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How can you replace linking verbs?

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Replacing linking verbs is one way to enliven your writing.
Linking verbs include the forms of the verb "to be" along with a few other words.
The verb "to be" has many forms. Here are some of them:
is | are | am | will be | had been | would have been
Here are the other linking verbs:
appear, become, feel, grow, look, seem, remain, smell, sound, stay, taste, turn
Linking verbs act like an equals sign in a sentence.
Even when you add the auxiliaries (can, could, will, would, may, might, shall, should, etc.) to "to be," they still just say "this is that" in some form:
The house is white. I shall be queen. You would have been better off dead. There will be room for twelve guests. I might be late. This could be dangerous. Robins are good parents. Margaret should be the boss. That isn't nice.
Using a lot of linking verbs creates a rather dull, flat quality in writing. There's no life, no sparkle, no movement. Everything just is, is, is. You want to replace linking verbs in your sentences with verbs that do more than assert (or deny) actual or possible existence. How? It usually takes some rewording because you can't simply substitute another verb for the linking verb. Instead you want to look for a verb that means something in itself, adds some quality or activity, or even replaces one of the terms of the equation. Here are some examples, first with a linking verb, and second without.
The sun is bright. The sun shines brightly.
Henry had been king for ten years. Henry had reigned for ten years.
Robins are good parents. Robins take good care of their young.
Tomorrow is the first day of school. School starts tomorrow.
The picnic would have been more enjoyable if the weather had been warmer. We would have enjoyed the picnic more on a warmer day.
(Notice, none of these examples here or up above is passive. Don't be confused--passive is something else. There might be a passive feel to text that is heavy on linking verbs, but these sentences are not written in what we call the passive voice.)
Give your verbs a job to do, not just to hold the grammatical structure together but to convey meaning, evoke images, depict action, and express feeling. If your verbs work hard to carry their weight in a sentence and don't just take up space, they will just naturally become more active, and your writing will improve.
Not all linking verbs can be replaced. Some things can't be said any other way.


The linking verb that causes stylistic problems is to be. The other so-called 'linking verbs' (sound, smell, stay, etc) are seldom a stylistic problem.
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