A linking verb is a verb which connects a subject to its predicate without expressing an action. A linking verb is used to re-identify or describe its subject.
Some verbs are followed by either a noun or an adjective:
|She was a good friend.||=||N + V + N|
|She was very happy.||=||N + V + Adj.|
|He became headmaster.||=||N + V + N|
|He became angry.||=||N + V + Adj.|
These verbs are called link verbs.
A List of Linking Verbs
The most common linking verb is the verb to be. Other common ones relate to the five senses (to look, to feel, to smell, to sound, and to taste). Here is a list of common linking verbs:
- to be(In all its forms, e.g., am, is, are, was, were, will be, was being, has been.)
- to appear
- to become
- to feel
- to look
- to seem
- to smell
- to sound
- to taste
- to remain
She seemed an intelligent woman.
She seemed intelligent.
He looked hungry.
He looked a good player.
After appear and seem we often use to be:
She appeared to be an intelligent woman.
He seemed to be angry.
Some link verbs are followed by an adjective. Common verbs like this are:
Examples of Linking Verbs Used to Re-identify the Subject
Here are some examples of linking verbs (shaded) re-identifying the subject:
- Alan is a beast.
- His father was the headmaster.
- This project is a disaster.
Examples of Linking Verbs Modifying (Describing) the Subject
Here are some examples of linking verbs (shaded) modifying the subject:
- Alan seems drunk.
- The soup smells delicious.
- His voice sounds flat.
Linking Verbs Are Not Action Verbs
The verbs to be, to become, and to seem are always linking verbs. They always link the subject to the predicate to re-identify or describe it. However, the other verbs in the list above are not always linking verbs. Remember, linking verbs do not express an action. However, some of the verbs in our list can express an action. For example:
- He smells the soup.
(In this example,smells is not a linking verb. This time, it is an action verb. It has taken a direct object. He is doing something to the soup.)
- Tony smells awful.
(In this example, smells is a linking verb. It links the subject Tony to the adjective awful to modify Tony.)
Here is another example:
- The inspector will feel the fabric.
(In this example, will feel is not a linking verb. This time, it is an action verb. It has taken a direct object.The inspector will do something to the fabric.)
- The fabric will feel soft.
(In this example, will feel is a linking verb. It links the subject The fabric to the adjective soft.)
Linking Verbs in the Passive Voice and Progressive Tense
The verb to be is used to form the passive voice and the progressive tenses. For example:
- He was painted.
- (This is the passive voice.)
- He is frustrating.
- (This is the present progressive tense.)
As past participles (here, painted) and present participles (here, frustrating) are classified as adjectives, the constructions above are no different from these:
- He was happy.
- He is happy.
Therefore, the “to be” part of a passive construction (here, was painted) and a verb tense (here, is frustrating) can be considered a linking verb.