Linking verbs

A linking verb connects a subject to a subject complement that identifies or describes the subject.

Example Explanation
The play is Waiting for Godot. The linking verb is links the noun phrase the play to its subject complement Waiting for Godot, which identifies the subject.
Some of us thought that the play was very good. The verb was links the subject complement very good to the subject the play.
Others thought it became tedious after the first fifteen minutes. The linking verb became links the subject it to the subject complement tedious. The phrase after the first fifteen minutes functions as an adverb modifying the clause it became tedious.
The cast appears disorganized and confused; perhaps Beckett intended this. Appears functions as a linking verb that connects the subject the cast to its subject complement disorganized and confused.
The play seems absurd to me. The subject the play is joined to its subject complement absurd by the linking verb seems.

Linking verbs are either verbs of sensation (feel, look, smell, sound, taste) or verbs of existence (appear, be, become, continue, grow, prove, remain, seem).

Many linking verbs (with the exception of be) can also be used as transitive or intransitive verbs. In the following pairs of sentences, the highlighted verb in the first sentence is a linking verb and in the second the same verb is a transitive verb.

Griffin insists that the water in Winnipeg tastes terrible.

The adjective terrible is a subject complement that describes a quality of the water.

I tasted the soup before adding more salt.

Here the noun phrase the soup is the direct object of the verb tasted.

My neighbour’s singing voice sounds very squeaky despite several hours of daily practice.

The phrase very squeaky is a subject complement that describes the nature of the singing voice.

Upon the approach of the enemy troops, the lookout sounded the alarm.

Here the verb sounded takes a direct object, the noun phrase the alarm.

Cynthia feels queasy whenever she listens to banjo music.

The adjective queasy is a subject complement that describes Cynthia.

The tailor carefully feels the fabric of the coat.

Here the noun phrase the fabric of the coat is the direct object of the verb feels and identifies what the tailor feels.

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© Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Ottawa
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