Linking Verb (Copula)

Linking verb (copula)

 Linking verb  

 Since linking verbs, also referred to as copulas or copular verbsdon't function in the same way as typical verbs in showing action, it can sometimes be tricky to recognize them.

  These types of verbs show a relationship between the subject and the sentence complement, the part of the sentence following the verb. They connect or link the subject with more information – words that further identify or describe the subject. 

 While standard verbs are indicative of action, linking verbs identify a relationship or existing condition. These are sometimes described as performing the function of an equal sign (=) because they provide the connection between a subject and a certain state.


・Ken is a comedian. (Ken = comedian)

・Joey is tough. (Joey = tough)

・That sounds funny. (that = funny)

・The road became clean. (the road ⇨ clean)

・The eggs have gone broken. (the eggs ⇨ broken)

・The wind became stronger. (the wind⇨stronger)

・The blanket feels soft and warm. (the branket ⇨ soft, warm)

・The weather is growing cold. (the weather ⇨ cold)

・The sky looked grey and overcast. (the sky ⇨ grey, overcast)

・His reasoning seems logical. (his reasoning ⇨ logical)

・The soup smelled good. (the soup ⇨ good)

・The story sounds interesting. (the story ⇨ interesting)

・The carrots tasted sweet. (the carrots ⇨ sweet)

・The leaves turned scarlet. (the leaves ⇨ scarlet)

 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

・to seem.

 Forms of "to be" 

・Is being
・Are being
・Was being
・Has been
・Have been
・Will have been
・Had been
・Are being
・Might have been

 Forms of "to become"  

・Has become
・Have become
・Had become
・Will become
・Will have become

 Forms of "to seem" 

・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.


・I am glad it is Friday.
Here the linking verb "am" connects the subject 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.

 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:


 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.


・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 spaghettis 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. 


Several uses of the copula can be categorized:

1. Identity:


・I only want to be myself.

・When the area behind the dam fills, it will be a lake.

・The Morning Star is the Evening Star.

・Boys will be boys.

2. Class membership:

To belong to a set or class:


・She could be married.

・Dogs are canines.

・Moscow is a large city.

Depending on one's point of view, all other uses can be considered derivatives of this use, including the following non-copular verbs uses in English, as they all express a subset relationship.

3.Predication (property and relation attribution):


・It hurts to be blue.

・Will that house be big enough?

・The hen is next to the cockerel.

・I am confused.

Such attributes may also relate to temporary conditions as well as inherent qualities:


・I will be tired after running.

・Will you be going to the play tomorrow?

Note that a linking verb has nothing to do with these so called "Be"- verbs.

 Non-copular uses 

1. As an auxiliary verb:

1-1. To form the passive voice:


・I was told that you wanted to see me.

1-2. To add progressive aspect to tenses: 


・It is raining

2.Meaning "to exist" (existential verb):


・I want only to be, and that is enough.

・To be or not to be, that is the question.

・I think therefore I am.

Note that the auxiliary verb function derives from the copular function; and, depending on one's point of view, one can still interpret the verb as a copula and the following verbal form as being adjectival.

 Copula omission  

In informal speech of English, the copula may be dropped.
This is a feature of African American Vernacular English but is also used by a variety of English speakers in informal contexts.


・Where - you at?
(Where were you at?)

・We - at the store.
(We were at the store.)