am being, are being, was being, were being

BEEN: has been, have been, had been, may have been, must have been, could have, should have been,
will have been, shall have been, might have been
To be form of verbs
TO SEEMseem, seems, seemed
TO LOOKlook, looks, looked
TO FEELfeel, feels, felt
TO SOUNDsound, sounds, sounded
TO TASTEtaste, tastes, tasted
TO SMELLsmell, smells, smelt
TO STAYstay, stays, stayed
TO BECOMEbecome, becomes, became
TO GOgo, goes, went, gone
TO REMAINremain, remains, remained
TO TURNturn, turns, turned
TO GETget, gets, got
TO APPEARappear, appears, appeared
A list of linking verbs

Linking verb examples

  • You are a wonderful singer. (The linking verb ‘are’ is linking the subject ‘you’ to its complement a wonderful singer, which is giving the subject a name. You = a wonderful singer)
  • Jon was sad last night. (The linking verb ‘was’ is connecting the subject ‘Jon’ with the subject complement ‘sad’. Jon = sad)

A linking verb is either followed by a noun (predicate nominative) or an adjective (predicate adjective).

More linking verbs examples

  • I am really excited for the party.
  • Akshay was the best bowler of our team.
  • The teacher is upset with all the students.
  • My friends are the best.
  • You were the love of my life.
  • Sam is being extremely polite to me.
  • All the interviewers were being very rude to me.
  • This year has been terrible for most people.
  • Knowing how many skillful workers the company has lost, the employers have been very positive about the future.
  • Jon had been very helpful in those days.
  • You will be the mother of my baby in some time.
  • We shall be happy to contribute to this amazing cause.
  • Tina may be upset with you.
  • This trip might be a failure.
  • You must be a fighter. You look like one.
  • The team should be satisfied with their performance as it was quite a historical win.
  • If he didn’t come on time, I would be dead.
  • Because of you, the party could be exciting.
  • Jennifer could have been the lead actress of this movie.
  • Max should have been more careful with the money he won in the lottery.
  • Your family must have been disappointed with your results.
  • Everyone seemed clueless when he announced his retirement.
  • This jacket looks perfect on you.
  • You look beautiful without makeup.
  • The task seems difficult to solve.
  • My mom appears mad at me.
  • The food smells delicious.
  • I felt terrible when they stranded the dog.
  • If you put in the work, dreams come true.
  • Jimmy stayed calm and composed even after getting a death threat.
  • You must try this. It tasted extremely good.
  • The crowd went silent after Virat lost his wicket.
  • Even after losing his dream job, Max remained positive.
  • Sometimes, we get demotivated when things don’t go the way we want them to go.
  • He remained faithful to the company.
  • Your story never falls true.

Linking verbs vs action verbs

Some verbs act as both linking verbs and action verbs. Here’s the list of verbs that can be both linking verbs and action verbs:

  • Appear
  • Look
  • Smell
  • Go
  • Taste
  • Stay
  • Fell
  • Get
  • Turn

How to identify if any of these verbs function as a linking verb or an action verb in a sentence?

If a verb functions as an action verb, it is followed by a noun (object) or an adverb or a prepositional phrase. None of these things will refer to the subject; they will be different from the subject.

But if a verb functions as a linking verb, it will be followed by a noun (predicate nominative) or an adjective (predicate adjective). And both the things will identify the subject; they’ll either rename the subject (noun) or modify it (adjective).

Examples:-

  • He appeared before the court yesterday. (Action verb)
  • He appeared lost before the court. (Linking verb)
  • She looked at me in a weird way. (Action verb)
  • She looked beautiful in that dress. (Linking verb)
  • He smells his food before eating it. (Action verb)
  • He smells nice today. (Linking verb)
  • We go to new places every now and then. (Action verb)
  • We go crazy after having some drinks. (Linking verb)
  • The chef tasted the food himself. (Action verb)
  • The food tasted delicious. (Linking verb)
  • We stayed at his place last night. (Action verb)
  • We stayed motivated even after losing the match. (Linking verb)
  • I felt the pain in his voice. (Action verb)
  • I felt helpless when I got lost in the forest. (Linking verb)
  • He got some bonus money. (Action verb)
  • He got emotional after hearing his sad story. (Linking verb)
  • He turned the chair towards me. (Action verb)
  • He turned violent as soon as he got fired. (Linking verb)

Linking verbs vs helping verbs

All the ‘to be’ verbs can function as both linking verbs and helping verbs.

When ‘to be’ verbs function as helping verbs, they are followed by an action verb, and when they are followed by a noun or an adjective.

Examples:

  • I am a teacher. (linking verb)
  • I am working on something. (helping verb)
  • Ron has been very loyal to me. (linking verb)
  • Ron has been living here for years. (helping verb)
  • You might be right. (linking verb)
  • You might be sleeping. (helping verb)
  • She could have been the lead actor. (linking verb)
  • She could have been doing something at that time. (helping verb)

Don’t use an adverb after a linking verb!

Don’t make the mistake of using an adverb after a linking verb.

  • It tasted strongly. ❌
  • It tasted strong. ✔️
  • You smell nicely. ❌
  • You smell nice. ✔️

NOTE: adverbs are not used right after linking verbs, but, sometimes, they can be used before linking verbs.

  • You always look pretty.
  • Jon never goes mad.

Using a pronoun after linking verbs

When a subject complement renames the subject, it’s usually a noun, but it can also be a pronoun. When a subject complement is a pronoun, some people use a subjective pronoun, and some use an objective pronoun.

  • It was me who called her.
  • It was I who called her.

A subject complement refers back to the subject, which can only be a noun or a subjective pronoun. So with this logic, we should use I. But people have been using an objective pronoun in this case for so long that it has almost become acceptable. So, there’s no loser; everyone wins.

Subjective pronoun: I, we, you, he, she, it, they
Objective pronoun: me, us, you, him, her, it, us

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