Stative verbs

Some verbs are not usually used in the continuous form, even when we are talking about temporary situations or states. These are called stative verbs.

  • So, we say I’m sorry, I don’t understand rather than I’m not understanding.

1. Stative verbs are often verbs connected with thinking and opinions.

  • She doesn’t know what to do NOT She isn’t knowing what to do
  • Do you agree with me?
  • I don’t recognise it, do you?

Other verbs in this group include: believe, doubt, guess, imagine, mean, remember, think

2. Other stative verbs are connected with feelings and emotions

  • I like this song. Who sings it? NOT I’m liking this song
  • What do you want to do now?
  • I hate my new boss!

Other stative verbs in this group include: dislike, love, prefer. want, wish

NB – although ‘enjoy’ is a verb of emotion, it is used in the continuous tense

  • I’m enjoying the party.

3. ‘see’, ‘hear’, ‘taste’, ‘smell’, ‘feel’ are verbs that describe senses.

These verbs aren’t usually used in continuous forms. They are often used with ‘can’.

  • It smells of smoke in here. NOT It’s smelling of smoke in here
  • I can’t see anything. It’s too dark.

4. Stative verbs describe things that are not actions.

Look carefully at these 2 sentences.

  • He smells of fish.
  • He’s smelling the fish.

The second sentence is an action – not a state. The man wants to know if the fish is OK to eat.

  • I think we should go to Croatia for our holiday this year.
  • Sorry, what did you say? I was thinking about my holiday.

The first sentence is an opinion but the second sentence is an action.