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I’m wondering how I can structurally determine when a verb is being used as a copula and when it is not. Specifically, is the verb “appear” followed by a verb NECESSARILY a copula (i.e., linking verb)?

One of my references (“An A-Z of English Grammar & Usage”, Longman, p.271), describes the following pattern for linking verbs:

Other patterns typical of linking verbs

(D) SUBJECT + VERB + TO BE + COMPLEMENT

However, I cannot find a source that says that “appear” followed by any verb (such as in the following example) is always a linking verb:

Sarah appeared to have won.

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On the previous page, your reference says that appear is a linking verb when the sentence in which it occurs is on either pattern (A) or pattern (B) as shown on page 270, and gives the examples The children appear happy enough and This appeared the only solution. A footnote points out that the second of those is very rare in American English, where patterns (D) or (E) can be used instead.

I haven’t tested this proposition, but my intuition is that appear is a linking verb when it can be replaced by seem. It is clearly not a linking verb when used intransitively with the meaning ‘come into view’.

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