Linking Verbs Examples & Rules in English

CCSS Alligned CCSS.L.4.1, CCSS.L.5.1, and CCSS.L.6.1

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To help ELA teachers and homeschoolers with various learning resources for students, we’ve crafted this guide to linking verbs in English. Based on the linking verb examples we will use here, this guide should be suitable for students of all age ranges, including those at the elementary, middle, or high school levels of learning. To assist students who may be learning ESL, we will keep our examples simple yet concrete. We will also explain the basic rules for identifying, forming, and using these verbs in average, everyday writing. As we go along, we will talk about the different types of linking verbs, provide CCSS-aligned linking verb examples, and a short linking verbs FAQs.

linking verb examples

What are verbs?

What are linking verbs?

Learning the Rules for Linking Verbs

In order to learn the rules for these kinds of verbs, it is important to get a handle on how we might form them in the English language. Students may be able to grasp what these verbs are if they think of them as equal signs within a sentence. In other words, you could cut out the linking verb in a sentence and replace it with this mathematical symbol. Even if you do this, the sentence should still be something the reader can comprehend. Let’s look at a few linking verb examples right away in order to understand this difference clearly.

Making sentences With Linking Verbs

Use the following structure with linking verbs.

Subject + Linking Verb + Subject Complement

✅ Example 1: Harry is sleepy. Is connects the subject "Harry" and his state of being, "sleepy." Notice this linking verb example doesn't tell us anything about action.

✅ Example 2: The ice cream tasted good. Tasted connects the subject "ice cream" and how it tasted. If you can swap the linking verb with was or is, and it still makes sense, then it's a linking verb.

❌ Example 3: I tasted every ice cream in the shop. In this example, tasted isn't a linking verb. If you swap the linking verb with was or is, and the sentence doesn't make sense, then it's being used as an action verb.

Linking Verb Examples

  • Gladys is calm. (The linking verb is tells us that Gladys feels relaxed)
  • Tony seems elated about the news. (The linking verb seems tells us how Tony might be feeling)
  • Albert looks too tired from his studies. (Looks tells us how people think Albert looks from the outside)
  • Sally was sleepy. (Was links sally which is the subject, to sleepy, which is the state of being)
  • It appears to be dark outside. (appears links the subject which is it. Linking it to the subject complement, which is outside)

Common Linking Verb List

Want some more common linking verbs that you can use?

True Linking Verbs

These linking verbs are always linking verbs.

  • Be
  • Become
  • Seem

Sensory Linking Verbs

Sensory verbs can be both linking verbs and action verbs, it depends on how they're used.

  • Appear
  • Feel
  • Look
  • Taste

Conditional linking Verbs

  • Act
  • Keep
  • Stay
  • Prove
  • Turn

How Do Linking Verbs Change the Subject?

A linking verb might not change the subject of a sentence in a way that students might notice immediately. However, it still does things to alter the subject’s relationship to the rest of the sentence, and it can do so in a couple of ways.

With a Noun

One of the main ways a linking verb alters the nature of the subject is by pairing it with a noun. Once this happens, the noun renames the sentence's original subject. The subject doesn't change, but the linking verb refers back to the subject to tell us more about it.

  • Mason is a dairy farmer.
  • Lunch smelt burnt.
  • Jackson is an uncle to his nephew.
  • My name is Fran.

This format is called the predicate nominative. When you start a sentence with a subject, you can link it with other kinds of nouns that rename it. They will also refer back to it in some way. If we were to draw a sentence diagram of this sort of thing, we would separate the subject from the link with a solid line. However, we would use a line with a slant in it to illustrate that the predicate noun after the link still ties back to it.

With an Adjective

Some things that follow linking verbs will be adjectives. In fact, linking verb examples might include the various forms of to be, verbs that help us describe human senses or emotions, and verbs about the status of the subject. In many cases, we will follow up such verbs with adjectives.

  • The forest is dangerous at night.
  • Those eggs smell spoiled.
  • Vera feels fine.

True Linking Verbs

We’ve mentioned some facts about the verb to be already. Along with forms of to seem or to become, it represents a type of linking verb that is always a linking verb.

  • He was happy with the results.
  • She became a legal scholar.
  • They seemed thoughtful in their approach.

Contextual Linking Verbs

Conversely, some verbs are not always in the linking category, but they can be. If they are not functioning as links in a sentence, they are probably doing so as actions instead. We mentioned verbs that relate to senses, and this is one major category where this can occur. If you can replace a contextual linking verb with a true linking verb, then the word functions as a link in the sentence.

  • Jason sounds hoarse.
  • He remains stoic throughout the proceedings.
  • She looks confused about something.

How to Spot Linking Verbs

Aside from the three main linking verbs, be, become, and seem. Some verbs can either be linking verb examples or action verbs. It depends on how they're used.

A linking verb describes something about the subject, not what they're doing.

  • Hattie looks well. (Look is a linking verb because it describes Hattie's appearance)
  • Keep calm and carry on. (Keep links on how to continue like this)
  • They remained angry at their parents. (Remained as a linking verb here means to continue to be like this)

Linking Verb FAQs

Got a question? See if we've answered it here.

What is a linking verb and examples?

How do you identify a linking verb and an action verb?

What is the most common linking verb?


Proper verb identification and usage are crucial parts of early learning when it comes to English skills. Verbs that connect the subject to other parts of a sentence represent one piece of this puzzle. However, not all verbs that can link will do so all the time. You can have students create their own linking verb lists to practice what they’ve learned here.