Linking Verbs in English Grammar

Linking Verbs in English Grammar

Linking verbs are connectors of the language. They do not show any action. Their only job is to link a subject with a subject complement. Want to know how?

Linking Verbs in English Grammar

Linking Verbs

Linking verbs (also called copula or copular verbs) do not show any specific actions. They just link the subject of a sentence and the subject complement.

Common English Linking Verbs

The most common English linking verbs are:

  1. be
  2. seem, look, look like, appear
  3. feel, sound, taste, smell
  4. get, become

With the exception of number 3, which can be both an action or state verb, the other linking verbs cannot be used in continuous tenses.

What Is a Subject Complement?

A word or phrase that comes after a linking verb and modifies or describes the subject is called a subject complement.
Consider these two sentences:

Mike is handsome .

In the examples above, 'handsome' is not an object to the verb 'is'. 'Handsome' is the subject complement to the subject 'he'. It means that 'he' and 'handsome' both refer to the same person.

Mike is a dentist .

"A dentist" is the complement of the sentence and 'is' stands for a linking verb.

Normally an English sentence structure is 'subject + verb + object'. But this is not a case with linking verbs.

A noun can also be a subject complement. In the second example, 'a dentist' is not the object. It refers to 'Mike' the subject of our sentence.


Normally an adjective does not come alone and always comes with a noun. Except when the adjective is a subject complement.

No Object

Keep in mind that linking verbs do NOT take an object. They take a subject complement.

No Adverb

The sentence structure of a sentence with linking verbs is not 'subject + verb + object', therefore they are never followed by an adverb. They can be followed by adjectives or noun complements.

He seems nice .

Here, 'nice' is an adjective and you cannot use 'nicely' instead.

This pizza tastes delicious .

Notice that you cannot say 'deliciously' because it comes after a linking verb.

Verbs 'Get' and 'Become'

Normally a linking verb doesn't take a continuous tense (-ing form). But, the verbs 'get' and 'become' can take both the simple or continuous forms.
The difference between these two verbs with other copulas is that while other verbs indicate that the subject and the subject complement are the same thing (we can put an equal sign in their place), 'get' and 'become' suggest a change.

Mike got married last fall .

Here, 'married' is an adjective and it is the subject complement. Remember that here, we are referring to a situation not an action. If we wanted to refer to an action we'd have said 'Mike married Susan last fall'.

Mike is getting married this fall .

Here, the sentence refers to a change in the situation in the future.

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