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He was broken.

He was broken by the news.

In the first example, is 'was' a linking verb or an auxiliary verb? The second example shows that adding a prepositional phrase ('by the news') evidences that 'the news' is performing an action against the subject, which shows that it is an auxiliary, but the first example could simply mean that he felt broken — there doesn't need to be a direct instigator.

I've been confused about this for a while, and searching online hasn't produced the answer I'm looking for. The problem was the absence of answers. Most resources address what linking verbs and auxiliary verbs are, but they don't highlight the overlap.

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    Preliminary point: the verb "be" is always an auxiliary, even when it's the only verb in the clause. The term 'linking verb' is traditionally used in basic grammar for complex intransitive constructions with "be" as predicator, where the predicate invariably consists of an adjective phrase or a noun phrase providing ascriptive or specifying information about the subject. In your first example, "broken" is best analysed as an adjective, so trad grammar would indeed call "be" a linking verb here. And as I said, it's also an auxiliary verb.
    – BillJ
    Nov 6 '21 at 18:48
  • Can you tell us what you've found online and why it hasn't been what you're looking for? That will help us avoid duplicating their work
    – gotube
    Nov 7 '21 at 19:08
  • @gotube The problem was the absence of answers. Most resources address what linking verbs and auxiliary verbs are, but they don't highlight the overlap.
    – MJ Ada
    Nov 8 '21 at 12:07
  • @MJAda Thanks! I've added your comment to your question.
    – gotube
    Nov 8 '21 at 16:18
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Answer provided by BillJ:

Preliminary point: the verb "be" is always an auxiliary, even when it's the only verb in the clause. The term 'linking verb' is traditionally used in basic grammar for complex intransitive constructions with "be" as predicator, where the predicate invariably consists of an adjective phrase or a noun phrase providing ascriptive or specifying information about the subject. In your first example, "broken" is best analysed as an adjective, so trad grammar would indeed call "be" a linking verb here. And as I said, it's also an auxiliary verb.

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