19 of the most common linking verbs

19 of the most common linking verbs

by Laura Jones

Updated July 13, 2022

You’ve probably heard of linking words but have you heard of linking verbs? Linking verbs are an integral part of English grammar and it’s highly likely you know and use at least some of them already. Whether you’re learning English or you’re a native speaker who’s curious about your own language, linking verbs deserve your attention. Let’s learn the definition of a linking verb and see some examples of how they’re used in sentences. 

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What is a linking verb?

A linking verb connects the subject of a sentence with more information about it. Linking verbs can be followed by nouns, pronouns or adjectives. There are three verbs that are always linking verbs: be, become and seem. But there are many more that can be linking verbs, depending on the context. Here’s a list of 19 of the most common linking verbs. 

  1. be 
  2. became 
  3. seem 
  4. stay 
  5. remain 
  6. grow 
  7. act 
  8. go
  9. turn 
  10. prove 
  11. get 
  12. fall 
  13. feel 
  14. look 
  15. taste 
  16. sound 
  17. smell 
  18. appear 
  19. touch

Not all of these verbs are linking verbs all the time. To really understand them, you need to see some examples. 

Be

The first example of a linking verb is be. This is often the first verb you learn in English so from the moment you say, “I am happy”, you’re using a linking verb. All forms of be are linking verbs, from am to was, had been to might be

  • I am happy. 
  • Kate is a pilot. 
  • Those chairs must be uncomfortable.
  • Helen will be angry when she sees this mess. 
  • My dog can be very protective. 

In all of these sentences, be tells us more information about what the subject is. It is not an action verb because it doesn’t tell us what the subject is doing.

Let’s look at the first two examples a little more closely: 

“I am happy.”

Happy is an adjective, as you probably know, but in this sentence, it is called a predicate adjective because it follows a linking verb.

“Kate is a pilot.” 

Pilot is a noun that tells us more information about what the subject, Kate, is, so it is a predicate noun. 

If you see a noun after an action verb, for example, I walk home or I eat cookies, it is not a predicate noun. It’s just a plain old noun. 

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State of being verbs

There are many other verbs that tell us more information about what the subject is. Let’s take a look at some examples of these linking verbs in sentences.

  • He became frustrated with the difficult math problem. 
  • Chris seems nice. 
  • The children stayed quiet while they watched the movie.
  • Everyone remained calm while we evacuated the building.  
  • Ben grew restless while he was waiting for the concert to start. 
  • Alison has always acted tough but I know she’s quite sensitive really. 
  • You went green and I was sure you were going to throw up. 
  • The weather can turn cold very quickly here. 
  • The issue had proved too tricky to solve. 
  • I got so hungry that I had to order room service.                   
  • My kids will always fall asleep quickly after we’ve been to the beach. 

Senses verbs

Some other very common linking verbs are what we call the sense verbs: feel, look, taste, sound, smell, touch and appear.

  • This blanket feels very soft.
  • The room looks so welcoming!
  • The eggs tasted a bit off. 
  • Your vacation sounds interesting.
  • These flowers smell lovely. 
  • Maggie appears standoffish at first but she’s very warm when you get to know her.
  • His stories about his difficult childhood touched my heart. 

Linking verbs vs. action verbs

You can replace the states of being or senses verbs with a form of be and the meaning will stay the same or be very similar. This is how you know that you have a linking verb.

  • The children were quiet while they watched the movie.
  • This blanket is very soft. 
  • These flowers are lovely (not exactly the same meaning as smell, but it’s unlikely you’d say that flowers that smelled like a wet dog were ‘lovely’). 

As we said, many of these verbs can also be used as action verbs, for example:  

  • Ruth tasted the stew. 
  • The plant grew 10 cm in a week.

You can tell that taste and grow are not acting as linking verbs in these sentences because you can’t replace them with be. Ruth is the stew sounds like there’s a possible cannibal on the loose who cooked poor old Ruth.


Using linking verbs

It’s very likely you already use quite a lot of these verbs, but it’s useful to understand the grammar more deeply so you can be sure you’re using them correctly in the future. It might seem complicated at first, but with a little practice, you’ll feel confident in your abilities. 

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Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.

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