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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

Language level

Intermediate: B1

Comments

Hello Rsb,

I'm afraid I don't understand your question. 'happen' is a verb and 'happening' can be the present participle of the verb or a gerund of the verb.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Rsb,

To be honest, I'm not familiar with the term 'happening verb', but I guess it means a type of verb that shows an action without somebody doing the action, e.g. My watch stopped (in comparison with I stopped the watch, which doesn't have the 'happening' meaning because I did the action).

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan sir,
U exactly understood my question what I want to ask from you.

Sir I get confused with the happening verb and action verb?
Like u said my watch stopped here there is something happening with my watch.

I am getting angry/mad- there is also something happening but it's not an action ?

Hi Rsb,

I think I am getting angry would normally represent a happening. A happening is something that does not have any agent performing it. There may be circumstances that cause it, but it is not controlled or decided by anybody (i.e. it is independent of a person's volition).

If we understand I am getting angry as an action, that means I am choosing to react in that way. It is possible, but normally emotions arise spontaneously and outside a person's conscious control.

As I mentioned, I'm not very familiar with the term 'happening verb' and I don't know of any rules here, as it depends on the fundamental meaning(s) of each verb phrase. But this might be one useful way to differentiate them, especially for human actions - actions are often voluntarily done, while volition is not relevant to happenings.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

Firstly, is it right to say that stative verbs are also referred to as non-continuous verbs?

Secondly, is it also right to say that stative verbs are used with the simple present tense to talk about a situation which is happening right now (i.e. at the moment of speaking)? For instance, with the linking verb "be", which is a stative verb, I can say "I am a man" or "I am skinny", where these examples all mean that right now in the present moment, "I" equals (=) "man", or "I" = "skinny"? Another examples maybe "I need help" where the stative verb "need" in the simple present tense form, means that right now in the present moment, I am in a state where I require help?

May I know if my understanding of the above two points is correct? Thanks!

Regards,
Tim

Hello Timothy555,

What you explain in your second paragraph sounds mostly right to me, though I'm not sure I'd describe a link verb as a kind of stative verb. As for your first point, stative verbs are not generally used in continuous forms, but there are many exceptions to this.

Please note that we aren't able to provide the level of support needed to go into any more detail than this or other finer points of English grammar. This is mostly because our primary focus is on supporting our users in their efforts to learn to use English in general, but it's also sometimes true that there's more than one theory about particular grammar points. For that sort of enquiry, I'd suggest the English Language & Usage Stack Exchange or, even better, an appropriate linguistics course.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Where can I get answers of the grammar tests

Hello Nikbud,

After you enter your answers to the questions, click 'Finish'. You'll then have the option to click 'Show answers'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir,
I m getting very confused about action verb.

The eggs are boiling.
The chicken is cooking.

Sir,
I am at work- what is 'work' in this context noun? Is it common noun representing a place?

I have work- what is 'work' in this context ? If it is noun then what kind

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