Stative/state verbs: A stative verb is the opposite of a dynamic verb. A stative verb or state verb is a non-action verb. It describes the condition of someone or the state they are in (experiences, feelings, senses or thoughts) that tends to be permanent or lasting for an indefinite time period. It does not refer to action, activity or event. A dynamic verb describes an action or something that takes place for a length of time.
Most stative verbs are used in the simple present tense or simple past tense and are not used in the continuous tenses that end in -ing. A dynamic verb can show a continuous or progressive action performed by the subject. Stative verbs can sometimes be in the continuous form when they are used to describe things that happen for a short period, but they cannot be used in the continuous form.
Some examples of stative verbs are appear, be, believe, hate, know, like, love, need, own, remember, seem, understand and want. (See List for more of the verb and example sentences.)
Examples of stative verb
- He agrees with everything she says.
- The child appeared brave when he chased a rabbit.
- She believed she won the argument.
- This thing belongs to me.
- You fear darkness but not ghosts?
- You never do what you promise.
- We recognize the odour and know where it’s coming from.
- We smelled the aroma of fresh baking when we passed by that bakery.
- The baby elephant weighs 150 kilos.
Differences between stative verb and dynamic verb
A stative verb is different from a dynamic verb. The subject in a sentence takes a dynamic verb to show a continued or progressive action, which is the opposite of a stative verb.
- I see from your look that you do not like me a bit (Stative verb see = understand, realize).
- I am seeing your mother about your breaking my windows (Dynamic verb seeing = meeting).
- I think that soup of hers was like fruit juice. (Stative verb think is used to express an opinion.)
- I’m thinking about the world getting more polluted by the day. (Dynamic verb thinking is used to consider something.)
Differences between stative verb and action verb
The differences between these two classes of verbs are: a stative verb describes a state that has no beginning or end and continues over a period which can be a long one. An action verb describes an activity that continues for a limited amount of time, and has a beginning and end.
- I like flying my kite.
(The verb like is a stative verb. It indicates a state of feeling that lasts a long time or even a lifetime.)
- I am flying my kite.
(The verb phrase am flying is an action verb. It shows an action that does not last long but for a period only, such as: I stop flying my kite when it rains or when it gets dark.)
Differences between stative verb and linking verb
Stative verbs are not the same as linking verbs. Some linking verbs are stative but not all.
- You sound tired (stative verb and a linking verb).
- She hates my cooking. (stative verb but not a linking verb).
- She is feeling dizzy after the rollercoaster ride. (linking verb but not a stative verb).
- This can of soft drink tastes salty (A stative verb and a linking verb).
- I know Carol, the executioner’s wife (A stative verb, not a linking verb).
- Your kittens are getting fatter (A linking verb, not a stative verb).
Stative verb not used in continuous tense
The stative verb is not normally used in the continuous tense.
- The two neighbours hate the sight of each other.
Not: The two neighbors are hating the sight of each other.
- She believes in animal ghosts.
Not: She is believing in animal ghosts.
- We like the beautiful scenery but dislike the local people staring at us.
Not: We are liking the beausitufl scenery but are disliking the local people staring at us.
- She loves him madly and will do anything for him.
Not: She is loving him madly and will do anything for him.
Stative verb used in continuous tense
Stative verbs, however, may be used in the continuous tense provided they refer to feelings that last briefly.
- We are liking what we are doing.
- I am regretting now what I did yesterday.
- We are wishing the rain stops suddenly.
- As usual, he is being provocative.
State verb and action verb
Some verbs can be both state verbs and action verbs. When used in the continuous tense, a stative verb describes an action as shown in the following examples.
- She is grumpy. (Stative verb is used to show her usual way of behaving.)
- She is being grumpy. (Stative verb used in the continuous tense means differently. It shows her to be grumpy only now, not usually.)
- I see you are very happy with your new glasses. (Stative)
- The doctor is not seeing any more patients. (Action)
- We have two dogs, one cat, and a goldfish. (Stative)
- What are we having for dinner tonight? (Action)
- She thinks you are getting the wrong idea about her. (State)
- I am thinking of quitting smoking. (Action)
- She looks gorgeous in this new dress. (State)
- She is looking at a dress that is on sale. (Action)
(For more on state verbs, see List 4 - Verbs: Different Verb Types. / State verbs)