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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,

In the phrase 'at work' I would say 'work' describes a place - the place where you work such as an office or a factory.

In the phrase 'I have work' the word describes a thing - the thing you have to do. Depending on the context it might also carry the meaning 'I'm busy' or 'I don't have time'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Pete sir

What is the difference between stative verbs and linking verbs?

Hello Manc,

Stative verbs describe the state of something, as contrasted with dynamic verbs, which describe ations performed by an actor. A state is sometimes defined as something which is unchanging for as long as it lasts, while an action is a process which changes over time.

 

A linking verb connects the subject with a subject complement which describes the subject; this can be a noun or an adjective. Linking verbs may also describe how we gain the information in the description (through senses, belief, feeling etc).

 

It's true that linking verbs are usually stative. However, not all stative verbs are linking verbs.

 

Please note that descriptions of stative verbs are generally lists of features describing how they can and can't be used. Descriptive definitions of this kind are not binary, which is to say that many verbs meet some of the criteria but not others, or meet some criteria in certain contexts but not others. Stative and dynamic are useful categories to a degree, but they are not fixed categories with clear boundaries and should not be treated as such.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

So is mental action verb same as stative verbs?

Hello Manc,

There is some overlap, but they are not the same thing. 'weigh', for example, is a stative verb but doesn't refer to a mental action.

Best wishes,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Can I see you complete.

Is that 'complete' an adverb or adjective above?

I am complete man
Here complete an adjective?

Hi Rsb,

Complete is an adjective or a verb (see the links to the Cambridge Dictionary). The adverb form is completely

I'm afraid I don't really understand what the first sentence means. Does it mean 'see the person's whole body'? If so, if would be more usual to say Can I see all of you?.

I hope that helps!

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Yes the whole body.

Can I see you all- all an adverb
Can I see you full- full an adverb

Can I see you completely, is that correct

Hi Rsb,

Sentence 3 is correct. Sentence 2 has full, which is an adjective, but you could change it to the adverb fully

Sentence 1 is a bit different because you all means 'every person' or 'everybody in a group'.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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