September 20, 2014

Verb Types: Linking

A linking verb implies a state of being or condition for the subject, not an action. It links the subject to an equivalent word in the sentence.

[In the following examples, the linking verb is bold and the predicate nominative or predicate adjective is underlined.]

The test indicates that Sarah is a genius.

  • The subject (SARAH) is linked to a noun that is, in a sense, standing in for her (GENIUS).

Toni Morrison was the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

  • The subject (TONI MORRISON) is linked to a noun that is of equal weight in terms of description. (WOMAN).

A linking verb may connect the subject with a noun:

Roads were a slushy mess on Monday along parts of the East Coast.

  • ROADS is linked to MESS, which is equal in terms of description.

Smoking appeared to be the cause of the blaze.

  • SMOKING is linked to CAUSE, which restates the subject.

It was a sad day.

  • IT is linked to a noun DAY, which restates the subject.

A linking verb may connect the subject with a pronoun:

The book could be his.

  • The subject (BOOK) is linked with the pronoun indicating its state of being (HIS).

The robbery victim pointed and yelled, “That is he.”

  • THAT is linked with HE, which is equal in terms of description.

A linking verb may connect the subject with an adjective:

The writer was proud of her efforts.

  • The subject (WRITER) is linked with her state of being (PROUD).

Before the show, Malik seemed nervous.

  • MALIK is linked with NERVOUS, which is equal in terms of description.

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Although the modifiers following linking verbs may answer the question “what?” as a direct object does for a transitive verb, they do not receive any action.

In federal courts nowadays, every sentence is the same.

  • We can ask: Every sentence is what? and the answer is: THE SAME. But, the same is not receiving the action of the verb as with a transitive verb. SAME is restating or indicating the state of being of SENTENCE.

Female inmates are the fastest-growing subpopulation in prison.

  • INMATES are what? Answer: SUBPOPULATION. But, the SUBPOPULATION is not being acted upon; it is restating or indicating the state of being of the WOMEN.

Typically, linking verbs are a form of the verb TO BE: IS, WAS, AM, ARE, WERE, BEEN

[In the following examples, the linking verb is bold and the modifier is underlined.]

The crew’s mission is to create the best topographic map of Earth.

  • The subject is MISSION. The linking verb is IS, and the descriptor—in this case a predicate nominative—is TO CREATE.

The solution was judges who would mete out longer prison sentences.

  • The subject is SOLUTION. The linking verb is WAS, and the descriptor—in this case a predicate nominative—is JUDGES.

Leonardo said, “I am the king of the world.”

  • The subject is I. The linking verb is AM, and the descriptor—in this case a predicate nominative—is KING.

The number of minor children with one or both parents behind bars is 1.5 million.

  • The subject is NUMBER. The linking verb is IS, and the descriptor—in this case a predicate adjective—is 1.5 MILLION

Law-abiding Americans were far less safe in 1980 than in 1960.

  • The subject is AMERICANS. The linking verb is WERE, and the descriptor—in this case a predicate adjective—is SAFE.

Some see this as a societal commitment to imprisonment on a scale that would have been unthinkable a quarter of a century ago in this, or any other, country.

  • The subject is THAT. The linking verb is WOULD HAVE BEEN, and the descriptor—in this case a predicate adjective—is UNTHINKABLE

BUT, the verb “to be” does not always mean a linking verb.

Forms of the verb TO BE can act as auxiliary verbs for transitive, intransitive and linking verb. The auxiliary verb is not linking but rather helping the main verb.

[In the following examples, the auxiliary verb is bold and the lexical verb is underlined.]

Juvenile crime has been plummeting since 1995.

  • auxiliary verb to the lexical verb plummeting (intransitive verb)

Nyoko was crossing a bridge when the earthquake hit.

  • auxiliary verb to the lexical verb crossing. (transitive verb)

Margaret Ann was feeling tired.

  • auxiliary verb to the lexical verb feeling. (linking verb)

The verb TO BE can act as an intransitive verb when what follows it indicates location rather than state of being. This intransitive form of the verb TO BE is easily identified by the prepositional phrase that follows it.

Changes in the criminal statutes are behind the staggering increase in the incarceration rate

  • BEHIND signifies location, not state of being. Therefore, the verb is intransitive.

Professor Freelove has been in a coma since the car accident

  • IN A COMA indicates a location, not state of being. Although COMATOSE is a state of being, being IN A COMA is not. Therefore, the verb is intransitive.

Lucia’s books are on the refrigerator

  • ON THE REFRIGERATOR indicates a location, not state of being. Therefore, the verb is intransitive.

The verb TO BE is not a linking verb when it acts as part of a verb presented in passive voice. It is part of a transitive verb.

When Clinton was elected president, some groups had high hopes he would champion their cause.

  • ELECTED is the main verb. It is weakened by the use of WAS and the failure to make a subject do the action, but WAS is not a linking verb. It is part of a transitive verb.

Umberto is coached by a former Olympic champion.

  • COACHED is the main verb. It is weakened by the use of IS and by not making the mysterious champion coach Umberto. Still IS is part of a transitive verb.

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Other common linking verbs: APPEAR, BECOME, FEEL, GET, GROW, SIT, LOOK, PROVE, REMAIN, SEEM, SMELL, SOUND, TASTE, TURN.

Even with the nomination out of reach, he appears unwilling to concede.

  • Nothing is appearing as in: The ghost appeared from behind the piano. APPEARS simply links HE with his state of being, UNWILLING.

Liberals became indistinguishable from conservatives on the issue.

  • There is no real action in BECAME. To test this, replace BECAME with the correct form of the verb TO BE: WERE. The sentence meaning is virtually unchanged.

He feels certain that any mandatory minimum needs an escape clause.

  • The subject is not engaged in the action of feeling as in: He felt the wall looking for a light switch. FEELS links HE and his state of being: CERTAIN.

“We got tough on crime,” he said.

  • Once again GOT is not an action as in: He got the kite out of the tree. To test this, replace GOT with WERE. The sentence meaning is unchanged.

He grew discouraged with the number of low-level drug offenders doing 15- and 20-year stretches.

  • The subject is not engaged in the action of growing as in: She grew a garden. GREW links HE with his state of being DISCOURAGED.

Proactive policing entails rousting people who look suspicious

  • The subject is not engaged in the action of looking as in: The people looked through the hole in the fence. LOOK links WHO (people) and their state of being: SUSPICIOUS.

If an approach proves faulty, laws can be changed.There is no real action in PROVES. To test this, replace PROVES with the correct form of the verb TO BE: IS. The sentence meaning is virtually unchanged.

The chairman remains confused about how to vote on these policies.

  • Nothing is happening either physically or intellectually. REMAINS simply links HE with his state of being: CONFUSED.

In the current contentious climate, the political system seems locked in place.

  • There is no real action in SEEMS. To test this, replace SEEMS with the correct form of the verb TO BE: IS. The sentence meaning is virtually unchanged.

If you leave that spoiled meat on the counter, the room will smell terrible.

  • The subject is not engaged in the action of smelling as in: Allyson smelled the milk. SMELL links ROOM and a state of being: TERRIBLE.

For decades Democrats have sounded more concerned about criminals than victims.

  • The subject is not engaged in the action of sounding as in: The sentry sounded the alarm. To test this, replace SOUNDED with the correct form of the verb TO BE: BEEN. The sentence meaning is virtually unchanged.

Shari doesn’t like anything that tastes spicy.

  • The subject is not engaged in the action of tasting as in: The child tasted the ice cream. To test this, replace TASTES with the correct form of the verb TO BE: IS. The sentence meaning is virtually unchanged

Many verbs may be linking, transitive or intransitive depending on their function.

  1. LINKING: The nation’s mood turned sour.
    • The subject is not engaged in an action. TURNED links MOOD and a state of being: SOUR.
  2. TRANSITIVE: The judge turned the pages quickly.
    • The subject was engaged in an action (TURNED) and that action transferred to an object (PAGES).
  3. INTRANSITIVE: The lawyer turned suddenly toward the back of the courtroom.
    • The subject was engaged in an action (TURNED) and that action was done in a particular way (SUDDENLY) but not to someone or something

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