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 (82 votes)

Hello Denys,

I would say they are more commonly used in the present simple than in the present continuous. Similar to my second sentence, for example, I could say 'It's so frustrating! The computer's not allowing me to log in.' That is a perfectly normal sentence in the appropriate context.

By the way, this also applies to 'let', which we often use in informal situations to talk about permission ('The computer's not letting me log in').

I like to look up words in an online dictionary that has lots of example sentences to see how they are most commonly used. If you have a look at these entries (all linked) -- 'permit', 'allow', 'let' -- you'll see a lot of use of non-continuous tenses, as you suspected. Be sure to scroll well down the page, as there are lots of useful examples.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Hello Kirk,

Thank you very much for your explanations.

I often use both Oxford Learner's and Collins English online dictionaries. As I didn't find any examples with the mentioned verbs there, I googled. I forgot about the Longman. Thanks a lot for sharing the link.

Actually, I would love to talk to you and your collegues about English stative verbs. I can remind 90 verbs maximum, every of which has an exception. These are the verbs I would like to talk to you and your colleagues about with pleasure. Being a non-native English speaker (and the English language is constantly... erm... improving), it is a little difficult to understand / find the "line" between the meanings of many English stative verbs and their exceptions when the same verbs are used in Progressive forms.

Thanks a lot for your help once again.

With kind regards,
Denys

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Tue, 22/08/2023 - 08:42

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Hello. Could you please help me? In a discussion with some teachers of English about the use of "would" to talk about the past, some said that would in the following sentence is wrong. However the verb "play" is not a stative one. What is correct? Why?
- Maradona would play for Napoli.
Thank you.

Hi Ahmed Imam,

One of the meanings of "would" is a past action that was repeated, e.g. Every year when I was young, I would have a party for my birthday. It's fine to use active verbs such as "play" with this meaning, but stative verbs aren't used with it. 

So, the sentence is grammatically OK. However, I do think it's somewhat unusual, because it would be more common to say something like Maradona used to play for Napoli or even Maradona played for Napoli. Using "would" may have a connotation of willingness or volition, which is relevant to my birthday party example above but less apparently relevant to the Maradona example (assuming that the main point of this sentence is simply to identity which team was his former team).

For more examples, you may be interested in this page: Past habits: 'used to', 'would' and the past simple (linked). I hope it helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by howtosay_ on Tue, 06/06/2023 - 21:05

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Hello!

Could you please help me with the following:

Is "to decide" used in the Present Continuous? Is each option possible? (if I hasn't take a decision yet, but I am still thinking"):

1. I decide what I'll do next.

2. I am deciding what I'll do next.

3. I still decide what I'll do next

4. I am still decide what I'll do next

Thank you so much for your huge help and I'm very very grateful for the answer to this post beforehand!

Hi howtosay_,

Yes, "decide" can be used with the present continuous to show that you are still in the process of deciding something (sentence 2). It's also common to say "I'm still deciding ..." or "I'm trying to decide ..." for this meaning. Sentence 4 seems to have this meaning, but "decide" should be in the -ing form.

You can use "decide" in the present simple (sentence 1) too. But the present simple shows a regular action or something of a factual nature, so the context should be something like this: Whenever I have nothing to do, I decide what I'll do next. It's a more general meaning than the present continuous, which is about a particular decision.

So, sentence 3 is unusual because "still" seems to show that you are talking about a particular decision rather than a regular thing that you do.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Stella_J on Wed, 03/05/2023 - 15:15

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Hello.

I've got a question for the grammaticality of the following sentence:
Recently, people are depending on the internet.

I know that 'people are dependent on the internet.' is more commonly used and depend is a stative verb.
However, for showing some sort of progress and changes I think it's okay to say 'people are depending on the internet.'

I want to know that whether this sentence is grammatically correct or not and two sentences using each 'dependent' or 'depending' have the same meaning.

It would be a great help if you leave a comment on this matter.
Thank you.

Hi Stella_J,

Yes, it is grammatical. As you said, it shows some sort of change or non-permanent action. I think the sentences with "depending" and "dependent" mean pretty much the same thing, apart from the probably unimportant difference that "people are dependent" describes how the people are, whereas "people are depending" describes what people do.

I would also say that "Recently" is normally used with the present perfect: Recently, people have been depending on the internet. / Recently, people have become more dependent on the internet. A word like "Currently" or "At present" would match the present simple better.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Serberio on Tue, 02/05/2023 - 08:31

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Hello all, I have got a question regarding the second grammar test.
Look the sentence 3. 'Are you making bread? It ______ amazing.
Regarding the description above it must be *amazing because the first part is made in the present continuous and the second logically must be as well in present continuous because we use it in action (ongoing conversation).
The answer is *smells and I can't explain why exactly smells, because regarding the description mentioned it must be ing.

Could you please tell why smells is used instead of It’s smelling?
or there is a mistake in the test?

Thank you!

Hello Serberio,

'smells' is the correct answer for the first question in the second task. 'It smells amazing' refers to our perception of the nice smell, not to an activity that we're doing. 

An example of smelling something as an activity would be, for example, going into a perfume shop and actively smelling different perfumes.

Although there isn't much context in Task 2, 'Are you making bread?' suggests we've just walked into someone's home, for example, and smell bread there, not that we are going around actively smelling things.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team