Linking Verbs

A linking verb is a verb that is used to connect a subject with an adjective or noun that describes or identifies the subject. The most common linking verb is be. Other common linking verbs are appear, become, feel, go, grow, look, remain, seem, smell, sound, taste, and turn.

Predicate Adjectives

An adjective that follows a linking verb is called a predicate adjective.

A linking verb expresses a state of being, not an action. Therefore, when we use a linking verb, we must use an adjective after it, not an adverb.

The following linking verbs can be followed by an adjective:

appear get prove sound
be grow remain stay
become keep seem taste
feel look smell turn


Subject Linking Verb Predicate Adjective
The party was fantastic.
The music sounded great.
The decorations looked extremely beautiful.
The cake tasted utterly delicious.
The flowers smelled wonderful.
The students felt delighted.

Notice that predicate adjectives can be modified by adverbs.

Predicate Nouns

A noun that follows a linking verb is called a predicate noun. You might encounter the term predicate nominative, which is an older term for predicate noun.

The following linking verbs can be followed by a noun:

be constitute look remain sound
become feel make1 represent  
comprise form prove seem  

1Used as a linking verb to indicate if someone is doing a good job:
He will make a good father.


Subject Linking Verb Predicate Noun
My next-door neighbor is an excellent doctor.
Mr. Tyler became a priest.
The government's economic policy was an utter failure.
The facts of the case remain a well-guarded secret.
This new discovery represents a breakthrough.

Notice that predicate nouns can be modified by adjectives.

Linking Verbs vs. Action Verbs

Some linking verbs can also be action verbs. Grow, for example, can express an action, in which case we use an adverb after it, or a state, in which case we use an adjective after it.

The plant grew quickly. [action verb + adverb]

It grew dark. [linking verb (meaning became) + adjective]

Complement

You may also see the term complement (C) used for a predicate adjective (PA) or a predicate noun (PN).

You may encounter this formula:

S + LV + C

It means the same as

S + LV + PA/PN

Predicate Infinitives

The linking verbs, appear, prove, and seem are sometimes followed by the infinitive to be and a complement (an adjective or noun). This use of the infinitive is called a predicate infinitive (PI).

Subject Linking Verb Predicate Infinitive  
She appeared to be asleep.  
He appeared to be surprised.  
The job proved to be difficult.  
The liquid in the bottle proved to be harmless.  
The suspect seemed to be worried.  
Sherlock Holmes seemed to be embarrassed by the question.

Examples of Predicate Adjectives and Predicate Nouns

Examples from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories

...her father became a rich man....

...I became consumed with the desire to see what was going on behind my back.

The man's face became openly defiant.

At last I became so convinced that I was causing him uneasiness....

...I became their slave for a time....

...I soon became doubtful

...my uncle became foreign minister....

...we became friends....

His face became radiant.

...I became suspicious....

...his expedition became more mysterious than ever.

...it became clear....

I ... became a piteous spectacle.

he ... became a planter in Florida....


Even Baskerville fell silent....

[the hound] fell limp upon its side....

He fell dead at the end of the alley....

...I fell asleep....


...I felt quite bashful.

I felt angry at having been tricked by so elaborate a story....

...I felt elated at the thought....

Often, if I felt lonesome....


As I grew richer I grew more ambitious....

The [foot]steps grew louder....

Holmes's face grew tense with anxiety....

...her face grew white....


Such an excursion could not be kept secret.


Lestrade looked startled.

He looked surprised....

Holmes had looked annoyed....

...he looked very scared and puzzled....


...it may prove essential....

...he might prove useful....


We all remained silent....

How long I remained unconscious I cannot tell.


...the pink [finger]nails had turned white....

...he turned very pale....

...his face turned livid with fear....

Examples from Bram Stoker's Dracula

...he became so violent....

... the moment she became conscious she pressed the garlic flowers close to her.


I felt impotent and ... distrustful.


It grew colder and colder....

For he suddenly grew pale....

The mist grew thicker and thicker....


....so I remained silent.


All the men ... seemed relieved....

He seemed dazed for a few seconds....

Van Helsing seemed surprised....


Lucy turned crimson....

Examples from news articles

Everything appeared deceitful or even fraudulent....


[the company] became concerned about the levels of debt....

Once it became clear that the tourists weren't coming back as expected....

...the [blood] platelets became sticky.

he became C.E.O.

[he] became the focus of rumors and suspicion

...[they] became victims of identity theft.


But getting other ... politicians [to agree] proved impossible...


...they remained unsure about [the kidnapping]....


...the cost of the rail system seemed excessive....

...the labor market for educated workers still seems fairly decent....


[the senator] sounded conciliatory....


"My mouth went dry," he said.


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This page was last modified on 06/15/10

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