Stative verbs

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

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Submitted by Lidia M on Mon, 16/05/2022 - 16:40

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Hi,
Could you please explain why 'be' is added to the 'senses and perceptions' category?

Hello Lidia M,

It's because 'be' can be used to express perceptions. If I see a man and a woman talking to each other, I might say 'He's nervous', but in fact maybe he's excited or angry.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi FershDuran,

"Stay" has several meanings, and I think they take the continuous form without a problem, so I would say it is dynamic.

  1. to remain in one place; to not leave (e.g. I'm staying at home until the storm passes.)
  2. to continue doing/being something (e.g. I feel stressed but I'm staying calm.) 
  3. to live somewhere temporarily (e.g. We're staying in a hotel for two nights.)

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lRaisa on Mon, 16/05/2022 - 13:17

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Hi,
Could you write some examples of dynamic verbs?
*Remember
*Doubt
*Hear
*Doubt

Hello IRaisa,

Most verbs are dynamic and express an action or process -- some common ones are 'eat', 'talk', 'run', 'go', 'study', 'read', 'write'.

Some verbs can be dynamic or stative depending on how they're used. For example, when 'have' expresses possession (e.g. 'I have two bicycles'), it's stative; but when 'have' is used to express an action (e.g. 'He can't speak to you because he's having a shower at the moment'), it's dynamic.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

My point is above "Grammar test 2" you wrote verbs like:
*Remember
*Doubt
*Hear
*Agree
All of them we can use as dynamic verbs and as stative verbs. My question is do we use them as an action when we want to write about continuous form or do they have different meanings?
- I am remembering about promises. ( an action? )
- He is doubting my plan. ( an action? )
- I am hearing it right now. ( an action? )
- He was agreeing with me. ( an action? )
A lot of people/websites/books say we shouldn't have used them as dynamic verbs consequently it is incorrect.

Hello IRaisa,

Thanks for explaining your question in more detail.

If you see a verb that is generally considered stative used in a continuous form, that's a good sign that it's being used dynamically. I'd say the verbs in the sentences you wrote are dynamic in those contexts. They don't have a different meaning. The idea is that stative verbs express states of being or unchanging situations, whereas dynamic verbs express an action that has a duration, i.e. that occurs and changes over the course of time. So if I say 'I think I will go', the idea is that in this moment I plan to go. But if I say 'I'm thinking I'll go', it suggests that I'm still actively considering whether I should go or not; I may have come to a decision (that I will probably go), but I might still change my mind.

Grammar is actually quite complex and so often explanations of different grammar points are partial explanations. In addition to the fact that a complete explanation is very difficult to write properly, a full explanation probably would confuse or overwhelm students. This is why teaching grammars, such as ours, don't explain everything and stick to what experience has shown us to be most important for most learners.

Hope this helps you make sense of it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ulk on Fri, 29/04/2022 - 23:06

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Hello. Which one is correct:
- I have a headache now or
-i"m having a headache now ?
Thank you

Hello Ulk,

The correct form is 'have'.

We treat a headache as a state rather than an action, so the simple is used.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you
Could I ask about the verb Feel? I know it can be active when expresses a change or a process as in -How are you feeling? I'm feeling well ( phisical state) What about emotional state, can i say I'm feeling happy?
and when it means perception ,can we say for ex. I'm feeling his hand on my shoulder?
Thank you

Hello Ulk,

As you say, 'feel' is sometimes used with continuous aspect. Changes and temporary states are common examples.

Perception is a little more complex. We can use continuous aspect when we are describing a conscious activity (something we do) rather than a passive experience (something that happens to us). Thus 'I'm feeling his hand' would suggest that we are using our hand to explore his hand, like a physiotherapist doing a physical examination. If someone touches us then 'I feel his hand' or (most likely) 'I can feel his hand' would be used.

For some verbs of perception we have different verbs for active performance and passive experience (watch-see, listen-hear) but for other senses the distinction is expressed in a similar way to 'feel' (smell, taste).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, Peter, it's clear about perceptions now. And just to be totally sure about states): is I'm FEELING happy correct?

Hello again Ulk,

Yes, you can say I'm feeling happy when you are talking about your mood, which can change from one moment to the next.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by dostyamiine on Sat, 09/04/2022 - 07:08

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Hello sir, please i need your help.
I've read that stative verbs are not used with present perfect simple. However, they can be used with present perfect when they are used with time expressions.
●I have liked you ( incorrect)
●I have liked you all my life. (Correct)
●I have known him. ( incorrect)
●I have known him for ten years. (Correct)
My question is: is this information i've read right or wrong??????????????

Hello dostyamiine,

No, I wouldn't say that is always correct, though it is very often true.

Instead, I might say they are not normally used with the present perfect simple without a time expression. If they are, it's normally in context or for a very specific purpose. You could say, for example, 'I've thought about this a lot', which in a specific context probably implies 'recently' or 'in my life' or some other time period.

Another example: imagine I'm visiting the town I grew up in and staying at my parents' house. In the evening, after I've come home, I might tell my parents about my day and say things like 'I've seen lots of friends' or 'I've been all over the city'. These sentences don't contain time expressions, but the context makes it clear that they are about today.

Hope that helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Darko on Thu, 03/03/2022 - 09:07

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Hi! Simple question but I'm a little bit confused is "Be Happy" considered a stative verb?

Hello Darko,

The verb here is 'be'; ' happy ' is an adjective.

'Be' is a tricky verb. In some contexts it acts as a stative verb and in others as a dynamic verb. In your example it does have some aspects of stative verbs: it describes a state which does not change over time and cannot be used in the continuous aspect here. I think you can argue that it is a stative verb in this context.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sally_Garrett on Mon, 07/02/2022 - 19:28

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Greetings!

Can I use "would" with a stative verb if I'm using an adverb that changes 'permanent state' and makes it temporary/not permanent?

E.g:
I would sometimes feel lonely.
I would often see her near my house. etc...

I saw these examples in one tutorial and want to hear a clear definition of this matter. Thanks!

Hello Sally,

All of the grammar references I checked indicated that we use 'used to' (and not 'would') to speak about past states and/or regular habitual behaviour. As far as I can tell, this means these sentences are non-standard.

That said, although your sentences sound a little unusual, they don't sound completely incorrect to me. But I'm afraid I can't find any reference material that would support this, so, depending on where you want to use these sentences, it might be best to rephrase them.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by CJ21 on Wed, 13/10/2021 - 07:34

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Have a bath , have fun, have a good time, have a drink are all activities that can be used in the continuous form. State verb have: have a car, have blue eyes, have a job, Cannot be used in the continuous form. So why can’t ‘have an exam’ be used in the continuous form? It’s an activity….Please can you explain?

Hello CJ21,

We use 'take an exam' to talk about the activity (e.g. 'Tomorrow I can't meet with you because I'll be taking an exam' or 'No, I'm afraid Sue can't speak with you now because she's taking an exam').

We say 'have an exam' to talk about the exam as an obligation or something in our schedule (e.g. 'Tomorrow morning we have the maths exam' or 'Medical students have a lot of exams').

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Amit01 on Fri, 27/08/2021 - 10:00

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"The lecturer is thinking to go to the conference on history in Bangladesh every year" - is the use of "thinking" here correct ? or grammatically it’s wrong ?

Hi Amit01,

It's a good question. People do sometimes say or write thinking to ... with the meaning of 'considering doing something'. Here are some examples I found:

  • I am thinking to get a gift for our friend.
  • There were some reports previously that Apple was thinking to make an iCar.

However, it seems less commonly used than thinking of, and most dictionaries don't include it (yet). So, I would say that it's fine to use in informal situations, but probably not in formal situations, where standard or 'correct' language forms are preferred (such as in an exam, or a presentation). 

I hope that helps!

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Wed, 09/06/2021 - 10:49

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Could please explain the difference between 1.we have a great day 2.we are having a great day.

Hello Mussorie,

The second sentence describes a day which is in progress - in other words, today.

The first sentence could be a more general statement, but it requires some kind of comment as to which days are generallt great. For example:

We have a great day every time we go to the zoo.

We have a great day whenever you visit.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Sat, 24/04/2021 - 14:42

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Sir, You confuse me = You make me confused. Both the sentences have same meaning . The difference is only that confused is an adjective in that (you make me confused)???
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 25/04/2021 - 07:54

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

Yes, that's correct. You can replace it with other adjectives:

You make me confused/happy/sad/hopeful etc.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, He drowned the kittens = He made the kittens drowned. Here , both have the same and equal meaning? We can also make this sentence (he drowned the kittens) with the help of causative verb "he made the kittens drowned" . Here drowned is an adjective.
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Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 26/04/2021 - 11:06

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

The first sentence is correct. The second one seems as if it should be, and people would understand it, but I wouldn't call it correct.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Thu, 22/04/2021 - 04:51

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Sir, Word 'sprained' is an adjective? For example, my legs got sprained. And word 'sprain' is a verb also For example, you sprained his legs.
Peter sir, Sometimes I get confused with the dictionary. So i ask here. Thanks

Hello Rsb,

You are welcome to ask us about sentences that you find on our websites, or even sometimes if you find them in authentic texts in print or online, but we have a limited capacity to correct numerous sentences that our users have written because it often takes quite a bit of time to answer them properly. That's what the two sentences you've asked about here appear to be, and neither one is correct. The issue is that our primary role here is to help our users with our website.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Tue, 20/04/2021 - 20:29

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Sir, 'Confuse' is a verb. It has a form confuse, confused(V3 form) and confusing(V- ing form) And also 'confused' behaves as an adjective too. Example, he confuses me. He confused me. He is confusing me. Are these sentences correct? And u aware that we can make the same sentences with the help of causative verb Its structure: subject+make+ object+V 1st form Subject +make+object+ adjective He makes me confused. He made me confused. He is making me confused. My question starts here Why do we need to add 'ed' in the end of the verb confuse and why we make it an adjective by adding ed in the end of verb. We can't write only He makes me confuse. He made me confuse He is making me confuse Hope u got my point and help to resolve it?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 21/04/2021 - 07:44

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

The construction here is make + sb + adjective: make him happy, make her angry, make us tired.

In your example, you need to use the adjective confused: He makes me confused.

 

You can also use confusing, but you'd need a very specific context:

What I said is very easy to understand, but your translation is terrible! It makes me much more confusing than I really am!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, 'Confuse' is not a verb? Are these sentences incorrect He confused me etc.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 22/04/2021 - 06:42

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello again Rsb,

Yes, confuse is a verb. However, your question was, as far as I could judge, about the construction make sb + adjective not make sb + verb.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Tue, 08/06/2021 - 18:50

In reply to by Peter M.

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Could you please explain the difference between the sentences? 1.It makes me confused 2.It makes me confusing

Hi Mussorie,

Confused and confusing are both adjectives. Confused refers to a person who thinks something is difficult to understand (i.e., it's an effect on the person). Confusing refers to what caused the confusion, for example:

  • The situation is confusing. (= It makes me confused.)
  • This information is confusing. (= It makes me confused.)

But we can't say your sentence 2. Your sentence 1 is the correct version, because the adjective refers to 'me'.

 

Confusing may also be a verb in the -ing form, e.g.:

  • You're confusing me. Can you explain it to me again more slowly?

But in your sentence 2, confusing isn't a verb (because after 'make', the verb must be in the infinitive form, not the -ing form).

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

That means in sentence 2 it is not possible to use confusing (adjective) in that form(way), right.

Hi Mussorie,

For the meaning of 'something makes me confused', that's right - sentence 2 isn't correct. Only sentence 1 is correct.

Actually, it is possible to say It makes me confusing, but it has a different meaning. It means that I am causing the confusion for other people (not feeling confusion myself). For example, if I lack the ability to explain something slowly and clearly, it makes me confusing (i.e., other people are confused) when I try to explain it. However, this seems like a less common situation to describe.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by muratt on Mon, 19/04/2021 - 15:35

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Good afternoon. Are the below examples correct? - I was wishing for summer so hard I could almost make it happen at that moment. - Both women will be appearing before magistrates later this week. If 'wish' and 'appear' are stative verbs why is it used in this way? Am I missing something here? Thank you in advance.

Hi muratt,

Actually, not many verbs are always stative. Verbs often have several and various meanings, including the two verbs you mention.

 

About wish, the example you mention is an action. I imagine it as a person putting their hands together and closing their eyes, and thinking hard about the summer, trying hard to imagine it in detail. It's close in meaning to the phrase to make a wish. This is different from the stative meaning of wish, as in this example: I wish I was taller. Here, it's a more abstract feeling or desire, not an action that somebody does in a given moment.

 

Appear also has several meanings. In your example, it shows an action: the action of arriving and being present at an event. The stative meaning of appear is more like the meaning of 'seem', for example: She appears tired. / There appears to be a mistake in the bill.

 

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by muratt on Tue, 20/04/2021 - 21:10

In reply to by Jonathan R

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It makes more sense now. Thank you Jonathan.

Submitted by Rsb on Mon, 19/04/2021 - 11:35

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Sir, 'The woodcutter falls down the tree.' Fall is an ergative verb?
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Tue, 20/04/2021 - 03:56

In reply to by Rsb

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Hi Rsb,

Actually, fall (down) is an intransitive verb only, not transitive or ergative (see the Cambridge Dictionary page), so I'm afraid the sentence isn't correct.

But there is another transitive verb, fell, which fits in this sentence. It's transitive only.

  • The woodcutter fells the tree.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team