I read a line in a grammar book "at least the play reads well" in this sentence, the verb "reads" is a linking verb, so shouldn't the right word to use be "good" instead of "well"? According to a few websites, well can be usedas an adjective in case of talking about health.

  • Her latest novel reads well (= is written in an attractive way). Well is an adverb.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 21:17
  • @Lambie Shouldn't it be good instead of well? Here, reads is a linking verb and as per rules, if I put well after it, it will modify the action (reads) making it an action verb. However, I intent to modify the noun "play" so I should use an adjective i.e. "good". Is my understanding wrong? Kindly provide a full answer to this.
    – Akshit Raj
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 23:51
  • Here, the "well" is not about health, so don't worry. It modifies the verb reads. Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 0:53
  • @AkshitRaj Why do you think "reads" is a linking verb in that context? (I'm not saying you're wrong here, I just want to know why you believe that)
    – gotube
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 6:26
  • "Read" does not take a predicative complement. The adverb "well" modifies "reads", and is fine.
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 9:20

3 Answers 3


Read is normally a transitive verb but there are intransitive meanings. Merriam-Webster has various definitions for the intransitive verb including "2a : to yield a particular meaning or impression when read". Intransitive verbs do not take an object, but can be modified with an adverb. In this case, the adverb is "well". The meaning is that it gives a pleasing impression when read.

As other answers have said, the concept of "linking verb" is a bit fuzzy (at best), but here "read" does not function like a linking verb, it functions like a normal intransitive verb.


After linking verbs, we can use adjectives but not adverbs.

  • "read" in "at least the play reads well" is indeed a linking verb. It means to be interpreted in a particular way.
  • "good" is obviously an adjective but informally it can also be an adverb. I guess that it might be considered incorrect.
  • "well" is obviously an adverb but it can also be an adjective (meaning: in good health).

Leaving aside abstract interpretations of "at least the play reads well," this phrase is indeed wrong.

  • You wrote: > After linking verbs, we can use adverbs but not adjectives. From Wikipedia: > a linking verb is a verb that describes the subject by connecting it to a predicate adjective or predicate noun
    – jrpear
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 23:19
  • Linking verbs are definitely used with adjectives. Did you mean to say that the other way around?
    – gotube
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 6:34
  • Of course, I meant the other way around
    – Kyamond
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 6:58

Read is not a linking verb. The right word is well.

But I see your confusion.

Linking verbs are characteristically like copulae. And This reads like a dictionary means something very similar to This is like a dictionary.

Despite that, reads is not a linking verb.

IMO, the class "linking verb" is not useful. So-called "linking verbs" don't even take every complement which the copula can take. E.g. he is in the house versus *he became in the house.

The grammar favored by linguists today, The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language by Huddleston and Pullum, does not even mention "linking verbs". It classifies read as a "middle intrasitive" (page 307).

The best way to resolve your confusion about this may be to just forget about "linking verbs".

  • I@jrpear I read this line in Wren and Martin which I have been using to strengthen my English grammar. An English teacher told me that linking verbs can be replaced with IS, AM, ARE without changing much meaning of a sentence, ex - This mango tastes good can be rewritten as this mango is good ( with IS the meaning is almost the same). However, the same is not fitting in the first line. If "At lease the play reads well" is rewritten as "the play is well" it does not sound correct to me, instead, it should be "the play is good".
    – Akshit Raj
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 23:47
  • 1
    What author are you referring to? There is no indication the author of the sentence quoted by the OP is referring to "reads" as a linking verb. It also seems to me you're not answering the question: saying others use a reference to address the matter seems useless if you're not telling us how that reference addresses it (especially if they don't mention the term to begin with).
    – Joachim
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 5:58
  • 1
    Authors do not define what a linking verb is. What do you really mean? Do you think "good" or "well" is correct there? You also can't tell an English learner that they "don't need to resolve this confusion" when they've identified a conflict between what they've learned and what they've found.
    – gotube
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 6:28
  • 1
    @jrpear. I agree. The term 'linking verb' is simply nonsense.
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 9:24
  • I don't think "linking verb" is a relevant term here, but I forget what term we do use when we ride roughshod over the conventional roles of subject / object "agent" / "patient" with certain verbs and "objects". Compare This wine is drinking well (never good). Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 12:33

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