By Stuart Cook

Action verbs are the type of verbs that elementary students learn first. They also learn that if we want to say how we do something we should use an adverb (quicklybadlywell, etc.) with the verb.

So, we say:

She sings badly.
He speaks quickly.
The team played well.
I waited patiently.

However, there is a group of verbs—called linking verbs—which are not action verbs and are not used with an adverb. Instead we should use an adjective (quickbadgood, etc.) after these verbs.

What is a linking verb?

A linking verb is so called because it links the subject of a sentence with additional information about the character of that subject:

  • In the sentence ‘Caroline is beautiful’, the verb be (is) links Caroline and the word beautiful.
  • In the sentence ‘Martina sounds nice’, the verb sound links the subject, Martina, with the fact of her being nice.

Verbs which are always linking verbs (called true linking verbs):

The most common are:

Verb Example sentence
be He is horrible.  
seem She seems nice.  
become It became dark.  


Some other linking verbs

Some other verbs can act as linking verbs (although in other contexts these verbs may function as action verbs).

The verbs of the senses are linking verbs:

Verb Example sentence
look She looks good.  
sound This song sounds great.  
smell The roses smell beautiful.  
taste This sauce tastes awful!  
feel I feel weak today.  

 and stay are also linking verbs when used in a certain context:

It is getting cold.
Stay calm, please!

The rule

So, the rule to remember is:

  • with an action verb use an adverb;
  • with a linking verb use an adjective.

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