Stative verbs

Do you know how to use stative verbs like think, love, smell and have? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

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

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Hi Tim,

A stative verb is one which requires one or more objects. There is no requirement for the verb to have a physical action.

The Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics 6th edition (Crystal, 2008) gives the following definition of transitivity:

transitivity (n.)

A category used in the grammatical analysis of clause/ sentence constructions, with particular reference to the verb’s relationship to dependent elements of structure. The main members of this category are transitive (tr, trans), referring to a verb which can take a direct object (as in he saw the dog), and intransitive (intr, intrans), where it cannot (as in *he arrived a ball).

Many verbs can have both a transitive and an intransitive use (cf. we went a mile v. we went), and in some languages this distinction is marked morphologically.

More complex relationships between a verb and the elements dependent upon it are usually classified separately. For example, verbs which take two objects are sometimes called ditransitive (as opposed to monotransitive), as in she gave me a pencil. There are also several uses of verbs which are marginal to one or other of these categories, as in pseudo-intransitive constructions (e.g. the eggs are selling well, where an agent is assumed – ‘someone is selling the eggs’ – unlike normal intransitive constructions, which do not have an agent transform: we went, but not *someone went us). Some grammarians also talk about (in)transitive prepositions. For example, with is a transitive preposition, as it must always be accompanied by a noun phrase complement (object), and along can be transitive or intransitive: cf. She arrived with a dog v. *She arrived with and She was walking along the river v. She was walking along.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Timothy555 on Sat, 11/07/2020 - 14:16

In reply to by Peter M.

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Hi Tim, thanks! Appreciate if you could kindly confirm whether the following three points which I've concluded are correct: Firstly: In other words, in order for a verb to be considered as transitive, it simply requires the verb to be able to take on a direct object, and that it doesn't matter whether the verb expresses a physical action (such as the verb "throw" in "throw a ball", where ball is the direct object since it receives the action of throwing) or a state (such as "love" as in "I love her"), correct? Secondly: Am i right to say that stative or stative verbs such as love and like are also known as mental action verbs? Thirdly: Based on what I've understood so far, am I right to say that a transitive verb is a verb that is used with an object (e.g. a noun, phrase, or pronoun) that refers to the person/thing that is affected by the action (whether physical actions such as throw or mental actions such as love or live) of the verb? Regards, Tim

Submitted by Alex1990 on Sun, 29/03/2020 - 03:29

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Hello, good morning! Why I can't say: They (are being) very happy. They've just got married. Instead of they are very happy?

Hello Alex1990,

The verb be is very rarely used in the continuous when it is a main verb in English. Thus we say

They're very happy not They're being very happy

and

I'm a teacher not I'm being a teacher.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team