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Stative verbs

Do you know how to use stative verbs like think, love, smell and have?

Look at these examples to see how stative verbs are used.

I think that's a good idea.
I love this song!
That coffee smells good.
Do you have a pen?

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Stative verbs: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

Stative verbs describe a state rather than an action. They aren't usually used in the present continuous form.

I don't know the answer. I'm not knowing the answer.
She really likes you. She's really liking you.
He seems happy at the moment. He's seeming happy at the moment.

Stative verbs often relate to:

  • thoughts and opinions: agree, believe, doubt, guess, imagine, know, mean, recognise, remember, suspect, think, understand
  • feelings and emotions: dislike, hate, like, love, prefer, want, wish
  • senses and perceptions: appear, be, feel, hear, look, see, seem, smell, taste
  • possession and measurement: belong, have, measure, own, possess, weigh.

Verbs that are sometimes stative

A number of verbs can refer to states or actions, depending on the context.

I think it's a good idea.
Wait a moment! I'm thinking.

The first sentence expresses an opinion. It is a mental state, so we use present simple. In the second example the speaker is actively processing thoughts about something. It is an action in progress, so we use present continuous.

Some other examples are:

have

I have an old car. (state – possession)
I'm having a quick break. (action – having a break is an activity)

see

Do you see any problems with that? (state – opinion)
We're seeing Tadanari tomorrow afternoon. (action – we're meeting him)

be

He's so interesting! (state – his permanent quality)
He's being very unhelpful. (action – he is temporarily behaving this way)

taste

This coffee tastes delicious. (state – our perception of the coffee)
Look! The chef is tasting the soup. (action – tasting the soup is an activity)

Other verbs like this include: agree, appear, doubt, feel, guess, hear, imagine, look, measure, remember, smell, weigh, wish.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Stative verbs: Grammar test 2

Language level

Intermediate: B1

Comments

Sir ,
Likewise 'Separate' is an ergative verb.

Is it possible 'Separate' can either be state or action verb? Can it either be state verb in one sentence or action verb in another sentence For example,

1. The couple separated after 25years of successful marriage.(stative verb)

2. The couple separated from the railway track.(action verb)

Hello Rsb,

You are confusing transitive/intransitive, which refers to whether or not a verb has an object, with dynamic/stative, which deals with whether a verb describes an action or a state.

Ergative (or labile) verbs can be transitive or intransitive. Separate is an ergative verb.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir,

It's dominating on me.
Can't understand when verb will be said an action or state verb?

Hello again Rsb,

A stative verb describes a state of being which is constant and does not change through its duration.

An action or dynamic verb describes an action or a process which changes over time.

These definitions are related to meaning but are useful because they have grammatical implications, such as state verbs not being used with continuous aspect.

 

This is not the same as transitive (has an object) and intranstive (no object). Both stative and dynamic verbs can be transitive or intransitive.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hey there
The package came packaged up nicely and secure.
Is the the verb "came" in this case or stative verb?? since it's followed by an adjective packaged and noun secure as it seems to me.. Thank you

Hi Hayder991,

The verb came here is a dynamic verb. It has a similar meaning to 'arrived'.

The adjective packaged modifies the noun package.

This structure is quite common, especially after verbs such as arrive, come, go, leave etc:

I came home tired and hot after my long journey.

The package arrived as beautiful as I had imagined.

I went to the meeting angry and upset with her.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter, but I've always learned that the linking verb such as verb to "be", seem ,look,etc always works like an equal sign in math and are always followed by an adjectives or nouns modifying the subject ,which comes first , or renaming it, and the action verbs usually take objects, which are basically nouns, so your explanation seemed sort of ambiguous to me .. could an action verb work like linking verb?

Hello again Hayder991,

Yes, certain dynamic verbs can work in this way - I listed the most common ones. The adjectival phrase describes the subject, but the verb still has its normal meaning (arrive, come etc).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Stative verb is easy to understand or
Use it easily to every time.

Hi,

I understand "need" to be a stative verb. With "need" or any other stative verb for that matter, do we ever use such stative verbs in the present continuous tense when we mean to say that the action or state expressed by the verb is happening right now at this very moment (for instance, as we speak)? So for instance, do you say "I need help" (simple present tense) or "I am needing help" (present continuous tense) to describe a situation happening now?

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