Everything Language and Grammar

Linking Verbs De-mystified

Posted by languageandgrammar on November 19, 2008

Linking verbs have several things going on, so we’ll keep this one simple.

  1. Linking verbs are intransitive (Transitive and Intransitive Verbs); that is, they do not have direct objects after them.
  2. Linking verbs describe a state of being rather than doing. The most common are be (and all its forms), grow, appear, seem, look, feel, taste, become, smell, remain, and sound (but they can include any verb that describes a state of being rather than doing).
  3. Instead of having a direct object, a linking verb often has after it what is called a subject (or subjective) complement, and the subject complement can be either a predicate noun or a predicate adjective. Linking verbs link the subject to these subject complements. A predicate noun is simply a noun that further describes the subject, and a predicate adjective is simply an adjective that further describes the subject.

Example: He grew tired. He is the subject. Grew is the linking verb (it is describing a state of being, not of doing). Tired is the adjective (which we call the predicate adjective in this case because it comes after a linking verb), and it further describes He. The linking verb grew is linking the subject He to the predicate adjective tired.

Example: John is the owner. John is the subject. Is is the linking verb. Owner is the predicate noun. (It is the noun that comes after the linking verb and further describes the subject.)

Example: The garage became dusty and crowded. Garage is the subject. Became is the linking verb. Dusty and crowded are the predicate adjectives—they describe the garage.

Note: If the sentence were The dusty, crowded garage got demolished, with dusty and crowded coming before the noun, then dusty and crowded would be plain old adjectives, but because they come after a linking verb, they are the very important-sounding predicate adjectives.

I’ll talk a little more about linking verbs in a later post.



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