Action, Linking and Auxiliary Verbs: Definitions, Functions & Examples

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  • 0:04 What Is a Verb?
  • 0:39 Action Verbs
  • 1:43 Linking Verbs
  • 2:44 Auxiliary Verbs
  • 3:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Bonn

Amy has taught college and law school writing courses and has a master's degree in English and a JD.

Do you think that a verb is just a verb? Check out this lesson to learn about the differences among action verbs, linking verbs, and auxiliary/helping verbs.

What is a Verb?

When you head to the movie theater to catch an action movie, you expect a lot of stuff to happen, like cars chasing each other, action heroes leaping off buildings, and things exploding. In other words, you're in the mood for a lot of exciting verbs. So, what is a verb? That's an easy one, right? A verb is a word that expresses an action or occurrence.

It's true that that's the core of it, but it does get a bit more complicated than that, and there are a few more definitions and rules that you'll need to be acquainted with as you work toward achieving your ultimate goal of becoming a verb master. There are a few different types of verbs and a few things to keep in mind about each type.

Action Verbs

Action verbs are what we most commonly think of when we think about verbs (and particularly when we think about action movies). An action verb is a word that expresses an action that the subject of a sentence does, did in the past, or will do in the future. Note that the subject of a sentence is a noun or pronoun that the sentence is about. The subject usually, though not always, performs the action of the verb. Remember that every sentence must have both a subject and a verb to be complete.

Examples of action verbs are:


Note that action verbs include not just verbs that are truly action-packed. They include words like 'think' and 'decide' and other actions that aren't actually visible. For example, in the sentence, Miriam leapt over the couch, the subject 'Miriam' is performing the action of the verb 'leapt.' In the sentence, Miriam thought about what she had done, the subject 'Miriam' is performing the action of the verb 'thought.' Both sentences contain action verbs, even though one action is a bit more perceptible - and exciting - than the other.

Linking Verbs

A linking verb is quite different from an action verb in that it doesn't actually express action. Instead, it connects a subject to the other words in a sentence that describe it or that provide additional information. Here are some examples of common linking verbs:

be (including am, is, are, was, and were)

Linking verbs quite literally do what the name suggests: They link the subject of a sentence to additional words that tell more about the subject. Here are some examples of linking verbs at work:

The kids appear excited about the holidays.

My sister is nervous.

I feel sick.

Dinner smells delicious.

Even though these linking verbs aren't showing big, kinetic actions and movements, they are nonetheless verbs. They're not the kind of verbs that drive big-budget action movies, but rather movies that are maybe a little less exciting and that feature a lot of sitting around, talking, and emoting.

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