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 (85 votes)

Hello aandrop,

'Feel' can have an active or stative meaning.

You can feel something with your fingers:

I felt the coat and immediately could tell how high quality the material was.

 

On the other hand, feel can describe emotions or physical sensations and then the verb is usually stative:

Could you close the window? I feel a bit cold.

I really felt uncomfortable in that meeting.

 

Sometimes we can use usually stative verbs with continuous aspect, such as when we want to emphasise that a feeling is temporary and immediate:

I don't like this party. Actually, I'm feeling really uncomfortable. Let's go home.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter,

Does the idea of emphasis also apply in the case of "How are you feeling today?" vs "How do you feel?" (the latter being the grammatically correct use, I suppose).

Do we use "feel" in the present continuous because "today" follows, or could we just as well use both "How are you feeling today?" and "How do you feel today?" interchangeably? Even though I am aware that "How are you feeling today?" does sound more polite.

 

Thank you!

Vicky

Hello Vicky,

Both of those forms are correct. The continuous form could certainly be used for emphasis in 'How are you feeling today?' (versus yesterday or some other day). Off the top of my head, I can't think of another example when it could be used to communicate a different idea, but it certainly could be used to express other ideas or types of emphasis.

In a context where there are clearly multiple regular encounters, e.g. visits to a physiotherapist to treat an injury, and no other contextual information, then there's no significant difference between the continuous or simple forms. Though if last week your injury was especially painful (more than in previous weeks), then the continuous form would better refer to your condition on the previous visit than the simple form would.

Hope this helps!

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

 

Submitted by M_ery on Thu, 29/12/2022 - 09:27

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Hello, I have a question about the verb "understand". I've come across this statement:
The continuous tenses are rare. They are used only in reference to doubt about one's understanding (e.g., "If I'm understanding you correctly...") or the process of trying to understand (e.g., "You're not quite understanding me").
How appropriate is that? Is it correct that way? In that case, if I have this example "I suppose that you ___________ my situation." Could we use either "are (not) understanding" or "(don't) understand"?

Thank you!

Hi M_ery,

You're right, "you are not understanding ..." and "you don't understand ..." are both grammatical. The simple form is fine, as well as the continuous form. However, they might differ in their social appropriacy. The continuous version might be interpreted as relatively more polite if you are pointing out another person's misunderstanding, which can potentially cause embarrassment, depending on the social context (the place, the characteristics of the people speaking, what their relationship is, etc.). Saying "you're not understanding ..." indicates that the action (misunderstanding) is only temporary, not final, and may be eventually corrected. In comparison, "You don't understand" sounds more definite and final. (However, I emphasise that this really depends on the social situation and what is considered appropriate in it. I don't think there's any issue with saying "You don't understand" to a friend, for example, although I probably wouldn't say it to my boss.)

I agree with the explanation that it's rare to use "understand" in a continuous form in order to simply indicate understanding (e.g. it would be unusual to say "I'm understanding your point").

I hope that helps to understand it.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by howtosay_ on Sat, 10/12/2022 - 00:17

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Hello!

As far as I know, it's correct to say "I'm having a great time", because "have" is not about a possession here. Could you please explain what abo\out just "have time". Do you say "I'm having time" or "I was having time"?

Do you say "We were having bad weather all day long" or We had bad weather all day long"?

Hello howtosay_,

You're correct that you can say 'I'm having a great time' with the meaning 'experiencing'. The continuous form is used because it's not possession, as you say, and it is a temporary situation.

The simple form would be used if the situation were a regular or repeated one. For example: I have a great time whenever I go to Italy.

With weather we generally use the simple form of 'have', so 'we had...' would be my choice here. With other verbs the continuous is more likely: It was raining all day long.

 

You can also use 'have time' to mean that you are not too busy: I have time to meet you tomorrow.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by syediffat on Wed, 23/11/2022 - 17:23

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Hi
I have found this website very helpful.
I am really frateful to you all.
Could you please help me to sought out following sentences:
They go to school by bus. (Go, here is which verb?)
The school opens at 9 a.m. (opens, here is which verb?)
The teachers teach students. (Teach, here is which verb?)
They live in a village. (Live, here is which verb?)

Their teachers love them. (Love, here is which verb?)
Students respect their teachers in return. (Respect, here is which verb?)

Hello syediffat,

'go', 'opens', 'teach' and 'live', 'love' and 'respect' are all present simple verbs in these sentences.

'love' and 'respect' are stative verbs, but the others are not.

Does that answer your question?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team