Linking verbs are verbs that serve as a connection between a subject and further information about that subject. They do not show any action; rather, they “link” the subject with the rest of the sentence. The verb to be is the most common linking verb, but there are many others, including all the sense verbs.
A handful—a very frequently used handful—of verbs are always linking verbs:
- all forms of to be (am, is, are, was, were, has been, are being, might be, etc.)
- to become
- to seem
These verbs always link subjects to something that further describes the subject of the sentence.
These sentences show that a linking verb can connect the subject with a number of sentence elements. Nurse is a noun; in outer space is a prepositional phrase; weary is an adjective; and a nice guy is a phrase that contains both an adjective and a noun. All of them give us more information about what these subjects are, have become, or seem to be.
Some Verbs Can Be Both Action and Linking Verbs
Alas, English has many ambiguities, and some linking verbs can also function as action verbs. These include all the sense verbs, such as look, touch, smell, appear, feel, sound, and taste. There are also some outliers, such as turn, grow, remain, and prove. Used as linking verbs, these verbs can give added information about the sentence’s subject.
All these verbs can do double duty, however, as action verbs.