Daily Grammar

Linking Verbs vs. Helping Verbs

We receive many requests from individuals who seek help with identifying verbs.  A lot of individuals get linking verbs confused with helping verbs.  It's a common mistake.  Hopefully the following information will help you properly identify verbs.

Action verbs are verbs that show action.  Action verbs are the most common verbs.

Linking verbs (also known as state of being verbs) show that something exists or indicate a state of being; they do not show action.  Some common linking verbs include: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been, seem, look, feel, and become.


Sometimes a verb can be more than one word.  When a verb is more than one word, it is called a verb phrase.  Verb phrases can be two, three, or four words.  Verb phrases are made by using helping verbs with the main verb.

Some of the helping verbsHelping verbs are any verbs in a verb phrase that are not the main verb.
Source: Lesson 4
can be used alone as the main verbThe main verb is the only verb in a sentence or the last verb in a verb phrase..  There are twenty-three (23) helping verbs that should be memorized since they are used so often.  If you will memorize them, it will make knowing and understanding verbs much easier.  They are usually grouped in the following six groups:

Group 1: is, am, are, was, were (linking verbs when used alone)
Group 2: be, being, been (action or linking verbs when used alone)
Group 3: has, have, had (action verbs when used alone)
Group 4: do, does, did (action verbs when used alone)
Group 5: shall, will, should, would (cannot be used alone)
Group 6: may, might, must, can, could (cannot be used alone)


So to summarize, a verb or verb phrase can be labeled as an action verb or a linking verb.  Some words can be used as main verbs or helping verbsHelping verbs are found only in a verb phrase in support of the main verb.  Please test your knowledge by completing the problems below.

Instructions: List the verbs or verb phrases in the sentences, and tell whether they are action verbs or linking verbs.  For extra credit, find the helping verbs.

1. Jim plays basketball.

Jim plays basketball.
  -- action verb

2. They will return on the airplane.

They will return on the airplane.
  -- action verb
    will - helping verb
    return - main verb

3. Badger is a funny dog.

Badger is a funny dog.
  -- linking verb

4. I have been here a long time.

I have been here a long time.
  -- linking verbs
    have - helping verb
    been - main verb

5. I should have been playing the drum.

I should have been playing the drum.
  -- action verbs
    should have been - helping verbs
    playing - main verb

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