What is a Copular Verb? Definition, Examples of Copular Verbs

Copular verb definition: A copular verb is an English verb that connects a subject to its subject complement.

What is a Copular Verb?

A copular verb is a type of English verb that connects a subject to its complement (Copular verb is another term for linking verb).

Copular verbs are not action verbs. Rather, they are verbs that express a state of being and link a subject to its subject complement. Below are a few examples of common copular verbs.

Copular Verb List:

  • to be
  • to seem
  • to look
  • to sound
  • to appear

Example in Sentence:

  • Jane is tired.

Copular Verbs Connect Subject to Complement

As we mentioned above, copular verbs connect subjects to their subject complements.

Copular verbs also function with predicate adjectives and predicate nominatives and they do not take objects.

These concepts are further explained with examples below.

Copular Verbs, Subject Complements with Predicate Adjectives

copulative verb definition A predicate adjective is an adjective that follows a copular verb to describe the subject.

Examples:

  • Pat is happy.
    • This example uses the “to be” copular verb to connect the subject to the predicate adjective (subject complement).
  • You seem upset.
    • This example uses the “to seem” copular verb to connect the subject to the predicate adjective (subject complement).

Copular Verbs, Subject Complements with Predicate Nominatives

define copulative verb A predicate nominative is a noun that follows a copular verb to re-identify the subject.

Examples:

  • Jerry is a teacher.
    • This example uses the “to be” copular verb to connect the subject to the predicate nominative (subject complement).
  • We are students.
    • This example uses the “to be” copular verb to connect the subject to the predicate nominative (subject complement).

Copular Verbs Do Not Take Objects

examples of a linking verb Copular verbs do not take objects. Rather, they serve to either describe (using a predicate adjective) or re-identify (using a predicate nominative) the subject.

If you think of a copular verb as a state of being verb (which they oftentimes are), it makes it easier to understand why they do not take objects.

State of being verbs just are. They don’t need objects to be completed like an action verb does.

If you say, “I am.” that is a description of your existence, and an object is not required. More on this in the next section.

Copular Verb vs. Action Verb

what is copula Copular verbs, as we learned above, do not, which is why copular verbs are not action verbs. Action verbs, on the other hand, do take direct objects.

A direct object follows an action verb. A subject does something to something else to make a direct object (the direct object is the something else).

  • The father ordered dinner.

In this sentence, ordered is an action verb. The father is doing the action verb to the dinner, the direct object.

Copular verbs do not take objects because they do not express action. Rather, they express states of being.

Some copular verbs can function as both action and copular verbs.

Example of verb acting as copular and action verb:

  • Example verb: to taste
    • The food tasted delicious.
    • He tasted the dessert.

In the first sentence, the verb acts as a copular verb. The predicate adjective, “delicious,” is a subject complement to the food.

In the second sentence, the verb acts as an action verb. The subject is completing the action. The thing that is acted upon is the direct object, “dessert.”

Although a predicate nominative follows a verb just like a direct object follows a verb, it is not a direct object. This is because in a sentence with a linking verb, the subject is not doing anything to anything else. Rather, the subject is being something.

  • Jacobsen is a doctor.

In this sentence, “is” is a linking verb. Mrs. Jacobsen is not “doing” a doctor; she is being a doctor.

Copular Verbs in Passive Voice/Progressive Tense

sentences with linking verbs Copular verbs function to express the passive voice and progressive tense.

Passive Voice

Passive voice occurs when the action is done by what seems like it should be the object.

Passive voice sentences with copular verbs:

  • The house was built by him.
  • The book appeared to be written by Emerson.

Progressive Tense

The progressive tense requires copular verbs. The progressive tense occurs by placing a conjugation of “to be” with the present participle of a verb.

Progressive tense sentences with copular verbs:

  • The plane is landing in an hour.
  • He was jumping on the bed.
  • We will be driving to New Mexico.

Summary

Define copular verb: the definition of copular verb is a verb that connects a subject to the complement.

To sum up, a copular verb:

  • expresses a state of being
  • is not an action word
  • links a subject to its subject complement
  • is used to express passive voice and progressive tense