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

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Submitted by Rsb on Fri, 12/02/2021 - 03:40

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Sir, 'he died from the cholera' Died is an intransitive and stative verb here? 'I love you' here 'love' is transitive and state verb in this sentence right Could you pls tell me the example in which verb is ergative and stative both in the sentence?

Hello Rsb,

Die is not a stative verb, but it is intransitive. Any good dictionary entry should indicate if a verb is transitive or intransitive.

Love is transitive and stative in your example.

 

I don't know if there is an ergative stative verb. We're happy to provide help with explanations but I don't have a list of all ergative verbs to cross-check against stative verbs.

You can find some more information on ergative verbs here:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/ergative-verbs

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, If die is not a stative verb, is it an action verb? If it is then how?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 16/02/2021 - 08:02

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello again Rsb,

Die is not a stative verb as it can be used with continuous aspect: He's dying, so you should speak to him soon.

 

Conceptually, dying can be a process rather than a single momentary event.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Ok. Sir what is 'look' in this context? You look good- (state) You look at me -(action) I read somewhere some verbs can be both state and action verb
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Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 17/02/2021 - 07:18

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

Look has more than one meaning. When it is used to describe a person's physical appearance it is a stative verb, as your example shows. When it is used to mean something you do with your eyes it is a dynamic verb.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks sir. Sir, You are looking good. Is it correct to say?? Can we use state verb in continuous form??

Hello Rsb,

Yes, that is possible. We can use the continuous form here to show that something is temporary rather than generally true. For example, you might say this if a person has dressed in a particular way for a special occasion. You would not use it for a general description of how someone normally looks.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

So sir it still shows a state verb if we say 'you are looking good'???

Hello again Rsb,

When a state can be perceived as having continuity and progress over time then the progressive form is possible. There are quite a few examples of this:

I've been wanting to talk to you for a while.

She was intending to tell you, I'm sure.

I'm loving this!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Ok. Sir Like u said "look" has more than one meaning, get has also more than one meaning for example, I got angry- linking verb change in state I get you a drink - action verb

Submitted by Rsb on Thu, 11/02/2021 - 18:46

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Sir, Suppose 'Battery will reach warehouse by 20th feb' I can't familiar with the action verb when subject is non living . Could u share me the page of it? And explain me
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Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 12/02/2021 - 10:27

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

Action verbs can have subjects that are inanimate. I'm afraid I don't know of any explanation of this anywhere, but it's quite straightforward -- there is no such limitation.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Fri, 01/01/2021 - 05:54

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Sir, Wishing every day of the year to be filled with success , happiness and prosperity for you. Happy new year 2021 Sir, this quote is in passive form? And why don't we add is/are before the word 'to be filled' n the sentence? Wishing every day of the year are to be filled with success happiness and prosperity for you. Is that incorrect?? Another example, 1. 'People to be informed about the road' Is that incorrect 'people are to be informed about the road' 'This room to be cleaned by me' Is that wrong to say 'this room is to be cleaned by me'
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Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 01/01/2021 - 10:32

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

Holiday wishes are not usually complete sentences. Typically, they are reduced forms from which different words have been omitted.

I'd understand 'wishing' in the first one as a reduction of 'I wish' or 'With this card, I wish'. You could say 'will be' instead of 'to be'.

Your other example sounds like the title of an article. If it were a complete sentence, it would need 'are' (as you suggest). The same is true of the last sentence -- the word 'is' is missing (if it's supposed to be a complete sentence).

Please remember that we're happy to help with isolated examples from other texts if they're directly related to the grammar or content of a page, but we don't have the resources to explain every example that you may find.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, Complete sentence in what sense? Is that not complete sentences People are to be informed about the road. This room is to be cleaned by me'.
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Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 04/02/2021 - 08:53

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

These sentences are indeed complete sentences. They are not holiday wishes -- I was speaking about phrases such as 'Happy New Year' (a holiday wish).

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Kirk sir. Sir could u let me know also that: Is that word playing adjective role here in this sentence "She wears pressed uniform" Pressed is an adjective as it is describing the uniform? Ironed uniform and ironized uniform play the same role ? Are they adjective? "She wear ironed/ironized uniform?

Hello Rsb,

Yes, 'pressed' and 'ironed' are adjectives in the sentences you mention. I'm not familiar with 'ironized'.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank u Kirk sir. You teachers are so kind and helpful.

Submitted by Rsb on Thu, 31/12/2020 - 04:35

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My prayer got answered immediately. What is "answered" here ?

Hello Rsb,

I'd say that's the past participle in a passive construction. You could also say 'was answered', which means the same thing.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, as far as I read about passive voice "was answered" is a passive form as 'was' an helping verb and 'answer' is a main verb in this context. But I really didn't read anywhere that got + verb 3rd form also an passive form ? If it is passive what will be the active voice of it?

Hello Rsb,

In an informal style, 'get' is sometimes used in the place of 'be' in passive forms (see the Intermediate level on the page linked to).

If, for example, the original sentence were 'The call was answered immediately', one possible active voice version of it would be 'He answered the call immediately' (I don't know who actually answered the call, so 'he' could change to another person).

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Kirk sir! Sir what 'could' shows here in ur explanation ('he' could change to another person) ? It shows a possibility or suggestion?

Hello Rsb,

It shows possibility.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, One more doubt, "I got hurt" here 'hurt' acts as an adjective past participle form? Or is it passive construction with the same meaning "I was hurt"?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 24/01/2021 - 09:25

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

It could be either. The sentence is inherently ambiguous and both descriptions fit it perfectly well.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Sun, 27/12/2020 - 16:37

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Sir, " he is wearing a white shirt" Here 'wearing' act as an adjective. My question is - can't we say same sentence like that "He is worn a white shirt" Worn can't be used as an adjective here?

Hi Rsb,

No, that's not quite right. Wearing is not acting as an adjective. It's a verb here.

It's true that the auxiliary verb is (and other forms of be) can introduce an adjective (e.g. He is happy). But that's not its only meaning and function. It also forms part of continuous verb forms. Here, it's part of the present continuous (He is wearing).

Yes, worn can function as an adjective (because it's the past participle form). But, is worn is a passive structure (be + past participle), so the subject needs to be the thing that is worn, not the person who wears it.

  • A white shirt is worn.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Mon, 28/12/2020 - 07:08

In reply to by Jonathan R

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No sir if I m saying "you are in white shirt" it means you are wearing a white shirt. It behaves as an adjective what I think.

Hi Rsb,

OK, I can see what you mean! But, I still recommend interpreting wearing as a verb, not an adjective. That's because it doesn't fully behave as an adjective, from a structural point of view.

 

Some -ing verbs do behave fully as adjectives. For example:

  • He is caring.
  • He's a caring man.
  • His caring face made me feel safe.
  • He seems caring.

Caring is an adjective in these examples because it can be put before the noun it describes (e.g. a caring man), and it can be used with other copular verbs instead of be (e.g. 'seems' in He seems caring). Wearing can't be used in these two ways.

 

Another reason is that only a verb (not an adjective) can link to an object.

  • He is caring. (caring = adjective; no object)
  • He is caring for his mother. (caring = verb; his mother = object)

As wearing has an object here (a white shirt), I recommend interpreting it as a verb.

 

Sorry for the rather dry and technical explanation – but I hope it helps :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Tue, 29/12/2020 - 06:23

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Yes sir, some verbs in past participle form and present participle form(ing form) behaves as an adjective. They don't function as verb in the sentence. For example, The chair is broken.(adjective broken V3rd form) I like dancing doll.(adjective dancing ing form) I understood it Jonathan sir. Thanks

Submitted by Risa warysha on Sat, 21/11/2020 - 06:42

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Hi,Sir Are those the only stative verbs? And in my following sentence 'I started looking for a new apartment last week. And I still don't find one.' Is the sentence 'I still dont find one' appropriate in the sentence? Or should it become 'I still haven't found one.' Is 'find' one of stative verb? Thank you,Sir
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Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 21/11/2020 - 09:19

In reply to by Risa warysha

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Hello Risa warysha,

'I still don't find one' is not correct in that situation -- as you suggest, you should say 'I still haven't found one' instead.

I expect there are other stative verbs. I'm afraid I don't know of an exhaustive list anywhere that I could refer you to.

I wouldn't say that 'find' is a stative verb. I'm not sure if it will help you, but you might be interested in reading about Dowty's analysis, which 'find' fails.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! I think that 'find' is a stative verb. Firstly, it cannot appear in pseudo-cleft constructions -*What I did was find-. Secondly, even though it can occur in the progressive (since you can say something like ''I finding more and more reasons to leave you''), the act of finding happens without even realising of it, it is not something that requires a process or that involves a beginning or an end. Lastly, it cannot occur as imperative, ''*Find the money you lost last week! So, in the end, I do think that ''find'' is a stative verb. It is worth mentioning that most verbs have several meanings/interpretations, and some of them seem to be more static than others, but I really can't come up with a non-static meaning of ''find''. Hope you can give me your opinion :) cheers!
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Submitted by Westnur on Thu, 08/10/2020 - 14:56

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Thanks for the response!!!

Submitted by Rsb on Mon, 05/10/2020 - 19:09

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Sir, Is it correct sentence- "he is a stammered boy" Here Stammered act as an adjective past participle form?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 06/10/2020 - 07:49

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

No, that's not correct. We would say 'He has a stammer'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Westnur on Fri, 02/10/2020 - 19:29

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Good day team! I have a question. Sometimes, I hear people say "you stupid" without a linking/intensive verb e.g "are". Why?

Hi Westnur,

Yes! This is a type of vocative phrase (a phrase that addresses the reader/listener directly). The structure you pointed out is very common for this usage. Other examples include you liar, you fool or you star. As you can see, this structure is often used with negative descriptions.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by emmanuelniyomugabo12 on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 18:25

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Thanks!!!!

Submitted by Rsb on Thu, 10/09/2020 - 05:44

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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)
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Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 10/09/2020 - 07:14

In reply to by Rsb

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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?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 11/09/2020 - 07:54

In reply to by Rsb

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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

Sir, The couple separated after 25 years of marriage. ( It's an intransitive verb and state verb here)??
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 15/09/2020 - 08:47

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

In this context separate is intransitive but dynamic. You could use a continuous form, for example, which would not be possible with a stative verb:

They are separating after 25 years of marriage.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team