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

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Submitted by Nilufarabdi on Tue, 02/04/2024 - 08:39

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Hi there,

I have a question and hope to find the answer here finally. 

Can we use stative verbs in reduced relative clauses in continuous form?

Examples: 

  • She's the kind of person who wants everything her own way. => wanting 
  • He's a person who needs to be told everything very clearly. => needing
     

Hello Nilufarabdi,

I'm afraid these sentences are not correct in standard British English.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

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Submitted by Denys on Wed, 13/09/2023 - 10:07

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Hello,
i have found dozens of websites showing the conjugation of verbs "to allow" and "to permit" in the Continuous and Perfect Continuous forms. But I haven't found any explanation proving these verbs are used in the Progressive. Honestly, I cannot imagine how can I start allowing or permitting in the past, focus on the process of allowing / permitting something at the moment of speaking / right now / about now and make others think my process has not finished yet, as it may continue in the future. I might not understand something. Are there exceptions? Please explain. Thank you in advance.
With regards,
Denys

Hello Denys,

It is indeed a little unusual to use the forms in this way, but here are a couple of sentences with these forms that are correct and natural:

  • They haven't been permitting us to eat at our desk since July.
  • The computer wasn't allowing me to log in, so I had to call the help desk.

Does seeing those help you make sense of it?

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Thank you very much, Kirk,

I think your exaples make it clear.

Do I understand correctly that verbs "to permit" / "to allow" are not normally used in the Present Continuous? Are they often used in the Present Simple?

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

Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

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!