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)

Hello again syediffat,

I wouldn't say they are all 'action verbs' (which isn't really a grammatical category), but all of them except 'love' and 'respect' are not stative verbs.

Stative verbs typically don't imply physical movement, but rather more interior or mental processes. Although 'live' and 'open' and 'teach' don't focus much on physical movement, there are physical actions involved.

Does that help make sense of it?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Agatasja on Thu, 10/11/2022 - 20:51

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Is it correct to say `I have been having some problems recently?

Hi Agatasja,

Yes, it is correct. In this phrase, the meaning of "have" is something like "experience", and it can be used in continuous verb forms. It's not the "possession" meaning of "have", which tends not to be used in continuous verb forms.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ruslana_Talko on Thu, 15/09/2022 - 17:31

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Good evening. Could you please explain if stative verbs can be used in this case?
Can we use stative verbs when talking about irritating habits with the help of Present and Past Continuous tenses and always/constantly?
For example, would it be correct to say (I made up these examples):
1) She is always understanding me wrong.
2) They are always doubting my skills.
3) He is always knowing the answers to the tests.
Thank you in advance!

Hi Ruslana_Talko,

Yes, we can do that to express irritation. Your sentences 1 and 2 sound perfectly natural to me. However, I don't remember hearing the verb "know" in continuous structures as in sentence 3, and I didn't find any examples of it when I did a quick search. 

I hope that helps!

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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