Stative Verbs

by Craig Shrives

What Are Stative Verbs? (with Examples)

Stative verbs describe states. They do not describe actions. For example:
  • I am late.
  • (Here, "am" is a stative verb. It describes a state.)
  • I caught a fish.
  • ("Caught" is not a stative verb. It describes an action. It is an action verb.)
  • John knows where the treasure is hidden.
  • (Here, "knows" is a stative verb. "Is" is also a stative verb. They both describe states.)
  • John found the treasure.
  • ("Found" is not a stative verb. It describes an action. It is an action verb.)

Another Definition...

"Stative verbs describe a mental status or how something is or seems."

More Examples of Stative Verbs

Stative verbs usually fit into one of the following categories:

Thoughts:

  • Sarah agrees with you.
  • I believe that karma is real.
  • Time and health are two precious assets that we don't recognize and appreciate until they have been depleted. (Author Denis Waitley)
  • ("Are" in this sentence is also a stative verb.)
Here are another five common stative verbs related to thoughts: "imagine," "know," "remember," "think," and "understand."

Feelings:

  • Lee loves pies.
  • Mark and Craig prefer cakes.
  • I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best. (British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli)
  • ("Am" in this sentence is also a stative verb.)
Here are another five common stative verbs related to feelings: "hate," "like," "value," "want," and "wish."

Senses:

  • I feel sick.
  • All seems well.
Here are another five common stative verbs related to senses: "appear," "look," "see," "smell," and "taste."

Possession:

  • That dog belongs to me.
  • Ask the farmer who owns the field.
  • Science fiction is a kind of literature that embodies the highest aspirations of the human race. (Author Harlan Ellison)
  • ("Is" in this sentence is also a stative verb.)
Here are another five common stative verbs related to possession: "consist," "comprise", "have," "include", and "possess."

Measurements:

  • This statue weighs a lot.
  • Your feet reach the end of the bed.
  • The problem spans two decades.
  • The marrow measures six inches.
what are stative verbs?

Some Verbs Can Be Stative Verbs or Action Verbs

Remember that stative verbs are not action verbs. With a stative verb, there is no activity happening. This is a key point when identifying stative verbs because some of the verbs listed as stative verbs can be action verbs depending on the context. For example:
  • The soup tastes lovely.
  • (Here, "tastes" is a stative verb related to sense.)
  • The chef tastes the soup.
  • (In this example, "tastes" is not a stative verb. It describes an action. It is an action verb.)
  • The room measures 400 square feet.
  • (Here, "measures" is a stative verb related to measurements.)
  • He measures the room with a laser range-finder.
  • (In this example, "measures" is not a stative verb. It describes an action. It is an action verb.)

The Difference between Stative Verbs and Action Verbs

The difference between a stative verb and an action verb can be subtle. Look at these examples:
  • John thinks it's true.
  • (Here, "thinks" is a stative verb. It relates to opinion. There is no action involved.)
  • John thinks about you often.
  • (This time, there is activity involved. It is not just opinion. So, "thinks" is an action verb, not a stative one.)
Here is another example:
  • Mark has an issue.
  • (Here, "has" is a stative verb. It relates to possession. There is no action involved.)
  • Mark is having an issue with the new regulations.
  • (In this example, there is activity. "To have an issue with" means "to struggle with." Therefore, "is having" is an action verb.)
The trick is to identify whether there is any activity:
  • I hear your view, and it feels right to me.
  • (These are both stative verbs. Remember that stative verbs describe a mental status or how something is or seems. In this example, "hear" means "understand.")
  • People hear your words, but they feel your attitude. (Author John C. Maxwell)
  • (These are not stative verbs because there is activity.)
If you're learning or teaching English to an advanced level, then you must understand the difference between action verbs and stative verbs.

Stative verbs are not generally used in a tense with a progressive aspect (e.g., the past progressive tense, the present progressive tense, or the future progressive tense). In other words, stative verbs are not converted to present participles (the "ing" verb form) to create verb tenses. For example:
  • I remembered where I left the keys.
  • I was remembering where I left the keys.
  • (Stative verbs are not used in the past progressive tense.)
  • That dog belongs to me.
  • That dog is belonging to me.
  • (Stative verbs are not used in the present progressive tense.)
  • All will appear normal.
  • All will be appearing normal.
  • (Stative verbs are not used in the future progressive tense.)
If a stative verb is used in a progressive tense, native English speakers will treat it as an action verb, not a stative verb. For example:
  • I was remembering where I left the keys.
  • (Even though this example is marked wrong above, it could be correct. Native English speakers would assume that the speaker was in the act of remembering. In other words, they would treat it as an action verb not a stative one.)

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See Also

What are verbs? What are verbals? What are participles?

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