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Copular verbs (Linking verbs)

Copular verbs (Linking verbs)

We use a special kind of verb to join two parts of a sentence and to express either that the two parts denote the same thing or that the first has the property denoted by the second. These verbs are called copulas or copular verbs.

Common copular verbs are: be, seem, look, turn, become, appear, sound, smell, taste, feel and get.

  • Alice is my girlfriend. (The sentence asserts that Alice and my girlfriend are the same person.)
  • Alice is British. (The sentence asserts the quality of ‘Britishness’ to Alice.)
  • She seems happy.
  • She became famous.
  • It is getting late.
  • The stew smells good.

Words That Are True Linking Verbs

Some words are always linking verbs. These are considered "true." They do not describe the action, but always connect the subject to additional information. The most common true linking verbs are forms of "to be," "to become" and "to seem."

Forms of "to be"

  • Am
  • Is
  • Is being
  • Are
  • Are being
  • Was
  • Was being
  • Were
  • Has
  • Has been
  • Have been
  • Will have been
  • Had been
  • Are being
  • Might have been

Forms of "to become"

  • Become
  • Becomes
  • Became
  • Has become
  • Have become
  • Had become
  • Will become
  • Will have become

Forms of "to seem"

  • Seemed
  • Seeming
  • Seems
  • Has seemed
  • Have seemed
  • Had seemed
  • Will seem

Any time you see these words in a sentence, you know they are performing a linking or connective function in showing a relationship or describing a state.

For example:

  • "I am glad it is Friday." Here the linking verb "am" connects the subject (I) to the state of being glad.
  • "Laura is excited about her new bike." Here "is" describes Laura's emotional state of excitement.
  • "My birds are hungry." The word "are" identifies that the birds currently exist in a physical state of hunger.

Determining Other Linking Verbs

In addition to true linking verbs, there are also many verbs that can exist either as action verbs or linking verbs. These are also called resultative verbs. Verbs related to the five senses often function in this way.

Common verbs that can exist as either action verbs or linking verbs include:

  • Grow
  • Look
  • Prove
  • Remain
  • Smell
  • Sound
  • Taste
  • Turn
  • Stay
  • Get
  • Appear
  • Feel

Testing for Linking Verbs

Since these verbs can function as either action verbs or copular verbs, how do you make the distinction? A common test is to replace the verb you suspect in the sentence with an appropriate form of a true linking verb.

  • If it makes sense, it is linking.
  • If it isn't logical with the substitution, it's an action verb.

For example, take these two sentences:

  • "The flowers looked wilted."
  • "She looked for wildflowers"

Substitute the copular verb "are" for the word "looked" in both sentences. In the first sentence, it makes sense: "The flowers are wilted." In the second sentence, however, it doesn't make sense: "She are for wildflowers."

  • "The spaghetti sauce tasted delicious."
  • "She tasted the delicious spaghetti sauce."

The sentence: "The spaghetti sauce is delicious" works, but "She is the delicious spaghetti sauce" is illogical. The verb in the first sentence is copular, and in the second sentence it is not.

For more information, check out Examples of Linking Verbs.

Additional Online Resources for Teachers

Teachers in upper elementary and middle school may need to include lessons on linking verbs in their curriculum. ESL students may also be learning about distinguishing this verb type.

Along with repetition, identification worksheets and quizzes work well for many teachers. There are many online grammar exercises and resources available for teaching, learning, and understanding copular verbs, including:

  • Grammar Bytes gives quick tips and examples on identifying verb forms. Interactive exercises are also available.
  • Quia offers an interactive online quiz to identify linking and action verbs.
  • Lesson Tutor has simple hints for verbs and assignment to test your knowledge.
  • Using English, a site designed for ESL students, has a short section on linking verbs. You can also use their forum to ask questions.
  • The Verb Song, submitted by Sara Jordan on Songs for Teaching, is a fun way for younger students to learn this
Adjectives after copular verbs

Copular verbs are followed by adjectives, not adverbs.


  • She spoke intelligently. (Spoke is an ordinary verb. It is modified by the adverb intelligently.)
  • She looks intelligent. (Intelligent is an adjective in predicative position. It tells you about the person herself – rather like saying She is intelligent. Look is a copular verb.)

Note that some copular verbs are also used with other meanings as ordinary non-copular verbs. They are then used with adverbs, not adjectives. Examples are: appear, look, taste and feel.

Category: Linking verbs | Added by: Teacher_Koce (2014-03-03)
Views: 998 | Tags: Copular verbs, linking verbs
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