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 User_1 on Thu, 06/06/2024 - 13:57

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Hello,

*My first question is about "to be supposed to do/be something".

I can't understand when it is used, and if it's another way to say "to think/guess, imagine..."

e.g "I am supposed to take the exam, but I am not sure."

Is that correct?

I often come across this structure, but I don’t know when it’s right to use it.

 

*The second question refers to "to strike" as thoughts and impressions.

Does "to strike" look like "to seem"?

Please, could you give me an example?

Thanks for help!

Hi User_1,

"Supposed to ..." shows an expectation, obligation or responsibility. I am supposed to take the exam means something like "I have to take the exam", or "People expect me to take the exam". To take another example, You're not supposed to smoke inside the building means "You can't smoke in the building".

Yes, "strike" has a similar meaning to "seem". It has various structures:

  • His behaviour strikes me as unusual. (strike + object + as + adjective/noun)
  • It suddenly struck me that I would miss my colleagues so much if I left my job. (it strikes/struck me that + clause)
  • I found her ideas really striking. (striking = adjective)
  • I was struck by how kind everyone was. (struck by something)

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Filmfanaat4Ever on Sun, 21/04/2024 - 13:37

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Hello

I'm rather new at this. I have a question about the use of the verb 'to forget'. In some lists it is considered a 'stative verb', in other lists of stative verbs, it's not listed at all. So what kind of verb is 'to forget'? Or can it be used as dynamic and static?  And can it thus be used in the continuous form?  

Thanks for replying to this message.

Best regards.

Hello Filmfanaat4Ever,

Words describing mental cognitive functions are generally stative, including forget, remember, think (opinion) and understand, for example.

It is possible to construct a situation where you might see such verbs as processes but they would be very odd situations. I assume you are a film buff given your username, so let me give you an example from film. In the Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Jim Carrey's character experiences a slow deletion of his memories. They disappear one by one as he tries to hold on to them. In this situation, where he can see the process happening over a period of time, he might say 'I'm forgetting....' But this is not our normal experience, of course!

 

Lists of verbs like this are almost always selective and not comprehensive.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

Profile picture for user Denys

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?