What Verb Should I Use? Linking Verbs and Action Verbs


A verb in a sentence is like a set of tires in a truck. Let’s say you load your truck with ideas that you want to deliver to another person. You can be certain that without a good set of tires, those ideas will never get to its destination. That is what verbs do, they are the vehicle that takes what you want to say from one point to another. Every sentence needs one, and you need to start using one if you want to do anything with it. There are different types of verbs, and in this article, I will explain you two different types of verbs and when to use each of them. These are linking verbs and action verbs. Let’s get started.

Linking verbs express a situation or a state rather than an action or a process. They consist of several types of verbs. With these verbs, math intersects with English in a way, because these verbs are like a giant equal sign placed in the middle of your sentence. For example, you can think of the sentence

My aunt is a very polite person


My aunt = a very polite person

Just as in a math equation, the word is links two ideas and says that they are the same, Thus, is is a linking verb

The basic ones are forms of the verb “to be”: am, are, be, being, is, was, were, and been. However, become, get, grow, turn, and similar terms, and their tense forms (for example, became and “will become”), also perform this function, as do those in two other small groups.

First, there are the words such as appears and seems, and second, there are what are called the sensory verbs, referring to impressions based on the five senses: feels, looks, smells, sounds, and tastes. (These, of course, also have their tense forms, such as appeared and “will feel.”)

The default for use of linking verbs is that each clause has only one, as in “I am here, and you are there.” Some languages don’t allow to use them, but in American English, this is an informal usage recommended only in everyday dialogue, as when one character drops the linking verb when asking another character something such as “Where you going?”

Now, let’s go to action!

Linking verbs are great, but if you only use linking verbs to describe what you do every day, you are basically not doing anything all day long. This is where action verbs come into play. Everything that is not being is an action in the verb world. Unlike the giant equal sign associated with linking verbs, something actually happens with an action verb.

These types of verbs actually describe an accomplishment, achievement, or activity. Accomplishment verbs describe the result of an effort, as in “He solved the problem just in time.” Achievement verbs describe an instantaneous action, as in “I saw the dog.” (Although one can continue to see a dog, the initial occurrence — the transition from not seeing the dog to seeing it — takes place in an instant.) An activity can be definite in duration (“I walked while I waited for him to get ready”) or indefinite (“I walked along the road.”)

One significant difference in sentence constructions that feature a linking verb and those that include an action verb is the part of speech that might follow the verb. If an action verb is modified, the modifier is an adverb (“She sifted carefully through the pile of documents”), while a linking verb is followed by an adjective (“I was careful as I sifted through the pile of documents”).

Why should I know this?

As with everything you learn in grammar, there’s always a purpose for it, and being able to identify linking and action verbs is no different. Maybe this is the first time you hear about these types of verbs, but they will help you tremendously to understand verb tenses. In the next articles, we will start from this foundation to analyze other characteristics of English verbs.

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