What is the State of Being Verbs?

State-of-being verbs are sometimes known as linking, relating, or popular. They function differently from other verbs. Instead of being action words, SOB verbs link the subject of a sentence with more information about it to add meaning. They tell us about the state of being of the subject.

So, how do they do this? Let’s take a look.

The verb ‘to be’

The verb ‘to be’ is the most common state of being a verb. It can be used in the present or past tense to link the subject of the sentence with a subject complement, such as a noun or adjective, to give us more information about the subject’s state of being.

Before we look at how it does this, let’s see how the verb ‘to be is conjugated in the present tense:

  • I am
  • You are
  • He/she/it is
  • We are
  • They are

From here, we can look at how the verb ‘to be’ is used in sentences to give us more information about the subject.

  • I am tired.
  • The dog is brown.
  • Maya and Oliver are the fastest runners in our class.

We can see from these examples how the verb ‘to be’ doesn’t describe any action – it simply tells us the state of being of the subject or subjects of the sentence.

This process works the same way in the past tense when the verb is conjugated like this:

  • I was
  • You were
  • He/she/it was
  • We were
  • They were

We can see how this verb tells us about states of being in the past if we look at a few sample sentences.

  • You were late today.
  • The teacher was helpful.

These sentences tell us about the subjects’ previous states of being that have already happened.

We can also use the present participle ‘being’ and the past participle ‘been’ to describe states of being. Unlike the simple present and past tense forms of the verb, these remain the same no matter which person we apply them to. Here’s how it works when we use the present participle:

  • We’re being positive about it.
  • He was being rude.

These examples show that when we use the present participle form, we also have to use the simple present or past tense of the verb ‘to be’ along with it, so it makes sense.

The past participle works slightly differently in that we use it with the simple present or past form of the verb ‘to have’

  • I have been to Spain.
  • She has been here for hours.

Talking about the verb ‘to have’ while discussing SOB verbs is essential. So let’s take a closer look at this verb to decide whether or not it is a state of being verb.

The verb ‘to have’

Is the verb ‘to have’ a state of being verb? It is something that people have differing opinions on. The verb ‘to have’ is usually classed as an auxiliary verb, also known as a helping verb, because it brings context to the main verb in a sentence – for example, ‘I have written a book.’

‘To have’ on its own can’t be classed as a state of being a verb, as it is used to bring context to the SOB verb ‘to be,’ as in the example, ‘I have been to Spain.’ So it can’t be used to desc

Action verbs used as SOB verbs

We usually think of several verbs as action verbs, but they can sometimes be used to describe a state of being. Some examples are:

  • To look (‘You look beautiful.’)
  • To taste (‘This apple tastes delicious.’)
  • To feel (‘I feel great.’)
  • To smell (‘The flowers smell lovely.’)

In these examples, the sentences’ subjects aren’t taking any action. The verbs here are simply describing the subjects’ states of being.

Other states of being verbs

As well as the verbs we have already looked at; several others can be classed as state-of-being verbs. These are:

  • To seem (‘Your friend seems nice.’)
  • To become (‘She became more confident.’)
  • To get (‘The work gets harder in Year 10.’)
  • To appear (‘He appears friendly.’)

In these sentences, all of these verbs describe states of being.

It’s pretty easy to use SOB verbs in question form. Here are some examples so you can see how the process works.

Questions using the verb ‘to be

  • ‘How are you?’
  • ‘Have you been busy?’
  • ‘Is that your dog?’
  • ‘Isn’t he clever?’

Questions using action verbs as state-of-being verbs

  • ‘Does that milk smell OK?’
  • ‘How do I look?’
  • ‘Are you feeling better?’

Questions using other state-of-being verbs

  • ‘Does your new boss seem nice?’
  • ‘Will Ellie become a doctor after she graduates?’
  • ‘Are you getting better at playing the piano?’
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