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Action Verbs

An action verb describes an action, such as:

  • Break
  • Cry
  • Eat
  • Jump
  • Kick
  • Run
  • Smile
  • Think

The sentence pattern will be:

SUBJECT → ACTION VERB → THE REST OF THE SENTENCE

(noun, pronoun, or noun phrase) → (verb) → (adjective, adverb, noun, prepositional phrase, etc.)

Examples of action verbs in sentences:

Greg is kicking the ball now.

The action verb is Kicking. It describes what Greg is doing.

The wind blows constantly in Chicago.

The action verb is Blows. It describes what the wind does.

He accepted my apology.

The action verb is Accepted. It describes what he did.

Linking Verbs

A linking verb links (connects) the subject of the sentence to information about that subject. Linking verbs do not describe action.

The sentence structure will be:

SUBJECT → LINKING VERB → INFORMATION ABOUT THE SUBJECT

(noun, pronoun, or noun phrase) → (verb) → (adjective, noun, or complement)

Some verbs are always linking verbs because they never describe an action. Others can be linking verbs in some sentences and action verbs in different sentences. (See below for examples.)

The following are always linking verbs:

  • To be: (is, am, are, was, were, has been, have been, had been, is being, are being, was being, will have been, etc.)
  • To become: (become, becomes, became, has become, have become, had become, will become, will have become, etc.)
  • To seem: (seemed, seeming, seems, has seemed, have seemed, had seemed, is seeming, are seeming, was seeming, were seeming, will seem)

Here are some examples of linking verbs that are ALWAYS linking verbs in sentences:

The ball is red.

” Is” links the subject “ball” to information about that subject (that it is red).

The children are smart.

“Are” connects the subject “children” to information about that subject (that they are smart).

The child will be tall five years from now.

“Will be” links “child” to the information that she will be “tall five years from now.”

The cat seems fine.

“Seems” links “cat” with information about the cat (that it is fine).

The dog became thin after his surgery.

“Became” links “dog” with information about it (that he became thin).

Words that can be action verbs and linking verbs

There are verbs that, in some sentences, are linking verbs but, in other sentences, are action verbs. These include:

  • Appear
  • Feel
  • Grow
  • Look
  • Prove
  • Remain
  • Smell
  • Sound
  • Taste

One way to determine whether the verb is functioning as an action verb or a linking verb is to substitute the word “Is” for the verb in question. If the sentence still makes sense, then it is probably a linking verb. If the sentence would not make sense with the word “Is,” then it is probably serving as an action verb.

Examples

Appear

Jane appeared uninjured after the accident.

You could substitute the word “is” for the word Appeared, and the sentence would still make sense: “Jane is uninjured after the accident.” This lets you know that Appeared is a linking verb here.

Before I could leave, Jane appeared.

In this sentence, Appeared is not linking anything. It is telling the action that Jane did. She appeared, or showed up.

Smells

The cake smells good!

This sentence describes the cake. Smells is a linking verb in this sentence. It connects the subject “cake” with information about that subject (that it smells good).

Ellen smells the cake.

The word Smells is not linking anything. If you replaced Smells with “Is,” the sentence would not make sense. That means Smells must be an action verb in this sentence. Ellen performed the action of smelling the cake.

Grew

The woman grew silent.

This sentence may seem confusing. Remember that Grow has more than one meaning! In this sentence, Grew means became. The woman became silent.

The gardener grew some flowers.

The word Grew is not linking two things together here. If you tried to replace Grew with “Is,” the sentence would not make sense. This means that Grew must be an action verb. The gardener performed the action of growing some flowers.

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