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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Average: 5 (1 vote)

Submitted by Ulk on Fri, 29/04/2022 - 23:06

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Hello. Which one is correct:
- I have a headache now or
-i"m having a headache now ?
Thank you

Hello Ulk,

The correct form is 'have'.

We treat a headache as a state rather than an action, so the simple is used.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you
Could I ask about the verb Feel? I know it can be active when expresses a change or a process as in -How are you feeling? I'm feeling well ( phisical state) What about emotional state, can i say I'm feeling happy?
and when it means perception ,can we say for ex. I'm feeling his hand on my shoulder?
Thank you

Hello Ulk,

As you say, 'feel' is sometimes used with continuous aspect. Changes and temporary states are common examples.

Perception is a little more complex. We can use continuous aspect when we are describing a conscious activity (something we do) rather than a passive experience (something that happens to us). Thus 'I'm feeling his hand' would suggest that we are using our hand to explore his hand, like a physiotherapist doing a physical examination. If someone touches us then 'I feel his hand' or (most likely) 'I can feel his hand' would be used.

For some verbs of perception we have different verbs for active performance and passive experience (watch-see, listen-hear) but for other senses the distinction is expressed in a similar way to 'feel' (smell, taste).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, Peter, it's clear about perceptions now. And just to be totally sure about states): is I'm FEELING happy correct?

Hello again Ulk,

Yes, you can say I'm feeling happy when you are talking about your mood, which can change from one moment to the next.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by dostyamiine on Sat, 09/04/2022 - 07:08

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Hello sir, please i need your help.
I've read that stative verbs are not used with present perfect simple. However, they can be used with present perfect when they are used with time expressions.
●I have liked you ( incorrect)
●I have liked you all my life. (Correct)
●I have known him. ( incorrect)
●I have known him for ten years. (Correct)
My question is: is this information i've read right or wrong??????????????

Hello dostyamiine,

No, I wouldn't say that is always correct, though it is very often true.

Instead, I might say they are not normally used with the present perfect simple without a time expression. If they are, it's normally in context or for a very specific purpose. You could say, for example, 'I've thought about this a lot', which in a specific context probably implies 'recently' or 'in my life' or some other time period.

Another example: imagine I'm visiting the town I grew up in and staying at my parents' house. In the evening, after I've come home, I might tell my parents about my day and say things like 'I've seen lots of friends' or 'I've been all over the city'. These sentences don't contain time expressions, but the context makes it clear that they are about today.

Hope that helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Darko on Thu, 03/03/2022 - 09:07

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Hi! Simple question but I'm a little bit confused is "Be Happy" considered a stative verb?

Hello Darko,

The verb here is 'be'; ' happy ' is an adjective.

'Be' is a tricky verb. In some contexts it acts as a stative verb and in others as a dynamic verb. In your example it does have some aspects of stative verbs: it describes a state which does not change over time and cannot be used in the continuous aspect here. I think you can argue that it is a stative verb in this context.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team