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Action Verbs and Linking Verbs Help

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Updated on Sep 8, 2011

Action Verbs

Most action verbs represent a visible action, one that can be seen with our eyes. For example, waltz, surf,gallop, chop, row, swing, and punch are action verbs.

Identifying such doing words in a sentence is generally easy. But some action verbs are more difficult to identify because the action is far less obvious, as in depend, yearn, foresee, understand, consider, require, mean, remember, and suppose. It is helpful to remember that mental verbs are action verbs too, even though they are less visible than the others.

Tip: When compiling a resume, always use strong action verbs to describe your school and work experiences. Words like developed, created, improved, coached, volunteered, documented, and achieved catch the eye of a prospective employer.

Linking Verbs

Unlike the action verb, the linking verb expresses a state of being or a condition. Specifically, it links, or connects, a noun with an adjective (a descriptor) or another noun (an identifier) in a sentence.

Example:

Nathan and Sara are hardworking students.

The noun students identifies or renames the compound subjects, Nathan and Sara; hardworking is an adjective describing the noun students; and the verb are links the two components together.

Example:

Collin was tired after his golf game.

The adjective tired describes the subject, Collin, and the verb was links the two components together.

Some linking verbs can be tricky to identify because they appear to be action verbs. Their job in the sentence is to clarify the condition or state of the noun to which they are connected. The verbs in the following list can act not only as action verbs, but also as linking verbs.

  • appear
  • become
  • feel
  • grow
  • look
  • prove
  • remain
  • seem
  • smell
  • sound
  • stay
  • taste
  • come
  • lie
  • prove
  • act
  • turn
  • fall
  • get

How can one tell which role these tricky verbs are playing? Let's take a look at the word turned, used in two different ways.

    The Ferris wheel turned slowly as it began its initial rotation.

Here, the Ferris wheel performed an action: It turned. Can you visualize the huge wheel slowly rotating, with the riders in the cars, as it warms up? The word turned here is an action-oriented verb. Let's look at another example:

    One frightened rider turned green as the ride began to speed up quickly.

Here, the word turned connects the describing word, or adjective—green—to the subject—rider. In this example, turned is acting as a linking verb, not an action verb.

Linking Verbs

One easy way to tell whether a verb is an action verb or a linking verb is to replace the verb in question with a verb form of be (from the preceding table), or a linking verb like seemed or became. If the new sentence still makes sense, then you have a linking verb. If the sentence loses its meaning, then you have an action verb. For instance:

    The farmer grew several prize-winning tomatoes this season.

Let's replace grew with is:

    The farmer is several prize-winning tomatoes this season.

Or, let's use the word seemed:

    The farmer seemed several prize-winning tomatoes this season.

Neither choice works, which means that grew is an action verb, not a linking verb, in this sentence.

Let's try another example.

    The beef stew we had for dinner tasted delicious.

This time, let's replace tasted with was:

    The beef stew we had for dinner was delicious.

Or, let's use the word looked:

    The beef stew we had for dinner looked delicious.

Both choices make sense, because in this sentence tasted is a linking verb, not an action verb.

Common Helping Verbs

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