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Grammar and Usage

What are Causative Verbs?


Did you know that philosophy and linguistics overlap in their view that many or all fundamental truths can be viewed through the lens of language? It’s true!

And now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with causative verbs.  I’ll let you know later on in the lesson, but let me tell you what we’ll cover first.

Today you’ll learn how we define true causative verbs, the causative verb structure of the sentence in the declarative, interrogative, and imperative form.

You’ll learn how to use modals with a causative structure, the nuanced meaning behind each verb, and the relationship with the subject object or agent.

And of course, I’ll answer the question why philosophers like to ponder on the meaning of causative verbs.

As you can see, this is a jam-packed lesson, so take your time, pause through the sections  and re-watch the video if you need to.

What are causative verbs?

Causative verbs are verbs that indicate that someone or something, the causer, directly causes another person or thing, the causee to do something.

A sentence with a causative verb can be thought of this way: the subject causes the agent or object to perform an action.

Sentences with a causative verb start with a subject which is followed by the causative verb.

The sentence then continues with an object of a causative verb followed by the main verb that is directly performed by the object.

The subject does not perform the action expressed by the main verb but rather causes the object to perform the action.

Let’s break this down because it sounds confusing.

For the purposes of this lesson, I will refer to the subject as the causer and the agent or object performing the action of the main verb as the causee.

Think of employer employee.

In a regular sentence structure, the subject performs the action of the main verb.

The subject is called the agent, like in this example.

Mark cleans his room.

Mark is performing the action of the main verb clean.

But in the causative structure, the object of the causative verb is now the agent and this object is the one performing the action of the main verb.

Mark made his brother clean his room.

Notice that in this causative structure we have two verbs: we have the causative verb and the main verb.

The causative verb is “made” and the main verb, the base verb or the bare infinitive, is “clean” and the object of the causative verb, his brother, now becomes the agent of the main verb “clean”.

Mark is the causer brother is the causee.

The causative structure is the main clause plus the second clause which includes the object of the causative verb which would now be the agent of the main verb since this verb in the second clause is a bare infinitive and does not show tense.

This second clause is called the non-finite clause and both of these clauses are dependent on each other.

Again what’s unique about causative verbs, aside from the syntactic structure, is that the subject does not perform the action of the main verb but causes the object to perform that action.

And there are many verbs that fall under the causative umbrella, and those refer to verbs that express causation such as allow, cause, get, force, help, permit, etc.

But today we’re going to focus on the three true causative verbs that you’re familiar with, and those are make have and let.

We will look at other verbs that are usually included under the causative category and these are get and help.

So why are make have and let considered the prototypical or true causatives in the English language?

These three verbs follow a specific sentence pattern that the other causatives may not or they carry a connotation that the other causatives do not.

Let’s begin with the three true causatives make have and let let’s start with make.

Most grammarians would agree that make is the main causative verb.

It implies that more force is exerted from the subject, the causer, and that there is greater resistance from the agent the causee, like in this example:

The drill sergeant makes the soldiers do push-ups.

In this example, we see the use of the verb “makes” to show coercion and force. The soldiers do not have a choice. They must do what the drill sergeant makes them do.

Let’s go to have.

There’s minimal resistance.

The context is required because have may be used to describe a service that you pay for, but it can also add an air of status or rank where the causer is higher in status than the causee.

My boss has me proofread all his reports before he submits them to his manager.

Notice that there is some hierarchy here because my boss is my superior, so he has me do it. I have no choice. The force or the coercion used is less than of the verb make and when paying for a service you can use the verb “have”.

Carlos will have his mechanic check the engine for an oil leak.

LET The causer causes something that the causee wants to happen.

It’s implied that the causer has control or authority over the causee because a causer gives permission, allows, or grants the causee his desire.

The resistance is met by the causer. The causee is applying the pressure.

Shania lets her boyfriend wash her car every

This implies that her boyfriend wants to wash the car and Shania doesn’t necessarily want him to but she lets him. She allows him to do it.

GET and HELP are not considered true causatives by most grammarians.

Get is used in the informal or idiomatic form to mean to persuade, or convince, someone to do something.

And help is not technically a causative verb
but it’s thought of as a causative because of its grammatical structure.

When using get and help as causatives, the sentence will have two clauses: the main clause and the non-finite clause.

The only difference is that these verbs will use the to-infinitive.

And for help we’ll use the to-infinitive or the bare infinitive.

The bare infinitive is commonly used among native speakers.

I got my parents to let me go to the party

In this sentence, the verb get means to persuade.

Perhaps the parents didn’t want to let me go to the party, but I convinced them.

Now one thing that is interesting about the verb get is that when used in the passive voice it means the same thing as have and we will study the passive causative in an

upcoming lesson.

I help my mom fix dinner.

Now you can also say I helped my mom to fix dinner, but using the bare infinitive is more common.


Let’s look at more examples using different sentence types: declarative interrogative and imperative and we’ll also look at modals
in the causative structure.

Now let’s address the topic of why philosophers like to ponder on causative verbs.

Remember that language is central to human life, culture, and cognition.

With language we talk and argue. We formulate ideas and express emotion by
the slightest nuance of expression. The question of how language carries out these
expressive and communicative functions has concerned philosophers since Plato.

The topic?


In causative structures, the amount of force, coercion, and persuasion that is met by resistance, lack of power, or hierarchy of the causee
in relationship to the causer is always debated. Both wills of the causer and the causee are at play. And depending on the social context, the influence of the causer, one exerts greater power overthe other. According to linguistic philosophers, the use of causatives imply that the language we use in society (when the causee takes the will of the causer) the causee’s will is intact and remains independent of the causer.

This is debatable but this is especially true of the verbs make, get and have. Like in these examples: Mother made me eat my vegetables. Mother’s will is forced over mine. I had no choice. My will didn’t change. I still didn’t want to eat my vegetables, but mother made me.

Our teacher had the students memorize all
the continents.

Again, the students had no choice.  Their will perhaps did not change, but the will of the teacher was imposed on them. The teenage girl got her parents to let her
stay past midnight.

Here the willl of the causee was imposed on the parents.

The girl persuaded.

This has exceptions because coercion is not always apparent.

Like in this example: James’ flirtatious glances made me blush.

The amount of coercion or force of his glances made me blush.

I did not want to blush, but it made me.

And this is why linguistic philosophers like to think about causative verbs: how one person can affect the will of the other.

One thing to note is that context plays a role in language. And communication, societal roles, norms and
behaviors that are expected within the interactions of the causer and the causee will determine the amount of coercion or resistance and thus the causative verb that will be used when
describing the situation.

Remember to go back and review the parts of the lesson that you didn’t understand.

It is a complex issue.

I wanted to go a little deeper today in this lesson beyond what you have probably learned about causative verbs, beyond the simple structure.

Grammar and Usage

Double Words: THAT THAT

A previous lesson  on the double word had helped you to understand that double words sometimes called echo words are common in the English language. And today we continue our lesson on double words in a sentence. Double words in a sentence may look weird at first glance. They may even confuse you! Encountering double words is probably awkward to most readers but not to worry because today we’re going to look at another set of double words and that is the double that.

The Double That In a Sentence : that that

When you see a double that, you’re actually seeing two clauses working together to form a complete thought. The first that is usually a subordinating conjunction, and the second that can be a demonstrative adjective, or a determiner, a pronoun, or an adverb.

Let’s look at this example.

My friend Cassie is getting married, and she just picked out her bridesmaids dresses. Now let’s be honest. What can you say about this dress? Hmm do you like it? Some of you will and some of you will not.

I think that that dress will not please everyone.

See what I did there? I used the double that in this sentence.

Now let’s break it down. The first that is a subordinating conjunction and the second that is a demonstrative adjective modifying the noun dress.

Now let’s look at this other sentence.

I believe that that will not please everyone.

I’m still referring to the dress but notice that the second that is now a pronoun.

The Double That Can Be a Demonstrative Adjective, a Pronoun, or an Adverb

So what are some ways that you could rewrite these sentences and make them less awkward?

You could say: I think that this dress…

so you’re replacing the second that with another demonstrative pronoun.

Or you can say: I think that the dress Cassie picked…

and you can actually use the noun

or you can say: I think that it and you can use a pronoun

And one last example, and in this example the second that is actually an adverb.

It is my opinion that that much plastic surgery didn’t make her more attractive.

Now notice that in this example the second that is an adverb used to show intensity degree or extent.

So how could you rewrite the sentence and remove the second that?

You could say:  It’s my opinion that so much plastic surgery didn’t make her more attractive.

Notice what we did here. We removed the second that and in this case so is used as an adverb.

To conclude,  that the use of the double that should be avoided if possible because like I said earlier, it’s a bit awkward, and it could confuse your reader.


Grammar and Usage

The Double Had Had in a Sentence

Have you ever encountered the words “had had” in a sentence and thought you were seeing double?  Well, rest assured that your eyesight is all right and what you were seeing was a perfectly correct grammatical construction called the past perfect tense.

The Double Had Had in a Sentence

Perfect verb tense is used to show an action that is complete and finished, or perfected. This tense is expressed by adding one of the auxiliary verbs — have, has, or had — to the past participle form of the main verb.

Have + eaten

Has + finished

Had + loved

So what’s going on with the had had construction?

To understand the double had you have to remember that The past perfect is formed by using the past tense of have, which is HAD, and a past participle of the main verb, HAVE, which is also HAD. When we use “have” as a main verb we are using to mean  possess, own, hold for use, or contain.

So to be clear, have can be used as an auxiliary verb and as a main verb. Let’s think of this when forming the past perfect tense, when you want to indicate that you possessed, owned an action sometime in the past, but it is completed or perfected now.

You would use the past form of the auxiliary verb have which is HAD. And you would use the past participle of the main verb HAVE which is HAD.

  • Before the parent-teacher meeting, my teacher had (already) had many conferences with me due to my poor grades. (interrupted by an adverb).
  • I had had many opportunities to complete extra credit assignments before my final grade was posted. ( for emphasis) certainly
  • We had not had enough sleep the night before; therefore, we were very tired the morning of the test. (negative adverb not–show it also in the contracted form)

To conclude, please know that the use of ‘Had Had” is becoming less common and that although technically there is a difference between the past perfect tense and the simple past, semantically speaking, there is often little difference as long as the context is understood.




Grammar and Usage

Conjunctive Adverbs

What are Conjunctive Adverbs?

There are three basic types of conjunctions: coordinating, subordinating, and correlative. But there is a fourth type of conjunction that we are going to talk about today. And that is the conjunctive adverb.

In today’s lesson we’ll define what conjunctive adverbs are and compare them side by side to the coordinating conjunction, the subordinating conjunction, and the correlative conjunction. We’ll look at the punctuation rules that govern conjunctive adverbs. 

Adverbs Modify Adjectives, Verbs, Adverbs, Phrases, and Clauses

You probably already know that adverbs are words that modify adjectives, verbs, other adverbs, phrases, and entire sentences. 

And conjunctive  adverbs,  also called adverbial conjunctions, connectors, connective adverbs, linkers, linking adverbs, transition words, and transitional phrases, modify entire sentences, also referred to as independent clauses. 

These types of adverbs are used  to show the logical relationship between two separate independent clauses within one sentence, to show a function between two separate ideas in sentences or paragraphs, and to act as interrupters within the sentence. And this is clearly evident with the punctuation used to set off the conjunctive adverb.

Conjunctive adverbs are used to show addition, cause and effect, comparison, contrast, emphasis, example or illustration, sequence, summary, and time.


Find the Conjunctive Adverbs in this Passage

There is an ongoing debate that continues to divide pet owners. Which is smarter, cats or dogs? Animal behaviorists believe that cats have the intelligence of a two-year-old human toddler. Moreover, cats have complex brains, good short-term memory, and high emotional intelligence.

Hence, cats can remember where an object is located for up to 16 hours and can respond to their human’s cues. Dogs, however, can only remember an object’s location for 5 minutes.

But does this mean that cats are smarter than dogs? Comparatively speaking, dogs are often perceived to be more intelligent because they are more trainable. This is because dogs view humans at the top of the chain of command and have formed bonds over centuries of training. Conversely, cats do not recognize hierarchies and do not see humans as their masters.

Indeed, cats are not interested in following human commands on demand. Cats want to do things on their terms. For instance, a cat will not seek help from its owner to perform a difficult task; accordingly,  they will work on the task until successful. Meanwhile, a dog will seek help from its owner when confronted with a difficult task. To summarize, cats are highly intelligent creatures, and cat lovers will tell you that their fabulous feline is clever and brilliant; however, dog lovers will say the same of their prodigious pups. Surely, this debate will not be settled any time soon.


The way conjunctive adverbs are punctuated sets them apart from other conjunctions. This is because conjunctive adverbs may be found in different places in the clause and depending on their placement, the punctuation will differ

Conjunctive adverbs can appear at the beginning of a sentence. In the middle of the sentence, as interrupters, or at the end of the sentence.

The punctuation structure is as follows:

  • When a CA starts the sentence, place a comma after the CA

CA + comma + Independent Clause

Conversely, cats do not recognize hierarchies.

  • When a conjunctive adverb joins two independent clauses, the conjunctive adverb takes a semicolon in front of it and a comma after. 

Independent Clause + semicolon + CA + comma + Independent Clause

A cat will not seek help from its owner to perform a difficult task; accordingly,  they will work on the task until successful. 

  • You may even find the CA at the end of the sentence.

Independent clause + comma + CA

Dog lovers will probably say the same of their pets, undoubtedly. 

As a rule, the CA will be placed before the subject if starting the sentence, 

Between the subject and the first verb if interrupting the sentence

And at the end of the sentence.

Some grammar sites will tell you that transitional words or phrases are not conjunctive adverbs. And others will tell you that interrupters are not conjunctive adverbs either. Remember that with most grammar subjects, there may be disagreements among your professors, textbooks, and grammar sites. So always consult the style book or follow your teacher’s guidelines and instructions. 

Do not confuse the CA for the Subordinating conjunction or the coordinating conjunction: 

Remember that a conjunctive adverb connects independent clauses.

Cats appear aloof; however, they can be quite loving. 

Subordinating conjunctions, also known as subordinating adverbs, are used to link a dependent clause to an independent clause. 

Although cats appear aloof, they can be quite loving.

coordinating conjunctions are used to link two independent clauses with a comma. Remember the acronym FANBOYS.

Cats appear aloof, but they can be quite loving.

Be careful: COMMA SPLICE***A conjunctive adverb cannot join two independent clauses with a comma. This will create a comma splice which is a punctuation error.***

Correlative conjunctions:

Dogs are not only highly trainable but also incredibly loyal to their human.


When you are familiar with conjunctive adverbs, your reading comprehension will improve because you will be able to recognize the logical progression of  ideas presented in the text. Consequently, by using conjunctive adverbs in your writing, you’ll be able to present a smooth flow of transitions and help your reader follow your reasoning making for a well-ordered flow of ideas.


File name : Common-List-of-Conjunctive-Adverbs.pdf

Grammar and Usage

What is a Gerund?

A gerund is  a type of verbal that has the form of a verb but acts as a noun. In fact, because a gerund looks identical to the present participle some grammarian refer to it as the gerund-participle. This is because both the gerund and the present participle end in -ing and are formed from verbs. 

Let’s clarify: Some grammar sites will tell you that a participle can function as a noun and this is technically true, but you could say that a present participle that functions a noun is a gerund.

What is a Gerund?

But how can a word derived from a verb and called a verbal act as a noun? There’s a simple explanation. The gerund expresses the abstract concept of the verb.

A gerund is a verbal. This means that it expresses and abstract concept, a thing. For example, walking is a thing. You do this thing or you act on this thing.

Thinking is a thing you do

So is loving, eating, swimming, and running.

Let’s delve deeper into what a gerund actually represents. So we know that a gerund is formed from a verb. A verb is defined as either an action or a state of being. A gerund, in effect, represents the concept of the action, not the actual performance. We can use gerunds to talk about these actions or states of being in an abstract way.

So a way to think about gerunds is to view them as a representation of a concept or a thing that you do or are.

For example, let’s think about singing. Singing is something you do. It’s an action when you’re actively doing it. I am singing. In this example, singing is a verb. However, when you think about that action, that thing called singing, you’re actually thinking of an abstract concept, and this representation of that abstract concept is what we call a gerund when the verb form takes on the -ing.

Singing in the shower reduces stress levels. In this example, the concept, the thing of singing in the shower is what is being discussed. In this example singing in the shower is a gerund phrase.

Tips to Identify a Gerund

Two tips to identify the gerund:

Let’s look at the gerund. Let’s begin by sharing a tip that you can use to identify any noun or noun form. If you can replace a word, phrase, or clause with a pronoun, usually, “It” or the demonstrative pronouns “this” or “that”, then you have a noun.

What differentiates the usage of a present participle as a noun (gerund) or as an adjective (participial) is it’s function or place in the sentence and the punctuation around it.

Where can you find a gerund in the sentence?

A gerund can function as  a subject, a subject complement, a direct object, an indirect object, or an object of a preposition. Of you can find the gerund as a phrase as part of any of these forms.

Let’s try it



Bowling is not an Olympic sport.

Meditating helps me relax.

Reading is fundamental.

Quitting your job is not an option right now.

Memorizing the lines requires focus and concentration.

Skiing on compacted snow can be dangerous.


Ralph’s passion is teaching international students.

The baby’s new habit is throwing her food on the floor.

Rick’s new hobby is flying a small plane.


Ralph enjoys teaching English to international students. (answers what of the verb)

Kaylee remembers leaving a message.


Jose gave learning the piano another chance.

Shannon made serving the poor her lifelong career.


Antoine was sent to the principal’s office for cheating.

Father grounded me for driving the car without his permission.



Just because a word ends in -ing does not mean it’s a gerund. Remember that a gerund is a verbal that looks like a verb because it is derived from a verb. However, because of its place in the sentence, it acts like a noun.

ING words like 

  • King
  • Ring
  • Thing
  • Something
  • Everything

are not gerunds although they end in ing.


And then we have the present participle which looks just like a gerund because unless you identify the function in the sentence, you will not know for sure just by looking at it.

Grammar and Usage

Introduction to Reducing Adverb Clauses

Reducing Adverb Clauses

We know that an adverb modifies a verb, an adjective,  or another adverb. It answers the  question of when, where, how, why, to what extent or under what conditions.

In the same manner, adverb clauses add information that elaborates on when, where, why, and how by modifying or describing verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. An adverb clause is a dependent or subordinate clause that has a relationship with the independent or main clause.  The adverb clause is referred to as the dependent clause and it connects to the independent clause with a subordinating conjunction. The subordinating conjunction establishes the relationship between the two clauses: the adverb clause and the main clause.


There may be times when you will want to reduce the adverb clause to an adverbial phrase. Reduced adverb clauses are mostly used in formal writing to add variety and conciseness to your sentence structure. 

When reducing adverb clauses, we must consider four things: 

  1. Both the independent clause and the adverb clause must share the same subject. 
  2. Remove the modal or auxiliary verb in the adverb clause. (There are exceptions to this.)
  3. The reduction must not alter the relationship or time frame indicated in the original sentence.
  4. You may leave the subordinating conjunction with the exception of because, since, or as.


EXAMPLES of Reduced Adverb Clauses


  1. Although the bride was nervous, she was happy to walk down the aisle.
  • The first thing you’re going to do is check the subjects in both clauses: the bride in the adverb clause and she in the main clause.
  • Remove the subject “the bride” in the adverb clause and move it over to the main clause. The pronoun “she” is ambiguous. It could be any person, but you want to make sure your reader knows it’s “the bride”. 
  • Remove the helping verb “was”. 

Reduction: Although nervous, the bride was happy to walk down the aisle.

2.  Once the cake is done, it must cool in the refrigerator.

  • Move “the cake” over to the main clause.
  • Remove the helping verb “is”.

Reduction: Once done, the cake must cool in the refrigerator.

3. Because she did not have breakfast, Minnie was hungry and tired all morning.

  • Remove the subject in the adverb clause.
  • Remove the helping verb did and the subordinate conjunction “because”.

Reduction: Not having breakfast, Minnie was hungry and tired all morning.

4. Before Dee goes to bed, she brushes her teeth.

  • Move the subject “Dee” over to the main clause. 
  • Change the verb “goes” to the present participle “going”.

Reduction: Before going to bed, Dee brushes her teeth.


5. While Father was mowing the lawn, he whistled a tune.

  • Move “Father” over to the main clause.
  • Remove the helping verb “was”.

While mowing the lawn, Father whistled a tune.

Caution: Beware of dangling modifiers.

6. Tom was attacked by a shark when he was swimming in the beach.

  • Tom was attacked while swimming in the beach implies that the shark is the one swimming in the beach.
  • Move the clause to the beginning.

While swimming in the beach, Tom was attacked by a shark.


File name : Introduction-to-Reducing-Adverb-Clauses.pdf

Grammar and Usage

What are Modal Verbs?


A modal verb is a type of auxiliary or helping verb that helps the main verb by indicating the mood of the subject. Modal verbs indicate ability, possibility, obligation, or necessity.

The main modal verbs are can, could, may, might, will, would, must, shall, and should.

There are also quasi-modal, or semi-modal, verbs. These are a subcategory of modals, especially when they function in their negative and interrogative form.

Quasi-Modal Verbs

The main quasi-modal verbs are dare, had better, need, ought to, used to, and would rather.

Examples of Modal Verbs

Look at the examples of modal and quasi-modal verbs in the charts below.

Modal Verb Type or Mood Example
can ability/permission (informal) You can borrow my pencil.

Can I borrow your pencil?



permission, suggestion, request, past ability, future possibility He could leave early if his boss would allow him.
may probability, permission (formal) You may borrow my pencil.

May I borrow your pencil?

might probability/ possibility (future) I might ask my boss for permission to leave early.
will wish/willingness He will agree to it.
would request/past habit/possibility If I had the time, I would travel more.

Would you help me with my homework?

When I was young, I would listen to the radio all day long.

must necessity/obligation You must go out and search for a job.
shall intention/suggestion Shall you help her with her luggage?

I shall help her if you want me to.

should necessity/advice I should exercise more often.


Quasi-Modal Verb Type or Mood Example
dare ability (negation) I dare not go without permission.
had better advice/obligation You had better not go alone.
need request (negation) You need not ask again.
ought to advice/probability/obligation You ought to visit your grandmother more often.
used to previously/habitually I used to go all the time.
would rather intention/ willingness I would rather eat pizza than tacos.


Modal verbs are placed first in the verb phrase, after the subject, and are followed by a verb in the base form.

  • He could leave early. (Could is the modal and leave is the main verb.)
  • I should exercise more often. (Should is the modal and exercise is the main verb.)
  • You may borrow my car. (May is the modal and borrow is the main verb.)
  • I must help my friend. (Must is the modal and help is the main verb.)

The verb following the modal may be a main verb or an auxiliary verb like be or have.

  • He might be late tomorrow. (Might is the modal and be is the auxiliary.)
  • She should have studied more. (Should is the modal, have is the auxiliary, and studied is the main verb.)

Modal verbs are used in conditional sentences.

  • If I had the time, I would travel more. (If I had the time is the if clause in a conditional, would is the modal and travel is the main verb.)

Modal verbs are used in inverted sentences, especially in interrogative sentences. (Verb before subject)

  • May I take your car tonight? (May is the modal. Notice it comes before the subject, I. Take is the main verb.)
  • Would you help me with my homework? (Would is the modal. It comes before the subject, you. Help is the main verb.)

Modal verbs appear in negative form by adding the adverb “not” after the modal verb.

  • I dare not ask for permission. (Dare is a quasi-modal, not is an adverb of negation, and ask is the main verb.)
  • We would rather not eat at the restaurant again. (Would rather is a quasi-modal, not is an adverb of negation, and eat is the main verb.)
  • Shouldn’t you call before you go? (Should is the modal, not is an adverb of negation in the contracted form, call is the main verb. This sentence is in inverted order because the modal shouldn’t comes before the subject, you.)



Modal verbs only have one form.

  1. They have no infinitives using the “to” form. (INCORRECT: to can, to could, to may, to might, etc.)
  2. They have no –ing form, present participle. (INCORRECT: canning, coulding, maying, mighting, etc.)
  3. They have no past tense form. (INCORRECT: canned, coulded, mayed, mighted, etc.)
  4. They do not change form for person. (INCORRECT: he cans, she cans, it cans, he coulds, she coulds, it coulds, etc.)
  5. They cannot be used with another modal. (INCORRECT: Had I known, things may would have been different.)

Remember that a modal verb helps the main verb by indicating the mood of the subject.

Download the handout on modals.






Grammar and Usage

What are Linking Verbs?

What are Linking Verbs?

A linking verb is a verb that links the subject of a sentence to the subject complement.

In today’s lesson we will learn about linking verbs. A linking verb does not show any action. It just links, or joins, the subject of a sentence to a word that identifies or describes the subject, also called the subject complement.

The forms of the verbs to be, to become, and to seem are common linking verbs, but there are many others, including all the sense verbs: look, smell, touch, appear, sound, taste, and feel

Examples of Linking Verbs

Let’s look at some examples of linking verbs.

I am a lawyer. (Identifies)

The teacher is mean. (Describes)

Bill was a magician. (Identifies)

Bill is tired. (Describes)

The children are quiet. (Describes)

They were very sleepy. (Describes)

The baby became tired and fussy. (Describes )

Marcia has become the town gossip. (Identifies)

Ophelia seems distracted. (Describes.)

Linking Verbs are not Action Verbs

One thing to remember is that linking verbs do not express action. They simply link the subject with the subject complement to show their relationship. So when you are unsure is a verb is a linking verb or an action verb, simply substitute a form of the verb to be for the original verb.

Let’s take a look.

Ron tasted the corn chowder.

Ron is the corn chowder? No way. In this example, tasted is an action verb, not a linking verb.

The corn chowder tasted good.

The corn chowder is good. Yes! In this example the substitution makes sense so tasted is used as a linking verb.

Sylvia appears lost.

Sylvia is lost. Yes

Sylvia appears before the court.

Sylvia is the court? No, action verb.

Marlie touched the hot stove.

Marlie is the hot stove? No, action verb.

The bread smells delicious.

The bread is delicious.

Carli smells the wet grass.

Carli is the wet grass? No, action verb

You get the idea.

A linking verb does not show any action. The forms of the verbs to be, to become, and to seem are common linking verbs, but there are many others, including all the sense verbs: look, smell, touch, appear, sound, taste, and feel. When you are unsure if a verb is a linking verb or an action verb, simply substitute a form of the verb to be for the original verb.

Grammar and Usage

Common Irregular Verbs: Past Tense and Past Participle

For most verbs, in order to form the past tense, you simply add the suffix -ed to the main form of the verb called the infinitive. And to form the regular past participle which can be a verb form or an adjective, you usually keep the past tense form of the verb, that is the infinitive plus the suffix -ed. 

This means that the regular simple past and the participle forms of the verb are the same.

Like in this example: 

Love (main verb in the present)

loved (simple past formed by adding ed suffix) and

has/have loved ( past participle formed by adding the helping verb has/have and keeping the past tense form of the verb.


However, there are irregular verbs that do not follow the common structure of adding ed when making the past and past participle.

Download the PDF to see the most common irregular past tense verbs and their verb forms, or past participles.