Stative Verbs, Action Verbs, and Verbs that are Both

Advanced English Grammar Course

Action Verbs

Action verbs (or dynamic verbs) are verbs that describe actions. We can use them in the simple or continuous forms. Here are a few examples of action verbs:

walk

  • Every day I walk home from class.
  • I‘m walking to the store right now.

read

  • read mostly historical fiction.
  • I‘ve been reading a novel that takes place during colonial times.

help

  • My sister helps me with my homework.
  • My father is helping me learn how to drive.

watch

  • Bob watches four hours of TV every night.
  • Last night, he got angry at me because I changed the channel while he was watching his favorite show.

Stative Verbs

Stative verbs (or state verbs) describe a status or quality of something… NOT an action. Verbs of perception, opinion, the senses, emotion, possession, and state of being are often stative verbs.

Here are some examples:

Stative verbs of opinion / perception:

know, believe, understand, recognize, prefer, agree/disagree, approve/disapprove, suppose, suspect

  • I’ve known my best friend since childhood.
  • I‘ve been knowing my best friend since childhood.
  • We agree with you.
  • We‘re agreeing with you.
  • He doesn’t understand the article.
  • He‘s not understanding the article.

Stative verbs of possession:

have, own, belong, possess, include, owe

  • have a bicycle.
  • I‘m having a bicycle.
  • This book belongs to the teacher.
  • This book is belonging to the teacher.
  • Our tour included a visit to the Modern Art Museum.
  • Our tour was including a visit to the Modern Art Museum.

Stative verbs of the senses:

hear, smell, see, feel, appear, seem, resemble

  • hear some music playing.
  • I‘m hearing some music playing.
  • This perfume smells like roses.
  • This perfume is smelling like roses.
  • He seemed upset last night.
  • He was seeming upset last night.

Stative verbs of emotion:

love, hate, like, want, need, desire, wish

  • love ice cream.
  • I‘m loving ice cream.
  • She has always hated jazz.
  • She has always been hating jazz.
  • They need some help.
  • They‘re needing some help.

Stative verbs of states/qualities:

weigh, contain, consist, measure, cost, exist, depend, deserve, involve, matter

  • This piece of meat weighs two pounds.
  • This piece of meat is weighing two pounds.
  • The box contained a pair of earrings.
  • The box was containing a pair of earrings.
  • Success depends on how much effort you make.
  • Success is depending on how much effort you make.
  • This class will involve lots of research.
  • This class will be involving lots of research.

Verbs that can be both dynamic and stative verbs

Some verbs can function as BOTH action verbs and stative verbs!

Here are some examples:

be

  • Stative:
    He is immature. (he is always immature)
  • Action:
    He is being immature. (he is temporarily acting immature)

have

  • Stative: possession
    have a car. He has a dog.
  • Action: expressions with “have”
    I’m having breakfast (eating breakfast).
    He’s having fun (experiencing fun).

see

  • Stative: perception with your eyes; understanding
    see some birds.
    see what you mean.
  • Action: meet; have a relationship with
    I’ll be seeing the doctor tomorrow.
    They’ve been seeing each other for a month.

look

  • Stative: appearance
    That cake looks delicious!
  • Action: directing your eyes to something; phrasal verbs
    He’s looking at the computer screen.
    She’s looking for (= seeking) a job.

    They’re looking after (= taking care of) my dog for the weekend.

smell / taste

  • Stative: the quality of smell or taste possessed by something
    The bar smells of smoke.
    This meat tastes like chicken.
  • Action: when a person uses their nose or mouth to test something
    He’s smelling the cookies.
    She’s tasting the soup to see if it needs more salt.

think / feel

  • Stative: when talking about your opinion
    think that’s a great idea!
    feel that this is not the best use of our time.
  • Action: when using your mind, or experiencing emotions or health issues
    We’re thinking about moving to another city.
    I’ve been feeling unusually tired lately.

weigh / measure

  • Stative: when talking about the quality possessed by something
    The suitcase weighs 20 pounds.
    The surfboard measures 2 meters by 55 centimeters.
  • Action: when a person performs the action of weighing/measuring something
    The butcher is weighing the meat on the scale.
    The architects were measuring the distance between the pillars.

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