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 Lidia M on Mon, 16/05/2022 - 16:40

Permalink

Hi,
Could you please explain why 'be' is added to the 'senses and perceptions' category?

Hello Lidia M,

It's because 'be' can be used to express perceptions. If I see a man and a woman talking to each other, I might say 'He's nervous', but in fact maybe he's excited or angry.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi FershDuran,

"Stay" has several meanings, and I think they take the continuous form without a problem, so I would say it is dynamic.

  1. to remain in one place; to not leave (e.g. I'm staying at home until the storm passes.)
  2. to continue doing/being something (e.g. I feel stressed but I'm staying calm.) 
  3. to live somewhere temporarily (e.g. We're staying in a hotel for two nights.)

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lRaisa on Mon, 16/05/2022 - 13:17

Permalink

Hi,
Could you write some examples of dynamic verbs?
*Remember
*Doubt
*Hear
*Doubt

Hello IRaisa,

Most verbs are dynamic and express an action or process -- some common ones are 'eat', 'talk', 'run', 'go', 'study', 'read', 'write'.

Some verbs can be dynamic or stative depending on how they're used. For example, when 'have' expresses possession (e.g. 'I have two bicycles'), it's stative; but when 'have' is used to express an action (e.g. 'He can't speak to you because he's having a shower at the moment'), it's dynamic.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

My point is above "Grammar test 2" you wrote verbs like:
*Remember
*Doubt
*Hear
*Agree
All of them we can use as dynamic verbs and as stative verbs. My question is do we use them as an action when we want to write about continuous form or do they have different meanings?
- I am remembering about promises. ( an action? )
- He is doubting my plan. ( an action? )
- I am hearing it right now. ( an action? )
- He was agreeing with me. ( an action? )
A lot of people/websites/books say we shouldn't have used them as dynamic verbs consequently it is incorrect.

Hello IRaisa,

Thanks for explaining your question in more detail.

If you see a verb that is generally considered stative used in a continuous form, that's a good sign that it's being used dynamically. I'd say the verbs in the sentences you wrote are dynamic in those contexts. They don't have a different meaning. The idea is that stative verbs express states of being or unchanging situations, whereas dynamic verbs express an action that has a duration, i.e. that occurs and changes over the course of time. So if I say 'I think I will go', the idea is that in this moment I plan to go. But if I say 'I'm thinking I'll go', it suggests that I'm still actively considering whether I should go or not; I may have come to a decision (that I will probably go), but I might still change my mind.

Grammar is actually quite complex and so often explanations of different grammar points are partial explanations. In addition to the fact that a complete explanation is very difficult to write properly, a full explanation probably would confuse or overwhelm students. This is why teaching grammars, such as ours, don't explain everything and stick to what experience has shown us to be most important for most learners.

Hope this helps you make sense of it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team