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How to Teach Linking Verbs (With Examples)

Teaching English well means not just knowing the language’s details but also making learning fun for students. A key part of English grammar is linking verbs. These verbs are important but easy to miss. They are different from action verbs because they don’t show action. Instead, they link the subject of a sentence to more information about it. This linking role is important and helps sentences make sense, making linking verbs a really important part of learning English.

Teaching linking verbs can be tough because they’re not as straightforward as action verbs. It’s important for teachers to use methods that are clear and fun. Using easy-to-understand explanations, real-life examples, and interactive activities can really help students get the hang of linking verbs. This guide is here to give teachers different ways and tools to teach linking verbs well, so students can not only understand them but also use them confidently when they write and talk.

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What are Linking Verbs?

In contrast with action verbs that show an activity or a process, linking verbs function as a way to describe a state of being, occurrence, or condition of a subject – in short, they do not show action. Linking verbs explain the mood of the subject, such as identifying what it is or how it appears.

Tricky, isn’t it? No need to worry because we are going to delve deeper into the concept to unpack how and what linking verbs are used for.

Describes states of being (“to be” linking verbs)

Linking verbs in forms of “to be” (am, is, are, was, were), are used to describe the subject’s state of being. In the sentence, “She is a teacher,” the verb “is” does not show action but rather connects the subject (she) to her state of being (a teacher). These verbs are important in sentences where the focus is on describing what or who the subject is, rather than what the subject is doing. Here are other examples:

  • “I am great!” –  “am” is the linking verb connecting the subject “I” to its state of being “great.”
  • “The car is red.” – “is” is the linking verb connecting the subject “car” to its state of being “red.”
  • “The cats are chunky.” – “are” is the linking verb connecting the subject “cats” to its state of being “chunky.”
  • “She was tired.”- “was” is the linking verb connecting the subject “she” to its state of being “tired.”
  • “We were cold!” – “were” is the linking verb connecting the subject “we” to its state of being “cold.”

Other “to be” linking verbs:

  • be
  • being
  • been

Showing Changes or Transitions (condition linking verbs)

The words “become” or “turn” are linking verbs used to show change or transition in the state or condition of the subject. For instance, in “He became a doctor,” the verb “became” links the subject (he) to his new state (a doctor). These verbs are useful if the focus of a subject is in its development over time. Here are a few other examples:

  • “They became writers.” – “Became” is the linking verb here, connecting the subject “they” to their new state, “writers.”
  • “The milk turned sour.” – “Turned” is the linking verb here, connecting the subject “milk” to its new state, “sour.”

Other condition or transition state linking verbs:

  • grow
  • remain
  • stay
  • prove
  • continue

Describing Sensory Experiences (sensory linking verbs)

The verbs “taste,” “feel,” “smell,” “look,” and “sound” can also function as linking verbs if they are used to describe a subject in a sentence. For example, in the sentence “The brownies look delicious,” the verb “look” connects the subject (the brownies) to a quality associated to it (delicious). Here are other examples:

  • “The cake tastes sweet.” – In this sentence, “tastes” connects the subject “cake” to its flavor quality, “sweet.”
  • “The sandpaper feels rough.” – In this sentence, “feels” connects the subject “sandpaper” to its texture quality, “rough.”
  • “The perfume smells fragrant.” – In this sentence, “smells” connects the subject “perfume” to their scent quality, “fragrant.”
  • “The chirping of the birds sounds melodious.” – In this sentence, “sounds” connects the subject “chirping of the birds” to its auditory quality, “melodious.”

In the case of “seem” and “appear”, these linking verbs are used to describe a subject’s condition or qualities. For example, in the sentence “She seems happy,” the verb “seems” connects the subject (she) to a condition associated to it (happy). These verbs are commonly used in cases where the perception or appearance of a subject is being communicated. Here are other examples:

  • “The dog seems hungry.” – In this sentence, “seems” is the linking verb that connects “the dog” to its apparent state, “hungry.”
  • “He appears exhausted after long hours at work.” – In this sentence, “appears” links the subject “he” to his state of being, “exhausted.”

Teaching Linking Verbs

Effectively teaching linking verbs would consist of a blend of explanation, examples, and interactive activities to assist students to understand and perceive these verbs in sentences. Here’s a step-by-step approach:

(Note: for steps 1,2,4, and 5, you can use the expanded definition of linking verbs in this guide as a reference.)

1. Introduce what Linking Verbs are

Begin by explaining that linking verbs are verbs that do not show action, but instead link the subject of a sentence to additional information about the subject. They could describe a state of being, appearance, or condition.

Using simple sentences to illustrate this will further help clarify how and what linking verbs are used for.

2. Do a Run Down of Common Linking Verbs

Show a list of common linking verbs to your students. Emphasize on the different types: “to be” linking verbs, condition linking verbs, and sensory linking verbs.

Understanding these different types of linking verbs can help students in constructing clear and meaningful sentences.

3. Do a Comparison with Action Verbs

Linking verbs and action verbs are two distinct types of verbs in English. Showing a contrast between these verbs will help clarify the difference. You can do the contrast this way:

Here’s an action verb in a sentence: He runs fast.

  • In this sentence, “runs” is an action verb because it describes the action of running. It shows that “he” is actively engaged in the activity of running.

Here’s a linking verb in a sentence: He is fast.

  • In this sentence, “is” is a linking verb. It connects the subject “he” to the adjective “fast,” describing his state or condition. It tells us that “he” possesses the quality of being fast.

4. Create Exercises That Reinforce Usage of Linking Verbs in Sentences

Giving students exercises in identifying linking verbs in a sentence will help solidify their understanding of the concept. Here are some examples:

  • “The soup tastes good.” (tastes = linking verb)
  • “She appears tired.” (appears = linking verb)
  • “The bird is blue.” (is = linking verb).

5. Create Interactive Exercises

Here are two interactive exercise you can do: a matching exercise and a fill-in-the-blanks exercise.

For the matching exercise: Create a worksheet where students can match subjects to adjectives using linking verbs.

Here’s a sample worksheet you can use as reference:

Instructions: Match the subjects on the left with the correct adjectives on the right by using appropriate linking verbs. Write the complete sentence in the space provided. Number 1 is done for you.
Subjects: Adjectives:
1.) The weather A. delicious
2.) My cat B. funny
3.) The movie C. beautiful
4.) His jokes D. interesting
5.) The soup E. cold
6.) She F. loud
7.) The book G. sunny
8.) Our team H. sleepy
9.) The music I. exciting
10.) The flowers J. victorious
Space for Answers
1.) Example: The weather – sunny. Sentence: The weather is sunny.
2.) My cat
3.) The movie
4.) His jokes
5.) The soup
6.) She
7.) The book
8.) Our team
9.) The music
10.) The flowers

For fill-in-the-blanks: Provide sentences with missing linking verbs for students to complete.

Here’s a sample worksheet you can use as reference:

Instructions: Fill in the blanks with the correct linking verb to complete each sentence. Choose from the linking verbs provided: am, is, are, was, were, seem, become, appear, feel, taste.
1. The cookies ____________ delicious.
2. She ____________ excited about the new project.
3. They ____________ best friends since childhood.
4. The sky ____________ cloudy today.
5. He ____________ a doctor before he retired.
6. You ____________ the only one who understood the problem.
7. The results of the test ____________ not what we expected.
8. This puzzle ____________ more difficult than it looks.
9. We ____________ happy with the final outcome.
10. The room ____________ empty when I arrived.

6. Engage in Role-Playing using Real-Life Connections

Encourage students to create sentences about themselves or their surroundings using linking verbs and have them recite them individually.

Some examples may include statements such as, “I am excited about the trip,” “The sky looks cloudy,” or “The chair is black.”

This activity will not only help students learn the correct usage of linking verbs, but it will improve their grammar and vocabulary.

7. Practice and Reinforcement

To solidify the understanding of linking verbs, it’s beneficial to engage students with a mix of reinforcement activities. Use practice worksheets, quizzes, and online exercises to support the concept. Encourage students to write short paragraphs or stories using a set number of linking verbs.

Incorporating activities that focus on using linking verbs is highly beneficial for students because it enhances their understanding of sentence structure and grammar, improves their ability to express complex ideas clearly, and develops their overall language proficiency in both written and spoken communication.

8. Ongoing Review and Teamwork

Keep checking students’ understanding regularly and give them feedback on how they use linking verbs in talking and writing. Also, have students work together to spot and talk about linking verbs in each other’s sentences.

9. Engage in Writing Challenges

For a fun activity, have students write a short story or a paragraph where they mostly use linking verbs. This will show them how these verbs can help describe things and feelings.

10. Incorporate Fun Games

Playing educational games such as “Linking Verb Bingo” or “Verb Charades” is an excellent way to make learning about linking verbs enjoyable and engaging for students. Here’s how its done:

  • Linking Verb Bingo: Create bingo cards with different linking verbs in each square. As you call out definitions or examples of states and conditions, students will mark off the corresponding linking verb on their cards. The first student to complete a row, column, or diagonal wins. This game helps students recognize and remember different linking verbs.
  • Verb Charades: In this game, students act out scenarios or emotions that represent different linking verbs without speaking. Their classmates guess the linking verb being depicted. For example, a student might act out being happy, and classmates would guess “is” from the sentence “He is happy.” This helps students understand the context in which linking verbs are used.

Take note that the key to teaching linking verbs effectively is to make the learning process interactive and to provide plenty of examples and opportunities for practice.

Final Thoughts on Teaching Linking Verbs to Your Students

Teaching linking verbs effectively is about engaging students in a way that makes learning both enjoyable and meaningful. Through a variety of activities ranging from writing challenges, interactive games, and collaborative exercises, students can deepen their understanding of linking verbs and their usage. These methods not only help in reinforcing grammatical concepts but also enhance students’ overall language skills. With resources like EnglishLearningByPro providing accessible and adaptable materials, teachers can tailor their approach to meet the diverse needs of their students. Ultimately, the goal is to empower students to use linking verbs confidently, enriching their communication skills in both spoken and written English.

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John Bart
Author: John Bart

I am the co-owner of englishlearningbypro.com, a community built specifically for English teachers around the world trying to make a living teaching English. I have lived in Brazil for four years and had previously taught private English classes for three years. I am passionate about helping others, and making English teaching and learning easier.

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