Do you know how to use stative verbs like think, love, smell and have?

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

Intermediate: B1

Soumis par Kirk le jeu 04/02/2021 - 08:53

En réponse à par Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

These sentences are indeed complete sentences. They are not holiday wishes -- I was speaking about phrases such as 'Happy New Year' (a holiday wish).

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Kirk sir. Sir could u let me know also that: Is that word playing adjective role here in this sentence "She wears pressed uniform" Pressed is an adjective as it is describing the uniform? Ironed uniform and ironized uniform play the same role ? Are they adjective? "She wear ironed/ironized uniform?

Hello Rsb,

Yes, 'pressed' and 'ironed' are adjectives in the sentences you mention. I'm not familiar with 'ironized'.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Rsb le jeu 31/12/2020 - 04:35

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My prayer got answered immediately. What is "answered" here ?

Hello Rsb,

I'd say that's the past participle in a passive construction. You could also say 'was answered', which means the same thing.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, as far as I read about passive voice "was answered" is a passive form as 'was' an helping verb and 'answer' is a main verb in this context. But I really didn't read anywhere that got + verb 3rd form also an passive form ? If it is passive what will be the active voice of it?

Hello Rsb,

In an informal style, 'get' is sometimes used in the place of 'be' in passive forms (see the Intermediate level on the page linked to).

If, for example, the original sentence were 'The call was answered immediately', one possible active voice version of it would be 'He answered the call immediately' (I don't know who actually answered the call, so 'he' could change to another person).

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Kirk sir! Sir what 'could' shows here in ur explanation ('he' could change to another person) ? It shows a possibility or suggestion?
Sir, One more doubt, "I got hurt" here 'hurt' acts as an adjective past participle form? Or is it passive construction with the same meaning "I was hurt"?

Soumis par Peter M. le dim 24/01/2021 - 09:25

En réponse à par Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

It could be either. The sentence is inherently ambiguous and both descriptions fit it perfectly well.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Rsb le dim 27/12/2020 - 16:37

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Sir, " he is wearing a white shirt" Here 'wearing' act as an adjective. My question is - can't we say same sentence like that "He is worn a white shirt" Worn can't be used as an adjective here?

Hi Rsb,

No, that's not quite right. Wearing is not acting as an adjective. It's a verb here.

It's true that the auxiliary verb is (and other forms of be) can introduce an adjective (e.g. He is happy). But that's not its only meaning and function. It also forms part of continuous verb forms. Here, it's part of the present continuous (He is wearing).

Yes, worn can function as an adjective (because it's the past participle form). But, is worn is a passive structure (be + past participle), so the subject needs to be the thing that is worn, not the person who wears it.

  • A white shirt is worn.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Rsb le lun 28/12/2020 - 07:08

En réponse à par Jonathan R

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No sir if I m saying "you are in white shirt" it means you are wearing a white shirt. It behaves as an adjective what I think.

Hi Rsb,

OK, I can see what you mean! But, I still recommend interpreting wearing as a verb, not an adjective. That's because it doesn't fully behave as an adjective, from a structural point of view.

 

Some -ing verbs do behave fully as adjectives. For example:

  • He is caring.
  • He's a caring man.
  • His caring face made me feel safe.
  • He seems caring.

Caring is an adjective in these examples because it can be put before the noun it describes (e.g. a caring man), and it can be used with other copular verbs instead of be (e.g. 'seems' in He seems caring). Wearing can't be used in these two ways.

 

Another reason is that only a verb (not an adjective) can link to an object.

  • He is caring. (caring = adjective; no object)
  • He is caring for his mother. (caring = verb; his mother = object)

As wearing has an object here (a white shirt), I recommend interpreting it as a verb.

 

Sorry for the rather dry and technical explanation – but I hope it helps :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Rsb le mar 29/12/2020 - 06:23

En réponse à par Jonathan R

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Yes sir, some verbs in past participle form and present participle form(ing form) behaves as an adjective. They don't function as verb in the sentence. For example, The chair is broken.(adjective broken V3rd form) I like dancing doll.(adjective dancing ing form) I understood it Jonathan sir. Thanks

Soumis par Risa warysha le sam 21/11/2020 - 06:42

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Hi,Sir Are those the only stative verbs? And in my following sentence 'I started looking for a new apartment last week. And I still don't find one.' Is the sentence 'I still dont find one' appropriate in the sentence? Or should it become 'I still haven't found one.' Is 'find' one of stative verb? Thank you,Sir

Soumis par Kirk le sam 21/11/2020 - 09:19

En réponse à par Risa warysha

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Hello Risa warysha,

'I still don't find one' is not correct in that situation -- as you suggest, you should say 'I still haven't found one' instead.

I expect there are other stative verbs. I'm afraid I don't know of an exhaustive list anywhere that I could refer you to.

I wouldn't say that 'find' is a stative verb. I'm not sure if it will help you, but you might be interested in reading about Dowty's analysis, which 'find' fails.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! I think that 'find' is a stative verb. Firstly, it cannot appear in pseudo-cleft constructions -*What I did was find-. Secondly, even though it can occur in the progressive (since you can say something like ''I finding more and more reasons to leave you''), the act of finding happens without even realising of it, it is not something that requires a process or that involves a beginning or an end. Lastly, it cannot occur as imperative, ''*Find the money you lost last week! So, in the end, I do think that ''find'' is a stative verb. It is worth mentioning that most verbs have several meanings/interpretations, and some of them seem to be more static than others, but I really can't come up with a non-static meaning of ''find''. Hope you can give me your opinion :) cheers!

Soumis par Rsb le lun 05/10/2020 - 19:09

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Sir, Is it correct sentence- "he is a stammered boy" Here Stammered act as an adjective past participle form?

Soumis par Peter M. le mar 06/10/2020 - 07:49

En réponse à par Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

No, that's not correct. We would say 'He has a stammer'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Westnur le ven 02/10/2020 - 19:29

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Good day team! I have a question. Sometimes, I hear people say "you stupid" without a linking/intensive verb e.g "are". Why?

Hi Westnur,

Yes! This is a type of vocative phrase (a phrase that addresses the reader/listener directly). The structure you pointed out is very common for this usage. Other examples include you liar, you fool or you star. As you can see, this structure is often used with negative descriptions.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Rsb le jeu 10/09/2020 - 05:44

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Sir , Likewise 'Separate' is an ergative verb. Is it possible 'Separate' can either be state or action verb? Can it either be state verb in one sentence or action verb in another sentence For example, 1. The couple separated after 25years of successful marriage.(stative verb) 2. The couple separated from the railway track.(action verb)

Soumis par Peter M. le jeu 10/09/2020 - 07:14

En réponse à par Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

You are confusing transitive/intransitive, which refers to whether or not a verb has an object, with dynamic/stative, which deals with whether a verb describes an action or a state.

Ergative (or labile) verbs can be transitive or intransitive. Separate is an ergative verb.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, It's dominating on me. Can't understand when verb will be said an action or state verb?

Soumis par Peter M. le ven 11/09/2020 - 07:54

En réponse à par Rsb

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Hello again Rsb,

A stative verb describes a state of being which is constant and does not change through its duration.

An action or dynamic verb describes an action or a process which changes over time.

These definitions are related to meaning but are useful because they have grammatical implications, such as state verbs not being used with continuous aspect.

 

This is not the same as transitive (has an object) and intranstive (no object). Both stative and dynamic verbs can be transitive or intransitive.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, The couple separated after 25 years of marriage. ( It's an intransitive verb and state verb here)??

Soumis par Peter M. le mar 15/09/2020 - 08:47

En réponse à par Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

In this context separate is intransitive but dynamic. You could use a continuous form, for example, which would not be possible with a stative verb:

They are separating after 25 years of marriage.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Rsb,

I think you're a little confused about what a dynamic verb is. It doesn't have to be a physical action. A mental act can be expressed by a dynamic verb if it is an action which has duration and is not static in nature:

I think it is terrible. [stative, (perceived as) an unchanging situation]

I'm thinking of taking next week off work. [dynamic, an action with duration which expresses progress over time]

You can read more about these verbs and see definitions on these pages:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_verb

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stative_verb

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, Postponed is not an ergative verb? I have postponed the meeting-transitive The meeting has postponed- intransitive

Soumis par Peter M. le lun 07/12/2020 - 07:34

En réponse à par Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

No, postponed is a transitive verb and must have an object. You could say 'The meeting has been postponed (by someone)', which is a passive form.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Hayder991 le mer 12/08/2020 - 06:06

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Hey there The package came packaged up nicely and secure. Is the the verb "came" in this case or stative verb?? since it's followed by an adjective packaged and noun secure as it seems to me.. Thank you

Soumis par Peter M. le mer 12/08/2020 - 06:23

En réponse à par Hayder991

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Hi Hayder991,

The verb came here is a dynamic verb. It has a similar meaning to 'arrived'.

The adjective packaged modifies the noun package.

This structure is quite common, especially after verbs such as arrive, come, go, leave etc:

I came home tired and hot after my long journey.

The package arrived as beautiful as I had imagined.

I went to the meeting angry and upset with her.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter, but I've always learned that the linking verb such as verb to "be", seem ,look,etc always works like an equal sign in math and are always followed by an adjectives or nouns modifying the subject ,which comes first , or renaming it, and the action verbs usually take objects, which are basically nouns, so your explanation seemed sort of ambiguous to me .. could an action verb work like linking verb?

Hello again Hayder991,

Yes, certain dynamic verbs can work in this way - I listed the most common ones. The adjectival phrase describes the subject, but the verb still has its normal meaning (arrive, come etc).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Karan Narang le sam 08/08/2020 - 04:31

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Stative verb is easy to understand or Use it easily to every time.

Soumis par VegitoBlue le lun 13/07/2020 - 16:00

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Hi, I understand "need" to be a stative verb. With "need" or any other stative verb for that matter, do we ever use such stative verbs in the present continuous tense when we mean to say that the action or state expressed by the verb is happening right now at this very moment (for instance, as we speak)? So for instance, do you say "I need help" (simple present tense) or "I am needing help" (present continuous tense) to describe a situation happening now?

Soumis par Peter M. le mar 14/07/2020 - 08:13

En réponse à par VegitoBlue

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Hi VegitoBlue,

Simple forms are used even for situations happening at the moment of speaking.

Sometimes we can use stative verbs in the continuous form when we want to emphasise the temporary nature of a situation. This is most common with feel:

How do you feel?

How are you feeling today? Any improvement?

It is less common with other verbs, but does occur:

I love running. I run every day.

I'm on holiday and I go running every day along the beach. I'm loving it!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Timothy555 le sam 25/04/2020 - 15:10

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Hi, My question is whether a stative verb can be transitive. My understanding of a transitive verb is that firstly, a transitive verb is an action verb (meaning it expresses a doable activity like run, swim etc) and secondly, the transitive verb must have an object which receives the action of the verb. If my above understanding of a transitive verb is correct, then won't it logically mean that a stative verb, being a non-action verb, cannot be a transitive verb since a stative verb is not an action verb, and hence cannot transfer its action to an object (something which receives the action of the transitive verb)? Appreciate your kind advice, thanks! Regards, Tim

Soumis par Peter M. le lun 27/04/2020 - 06:40

En réponse à par Timothy555

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Hello Tim,

There is often a correspondence between stative and intransitive, with pairs of transitive-dynamic and intransitive-stative verbs easy to find: lay/lie, seat/sit, raise/rise etc.

 

However, there are many stative transitive verbs. Verbs describing mental states are generally transitive:

I know the answer.

I love you.

I believe the theory.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Timothy555 le lun 27/04/2020 - 13:29

En réponse à par Peter M.

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Dear Peter, thanks very much for your response; however, i'm afraid i don;t quite get the first part of your response, which is "There is often a correspondence between stative and intransitive, with pairs of transitive-dynamic and intransitive-stative verbs easy to find: lay/lie, seat/sit, raise/rise etc." Could you kindly explain this in another way? In addition, from the second part of your response, which is "However, there are many stative transitive verbs. Verbs describing mental states are generally transitive", I suppose you are saying that stative verbs can be transitive, such as "know, love and believe" are all stative verbs which are also transitive? But if so, may i know how this gels with my understanding of transitive verbs ? Or perhaps, is it a case where my understanding of transitive verbs (i.e. verbs which transfer their actions to a direct object) is wrong? Appreciate your advice, pls. Thanks! Regards, Tim

Hello Tim,

In English it's sometimes said that there are pairs of verbs in which one is transitive and dynamic and the other intransitive and stative, showing some correspondence - stative verbs tend to be intransitive. It's not a particularly useful way to think of the topic, to be honest, but I suspected it might be the source of your misunderstanding.

Stative verbs can be transitive. It's an error to think that they cannot. Similarly, dynamic verbs can be intransitive: I run every day.

In other words, while there is some tendency towards stative being intransitive, it is by no means a rule.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Timothy555 le ven 01/05/2020 - 08:40

En réponse à par Peter M.

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Hi Peter, thanks very much for clarifying. I think get what you are saying (i.e. while there is some tendency towards stative being intransitive, it is by no means a rule), however, may I know if my understanding of a transitive verb is correct? I guess the source of my confusion is because I've always understood a transitive verb to be a verb where there must be a direct object who receives the action of the transitive verb, and because stative verbs do not express not actions, hence my confusion as to why stative verbs can also be transitive? In other words, is my understanding of a transitive verb (as above) correct? Many thanks for your advice. Regards, Tim

Hi Tim,

A stative verb is one which requires one or more objects. There is no requirement for the verb to have a physical action.

The Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics 6th edition (Crystal, 2008) gives the following definition of transitivity:

transitivity (n.)

A category used in the grammatical analysis of clause/ sentence constructions, with particular reference to the verb’s relationship to dependent elements of structure. The main members of this category are transitive (tr, trans), referring to a verb which can take a direct object (as in he saw the dog), and intransitive (intr, intrans), where it cannot (as in *he arrived a ball).

Many verbs can have both a transitive and an intransitive use (cf. we went a mile v. we went), and in some languages this distinction is marked morphologically.

More complex relationships between a verb and the elements dependent upon it are usually classified separately. For example, verbs which take two objects are sometimes called ditransitive (as opposed to monotransitive), as in she gave me a pencil. There are also several uses of verbs which are marginal to one or other of these categories, as in pseudo-intransitive constructions (e.g. the eggs are selling well, where an agent is assumed – ‘someone is selling the eggs’ – unlike normal intransitive constructions, which do not have an agent transform: we went, but not *someone went us). Some grammarians also talk about (in)transitive prepositions. For example, with is a transitive preposition, as it must always be accompanied by a noun phrase complement (object), and along can be transitive or intransitive: cf. She arrived with a dog v. *She arrived with and She was walking along the river v. She was walking along.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Timothy555 le sam 11/07/2020 - 14:16

En réponse à par Peter M.

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Hi Tim, thanks! Appreciate if you could kindly confirm whether the following three points which I've concluded are correct: Firstly: In other words, in order for a verb to be considered as transitive, it simply requires the verb to be able to take on a direct object, and that it doesn't matter whether the verb expresses a physical action (such as the verb "throw" in "throw a ball", where ball is the direct object since it receives the action of throwing) or a state (such as "love" as in "I love her"), correct? Secondly: Am i right to say that stative or stative verbs such as love and like are also known as mental action verbs? Thirdly: Based on what I've understood so far, am I right to say that a transitive verb is a verb that is used with an object (e.g. a noun, phrase, or pronoun) that refers to the person/thing that is affected by the action (whether physical actions such as throw or mental actions such as love or live) of the verb? Regards, Tim
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