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When I read the definition of the "verb" in Oxford dictionary, that's what I found:

Verb: a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence, and forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence, such as hear, become, happen.

The way that intuitively I would write the same thing was:

a word that is used to describe an action, state, or occurrence, and forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence, such as hear, become, happen.

Then my question is when and why we can or we should omit such copula (linking verb) from a sentence? (As a English learner who 'follows the book' and put always the linking verbs in such cases I don't have yet the privilege to economy verbs and say what necessary to say only without to be wordy, that's why I'm looking for a rule or something like that to make me closer to the native English speakers)

2 Answers 2

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Dictionary definitions, like headlines, captions, titles, and notices, often have a special grammar where short words, including the copula, are omitted.

You can read

Verb: a word ...

as shorthand for

A verb is a word ...

Used to is a different question: even if this were written as a full sentence, it could start

A verb is a word used to ...

The entire clause "used to describe an action, state, or occurrence, and forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence, such as hear, become, happen." is one kind of reduced relative clause. You're right that you could insert "that is", but you don't need to, even in literary prose, or in speech.

So the answer to your question:

  • you can very often omit the sequence that/which is/are/was/were if what follows is a present or past participle (and sometimes in other cases)
  • in headlines, titles, captions, lists, definitions, a copula that is the main verb of the sentence is often omitted.
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As a native English speaker, I would say "a word that is used to". "A word used to" is a bit formal. I believe that in "a word used to", "used" is also a linking verb and that is why the two sentences have equivalent meaning.

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