Action Verb vs Linking Verb (What’s the Difference?)

Verbs are words that describe an action, state of being, or occurrence. However, verbs are a large category of words, and writers use many types of verbs on different occasions. 

While not everyone is a master of English grammar – not even English speakers – it’s essential to differentiate between various verbs for successful writing and to develop a thorough understanding of the English language.

Two types of verbs you must understand are action verbs and linking verbs. Action verbs express physical or mental actions, whereas linking verbs connect the subject to a state of being or quality.

In this article, you’ll learn when to use an action verb vs a linking verb to ensure you best convey your message.

What Is an Action Verb?

Action verbs are likely the verb type you’re most familiar with, as they’re the most commonly used. Also known as dynamic verbs, action verbs describe an action performed by the subject of a sentence. No matter if you’re using vivid verbs, action verbs or linking verbs, you need to have a proper subject-verb agreement!

Take the following example sentence:

  • Jake biked to school today.

Jake is the subject noun of this sentence, and he is performing the action – biking (to school).

Here are a few examples of common action verbs:

  • Walk
  • Run
  • Jump
  • Swing
  • Sing
  • Dive
  • Press

This list isn’t exhaustive, as there are an endless number of action verbs in the English language. 

How does this differ from linking verbs? Let’s find out. 

What Are The Different Type Of Action Verbs?

Action verbs are primarily categorized into two types: transitive and intransitive. Transitive verbs require a direct object to complete their meaning. They describe an action that is being done to something or someone.

  • For example, in the sentence “She reads a book,” the verb ‘reads’ is transitive, acting upon the direct object ‘book.’

Intransitive verbs do not require a direct object; they stand alone without needing something or someone to receive the action. These verbs indicate an action that is complete in itself.

  • For instance, in “He sleeps,” the verb ‘sleeps’ is intransitive as it does not act upon a direct object.

What Is a Linking Verb?

While an action verb is concerned with describing and action, linking verbs are words that express a state of being

As the name suggests, linking verbs link the sentence’s subject to a word in the predicate, the part of a sentence containing a verb and saying something about the subject. 

Three popular linking verbs you constantly use are:

  • To be
  • To become
  • To seem

Ex: In order for an adjective to become an adverb, you simply need to add -LY!

Whenever you see these three verbs conjugated in a sentence, they are linking verbs. Here are a few examples of these linking verbs in action:

  • Jenna is my girlfriend.
  • The caterpillar became a butterfly.
  • Reggie seems a little sad.

In each of these examples, the verb, such as message or messege, isn’t describing what the subject is doing. It is saying something about the state of being of the subject. After each verb, you’ll find the predicate that connects to the subject – “my girlfriend,” “a butterfly,” and “a little sad.”

Here are a few other linking verbs to keep in mind:

  • To appear
  • To feel
  • To smell
  • To taste

Now that you know what both action and linking verbs are, let’s discuss the differences and when to use each one. 

Action Verb vs Linking Verb – When to Use Each One

As mentioned, there’s one key difference between an action verb and a linking verb: an action verb is a verb that indicates an action, and a linking verb connects a subject to the words that describe what the subject is. 

What’s more, linking words do not describe actions and instead describe a state of being. You’ll also find linking verbs followed by the predicate, while an object usually follows action verbs, but that isn’t always the case.

A complete sentence contains a subject noun and a verb, so an action verb can exist without an object, as in the example below:

  • Jamie ran.

Finally, action verbs and linking verbs affect the subject in different ways. If you need help reviewing your sentence layout, use our sentence structure checker. Again, the action verb describes what the subject is doing, while a linking verb describes the state of the subject. 

Action VerbsLinking Verbs
The cat chased the mouse.He seems tired.
She sings beautifully.She is a teacher.
He runs every morning.The cake tastes delicious.
They are painting the fence.They were happy.
She wrote a letter.The flowers smell wonderful.

One More Verb to Know: Helping Verb

While knowing the difference between an action verb and a common linking verb is essential, these aren’t the only two types of verbs to learn in English. Another significant type of verb in the English language is a helping verb.

A helping verb, also known as an auxiliary verb, is kind of what it sounds like — a verb that combines with another verb to convey meaning. You’ll find a helping verb before the main verb of a sentence. Together, the two verbs form a verb phrase. There are also compound verbs that combine two words together! But we’ll save that for another time.

Common helping verbs you’ll find in English are:

  • May
  • Should
  • Help
  • Shall
  • Was 
  • Do

Here are a few examples of helping verbs in a sentence:

  • Mara helps manage her friend’s business.
  • Amanda can cook dinner.
  • Jesse does not want to see that movie.

Each of these sentences contains two verbs, and the first is considered the helping verb. In the case of a negative sentence, such as the third example, the word “not” comes between the main verb and the helping verb. Even so, the rules are the same for phrases with negative particles. 

The last thing to note is you can have more than one helping verb, as in the following example sentence:

  • Jane should have seen the car coming.

Even with so many verbs in the phrase, the same rules of helping verbs apply. In the string of verbs “should have seen,” both “should” and “have” are the helping verbs.

That said, beware of using too many verbs – your sentence may get too wordy.

Recap: Which Verb Should You Use?

If you’re still having trouble distinguishing an action and a common linking verb, it all comes down to this: action verbs describe an action, and linking verbs describe a state of being. 

Once you’ve mastered that rule, you’ll be better able to distinguish between action and linking verbs and properly use them in your writing. If you need some extra help, use our essay checker free online tool!