How to Identify & Replace Linking Verbs

Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

Good writers work to make every word count. Replacing linking verbs with other structures is a method some writers use to strengthen their writing. In this lesson, we will look at linking verbs and how to replace them.

Smooth Connections

Grandma is teaching Nina how to crochet a scarf. Nina loves her scarf, except for a few bumps where she used knots to connect one piece of yarn to the next. Grandma says she can teach Nina to connect the yarn without a knot, so the scarf is smoother. Nina can't wait to try replacing her knots with a cleaner connection.

In grammar, linking verbs are connectors. Did you ever want a smoother connection? Sometimes linking verbs are like Nina's knots--they hold the sentence together, but they are not the smoothest or prettiest option. Let's explore how to identify linking verbs in your writing, and ways to replace them.

What is a Linking Verb?

A linking verb shows the state of being of the subject by connecting, or linking, the subject to either an adjective that describes it or a noun that renames it. Some common linking verbs are: be, am, are, was, seems, feels, looks, becomes, and appears.

  • The house looks old.
  • Jake's trumpet playing sounds awful.
  • The mail carrier is Theresa.

Finding the Linking Verb

How can you tell if a verb is a linking verb? Try to replace it with ''equals.'' If the meaning of the sentence remains the same, the verb is a linking verb.

  • Sue looks sleepy. Replacement: Sue = sleepy. Since the sentence has the same meaning, looks is a linking verb.
  • Alexander became a great leader. Replacement: Alexander = a great leader. The meaning of the sentence is basically the same. Became is a linking verb.
  • A dogwood tree bloomed this spring. Replacement: A dogwood tree = this spring. The meaning of the sentence is changed. Bloomed is not a linking verb.

Replacing the Linking Verb

Now that we have reviewed linking verbs and how to find them, let's talk about getting rid of them. See if you think replacing linking verbs could make your writing smoother and more concise.

Combine Two Sentences That Have the Same Subject

A giant dog was chasing me. The dog seemed angry.

  • The linking verb here is seemed.
  • Both of these sentences are talking about the same dog, so the only new information in the second sentence is that the dog is angry. Can we move the description ''angry'' into the first sentence and combine the two sentences?
  • A giant, angry dog was chasing me.
  • This new sentence contains all of the information of the original two sentences but uses fewer words.

See how replacing the linking verb can make a sentence sound smoother and more concise?
example of replacing linking verbs

Move the Predicate Adjective

The predicate adjective is an adjective that follows the linking verb and describes the subject. If you move the predicate adjective, so it is before the subject, sometimes you can eliminate the linking verb.

Colin read a book. The book was very long.

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