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Practical English Usage, 3rd ed., by Michael Swann (Oxford University Press, 2005)


A verb that joins the subject of a sentence to a subject complement. Adjective: copular.

In English, the verb be is sometimes referred to as "the copula," but other verbs (identified in Observations, below) have a copular function as well.

See also:


From the Latin, "link"

Examples and Observations:

  • "These two very old people are the father and mother of Mr. Bucket. Their names are Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine."
    (Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 1964)

  • "We use a special kind of verb to join an adjective or noun complement to a subject. These verbs can be called 'copulas' or 'copular verbs.' Common copular verbs are: be, seem, appear, look, sound, smell, taste, feel, become, get.

    • The weather is horrible.
    • That car looks fast.
    • The stew smells good.
    • I do feel a fool.
    • She became a racehorse trainer.
    • It's getting late.
    "After copular verbs we use adjectives, not adverbs. Compare:

    • He spoke intelligently. (Intelligently is an adverb. It tells you about how the person spoke.)
    • He looks intelligent. (Intelligent is an adjective in a predicative position. It tells you about the person himself--rather like saying 'He is intelligent.' Look is a copular verb.)
    "Note that some of these verbs are also used with other meanings as ordinary non-copular verbs."
    (Michael Swan, Practical English Usage. Oxford Univ. Press, 1995)

  • "A copular (or linking) verb is complemented by a subject predicative in sentence or clause structure. The most common copular verb is be; others include become (my friend), feel (tired), get (ready), seem (happy). A copular prepositional verb is a prepositional verb (combination of verb plus preposition) that is complemented by a subject predicative: sound like (you), turn into (a monster), serve as (mitigating circumstances)."
    (Sidney Greenbaum, Oxford English Grammar. Oxford Univ. Press, 1996)

  • "A smile is a curve that sets everything straight."
    (attributed to Phyllis Diller)

  • "If it looks good, you'll see it. If it sounds good, you'll hear it. If it's marketed right, you'll buy it. But if it's real, you'll feel it."
    (Kid Rock)

  • "When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion."
    (attributed to Abraham Lincoln)

  • "Copular verbs fall into two broad groups:

    1. Describing some kind of state that the thing or person referred to by the subject is in; verbs of this sort include be, remain, seem and appear.
    2. Describing the result of some change affecting the thing or person referred to by the subject; verbs of this sort include become, turn, grow and get.
    Copular verbs can occur in both main and subordinate clauses."
    (James R. Hurford, Grammar: A Student's Guide. Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994)
Pronunciation: KOP-u-la
Also Known As: linking verb, copular verb
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