Stative Verbs

Stative, or non action verbs do not express action.  They express a state or condition, and usually only occur in the Present Simple.  When they do occur in the Present Progressive, there is often a difference in meaning.

Some common stative verbs are:

Attitudes and Emotions

  • love, like, hate, dislike, fear
  • want, need, prefer, appreciate
  • doubt, wish, care, mind, promise, deny, concern

Belief and Knowledge

  • believe, know, think, feel (= opinion), hope, doubt, imagine
  • mean, understand, realize, suppose, guess
  • remember, forget, agree, disagree

Descriptions and measurements

  • be, appear, look (= seem), look like, seem, resemble
  • sound, sound like
  • weigh (have weight), measure (have length), cost
  • fit, contain

Possession and Relationships

  • have, own, possess
  • owe, belong, depend on
  • include, contain, consist of

Senses

  • see, hear, smell, taste, feel
  • ache, hurt, burn, itch, sting

✔ He owes me money.      ✘ He’s owing me money.

✔ They seem happy.         ✘ They are seeming happy.

✔ I forget his name.           ✘ I’m forgetting his name.

✔ She knows the answer.  ✘ She is knowing the answer.

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Some verbs can be both stative and active, with a difference in meaning.

Present Simple (stative)                                                     Present Progressive (active)

I think this is delicious (belief)                 We’re thinking about moving (mental activity)

It weighs a lot (measurement)                   I’m weighing it on the scale (physical activity)

She has six cats (possession)                                        She’s having a bad time (experience)

He has a nice house (possession)                        He’s having lunch with Jennifer (eating)

This soup tastes great (it has a certain flavour)       The chef is tasting the soup (action)

I smell something gross (it has a certain smell)           I’m smelling each flower (action)

I see him (he’s over there)                                    I’m seeing him (I’m dating / meeting him)

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The “be” verb is usually stative, but when it’s used in the continuous it suggests temporary, or atypical behaviour.

Present Simple (stative)                                                     Present Progressive (active)

My kids are good. (they’re always good)  My kids are being good! (usually they are bad)

You are stupid (it’s part of your personality)                      You are being stupid (only now)

He wears nice clothes (all the time)                       He’s wearing nice clothes (only today)

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