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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 none of these sentences is correct. If you look up 'break down' in the dictionary, I think it should become clear, but let us know if you have a more specific question.

Best wishes,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks sir.

Sir, 'he died from the cholera'

Died is an intransitive and stative verb here?

'I love you' here 'love' is transitive and state verb in this sentence right

Could you pls tell me the example in which verb is ergative and stative both in the sentence?

Hello Rsb,

Die is not a stative verb, but it is intransitive. Any good dictionary entry should indicate if a verb is transitive or intransitive.

Love is transitive and stative in your example.

 

I don't know if there is an ergative stative verb. We're happy to provide help with explanations but I don't have a list of all ergative verbs to cross-check against stative verbs.

You can find some more information on ergative verbs here:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/ergative-verbs

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir,
If die is not a stative verb, is it an action verb? If it is then how?

Hello again Rsb,

Die is not a stative verb as it can be used with continuous aspect: He's dying, so you should speak to him soon.

 

Conceptually, dying can be a process rather than a single momentary event.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Ok.
Sir what is 'look' in this context?
You look good- (state)
You look at me -(action)

I read somewhere some verbs can be both state and action verb

Hello Rsb,

Look has more than one meaning. When it is used to describe a person's physical appearance it is a stative verb, as your example shows. When it is used to mean something you do with your eyes it is a dynamic verb.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks sir.

Sir, You are looking good. Is it correct to say??
Can we use state verb in continuous form??

Hello Rsb,

Yes, that is possible. We can use the continuous form here to show that something is temporary rather than generally true. For example, you might say this if a person has dressed in a particular way for a special occasion. You would not use it for a general description of how someone normally looks.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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