What Is a Linking Verb?

A linking verb is a verb that requires a complement that refers to the subject and completes its meaning. Linking verbs “link” the subject to descriptive information that follows.

That subject complement can be an adjective, a noun, a pronoun, or a possessive. The verb be is perhaps the most common linking verb. A few frequent others are become, seem, look, taste, feel, and appear.

Examples
The Brockmans (subject) seem (linking verb) very nice (subject complement: adjective).
She (subject) is (linking verb) a wonderful actress (subject complement: noun).
The dog’s owner (subject) is (linking verb) he (subject complement: pronoun).
If you leave the skates here, they (subject) will become (linking verb) mine or Christopher’s (possessive).

Another way to think of what a linking verb is can be to imagine an equal sign between the subject and its complement in the sentences above:

Brockmans = nice
She = actress
owner = he
they = mine or Christopher’s

Linking Verbs = Intransitive Verbs

Because linking verbs neither describe actions nor require an object to complete their meaning, they are categorized as intransitive verbs.

Examples
Intransitive: Jennifer is (non-action linking verb) a good writer (noun describing Jennifer).
Transitive: Jennifer wrote (action verb) a book (direct object: what Jennifer wrote).

Note also that some linking verbs, such as taste, smell, and feel, can operate as a transitive verb depending on the definition being applied.

Examples
Brianna felt joyful today. (Felt is a linking verb indicating her emotional state.)
Brianna felt the fabric before she purchased it. (Felt is an action verb indicating she examined the fabric by touch.)
The tacos taste delightful. (Taste is a linking verb indicating the flavor of the tacos.)
Charmaine tasted the tacos. (Taste is an action verb indicating the sensory testing of the tacos.)

Linking Verb Be: A Seeming Exception

The linking verb be has one aspect that departs from otherwise standard grammatical principle in which nouns would be described only by adjectives, other nouns, pronouns, and possessives.

Through the linking verb be, nouns can be described by an adverb, adverb phrase, or adverbial prepositional phrase of time or place.

Examples
Her jacket is (linking verb) upstairs (adverb indicating the location of the jacket).
The concert is (linking verb) tomorrow night (adverbial phrase indicating when the concert takes place).
The tour is (linking verb) in the park (adverbial prepositional phrase indicating the location of the tour).

 

Pop Quiz

Using what you’ve learned in this article about what a linking verb is, identify each sentence that includes one correctly.

1. Adewale appears ready for the tournament.

2. That shirt feels silky.

3. I smell a pie baking in the oven.

4. Donatella gave the box to her sister.

5. The performance is this Tuesday.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. Adewale appears ready for the tournament.

2. That shirt feels silky.

5. The performance is this Tuesday.


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2 Comments on What Is a Linking Verb?

2 responses to “What Is a Linking Verb?”

  1. Jan H. says:

    About your section “Linking Verb Be: A Seeming Exception”: I was taught many years ago to refer to words such as “upstairs” in the uses you describe as “adverbial nouns.” They are nouns that can function as adverbs, telling how, when, where and sometimes why about a verb, adjective, or other adverb. I still find clear and useful the term “adverbial noun.” Do grammarians never use that term anymore?

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      What you are referring to is an adverbial, which means “like an adverb.” It is a word that is used as an adverb but which regularly functions as another part of speech: e.g., Gerard left home Monday (both home and Monday, regularly used as nouns, modify the verb left and function as adverbs). Phrases and clauses may also function as adverbials: e.g., The stores close at six o’clock, He traveled to Europe after he sold his house. Adverbial is a less common but still viable term in contemporary discussions of grammar.

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