Stative verbs

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

Language level

Average: 4.3 (77 votes)

Submitted by muratt on Tue, 20/04/2021 - 21:10

In reply to by Jonathan R

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It makes more sense now. Thank you Jonathan.

Submitted by Rsb on Mon, 19/04/2021 - 11:35

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Sir, 'The woodcutter falls down the tree.' Fall is an ergative verb?
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Tue, 20/04/2021 - 03:56

In reply to by Rsb

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Hi Rsb,

Actually, fall (down) is an intransitive verb only, not transitive or ergative (see the Cambridge Dictionary page), so I'm afraid the sentence isn't correct.

But there is another transitive verb, fell, which fits in this sentence. It's transitive only.

  • The woodcutter fells the tree.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Tue, 20/04/2021 - 20:08

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Jonathan Sir what is the other form of fell? Present form- fell/fells Past form- Past participle form- Ving form-

Hi Rsb,

Fell is a regular verb, so the other forms are felled and felling.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Sat, 24/04/2021 - 17:05

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Thanks sir. Sir what is happening verb in English grammar

Hi Rsb,

To be honest, I'm not familiar with the term 'happening verb', but I guess it means a type of verb that shows an action without somebody doing the action, e.g. My watch stopped (in comparison with I stopped the watch, which doesn't have the 'happening' meaning because I did the action).

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Fri, 07/05/2021 - 08:00

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Hi Jonathan sir, U exactly understood my question what I want to ask from you. Sir I get confused with the happening verb and action verb? Like u said my watch stopped here there is something happening with my watch. I am getting angry/mad- there is also something happening but it's not an action ?

Hi Rsb,

I think I am getting angry would normally represent a happening. A happening is something that does not have any agent performing it. There may be circumstances that cause it, but it is not controlled or decided by anybody (i.e. it is independent of a person's volition).

If we understand I am getting angry as an action, that means I am choosing to react in that way. It is possible, but normally emotions arise spontaneously and outside a person's conscious control.

As I mentioned, I'm not very familiar with the term 'happening verb' and I don't know of any rules here, as it depends on the fundamental meaning(s) of each verb phrase. But this might be one useful way to differentiate them, especially for human actions - actions are often voluntarily done, while volition is not relevant to happenings.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Rsb,

I'm afraid I don't understand your question. 'happen' is a verb and 'happening' can be the present participle of the verb or a gerund of the verb.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team