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

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

Submitted by Sally_Garrett on Mon, 07/02/2022 - 19:28

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Greetings!

Can I use "would" with a stative verb if I'm using an adverb that changes 'permanent state' and makes it temporary/not permanent?

E.g:
I would sometimes feel lonely.
I would often see her near my house. etc...

I saw these examples in one tutorial and want to hear a clear definition of this matter. Thanks!

Hello Sally,

All of the grammar references I checked indicated that we use 'used to' (and not 'would') to speak about past states and/or regular habitual behaviour. As far as I can tell, this means these sentences are non-standard.

That said, although your sentences sound a little unusual, they don't sound completely incorrect to me. But I'm afraid I can't find any reference material that would support this, so, depending on where you want to use these sentences, it might be best to rephrase them.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by CJ21 on Wed, 13/10/2021 - 07:34

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Have a bath , have fun, have a good time, have a drink are all activities that can be used in the continuous form. State verb have: have a car, have blue eyes, have a job, Cannot be used in the continuous form. So why can’t ‘have an exam’ be used in the continuous form? It’s an activity….Please can you explain?

Hello CJ21,

We use 'take an exam' to talk about the activity (e.g. 'Tomorrow I can't meet with you because I'll be taking an exam' or 'No, I'm afraid Sue can't speak with you now because she's taking an exam').

We say 'have an exam' to talk about the exam as an obligation or something in our schedule (e.g. 'Tomorrow morning we have the maths exam' or 'Medical students have a lot of exams').

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Amit01 on Fri, 27/08/2021 - 10:00

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"The lecturer is thinking to go to the conference on history in Bangladesh every year" - is the use of "thinking" here correct ? or grammatically it’s wrong ?

Hi Amit01,

It's a good question. People do sometimes say or write thinking to ... with the meaning of 'considering doing something'. Here are some examples I found:

  • I am thinking to get a gift for our friend.
  • There were some reports previously that Apple was thinking to make an iCar.

However, it seems less commonly used than thinking of, and most dictionaries don't include it (yet). So, I would say that it's fine to use in informal situations, but probably not in formal situations, where standard or 'correct' language forms are preferred (such as in an exam, or a presentation). 

I hope that helps!

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Wed, 09/06/2021 - 10:49

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Could please explain the difference between 1.we have a great day 2.we are having a great day.

Hello Mussorie,

The second sentence describes a day which is in progress - in other words, today.

The first sentence could be a more general statement, but it requires some kind of comment as to which days are generallt great. For example:

We have a great day every time we go to the zoo.

We have a great day whenever you visit.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Sat, 24/04/2021 - 14:42

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Sir, You confuse me = You make me confused. Both the sentences have same meaning . The difference is only that confused is an adjective in that (you make me confused)???