Stative Verbs - by Viv Quarry


There are a group of verbs in English, which usually refer to a STATE (a situation which isn't in a process of change). These verbs are either unusual in the continuous form, or when used in the continuous the meaning of the verb is different.

  • 1. Verbs of the MIND and THINKING.
  • agree, assume*, believe, consider*, doubt, expect**,know, realise, remember, suppose*, think**, understand

  • 2. Verbs of EMOTION.

    care, detest, dislike, enjoy*, envy, hate, hope*, like, love, prefer, want, wish,

    3. Verbs of POSSESSION and STATE.

    appear*, belong, consist, contain, cost*, depend, have**, mean, need, own, seem, weigh*

    4. Verbs of the SENSES.

    feel**, hear**, see**, smell**, taste**

  • * These verbs can sometimes be used in the continuous, but they refer to the ACTION in progress at that moment. Eg. We are assuming he will come to the meeting. (Means that at this moment we think he will come to the meeting, but it is probably not correct).


    When 'think' is used for your opinion it is a stative verb.

    Eg. I don't think it's going to rain.

    When 'think' refers to the mental process it is a normal verb.

    Eg. You are very serious! What are you thinking about?

    Think can also be used to talk about future plans.

    Eg. We're thinking of going to Brazil for our holidays, this year.


    When 'expect' is used to mean 'suppose', it is a stative verb.

    Eg. I expect you'd like something to drink.

    'Expect can also be used to mean 'to be pregnant'.

    Eg. Have you heard that Susan's expecting a baby?


    When 'have' is used to mean 'to possess sth.' it is a stative verb.

    Eg. He has (got) three children.

    Have + noun can also be used for an activity in progress.

    Eg. We're having a lovely time in Greece, the weather's lovely.

    **SEE & HEAR

    'See' and 'hear' are stative verbs when used to refer to what your eyes or ears register.

    Eg. I can't see what is happening because there's someone standing in front of me.

    If you WANT to see something, then WATCH is used for sth. in motion, and LOOK AT is used for sth. static. If you WANT to hear sth. then LISTEN TO is used.

    Eg. Look at that man over there! What's he doing? He's watching a football match on TV.

    Eg. Where's John? He's in his bedroom listening to his heavy metal CD's.

    'See' can also mean the same as 'meet' and is a normal verb.

    Eg. I can't come to the meeting because I'm seeing a client at 3 o'clock.


    These verbs can refer to the senses and are stative verbs which combine with CAN

    Eg. Have you left the oven on? I can smell something burning!

    Can you taste the herbs I've put in this soup?

    When referring to the activity, they are normal verbs and can be used in the continuous.

    Eg. She's tasting the soup to see if it needs any more pepper.

    Why are you smelling the meat? Do you think it's gone off?


    When 'feel' is used for the sense, it is stative and it is used with CAN.

    Eg. It was so cold that I couldn't feel my toes.

    'Feel' can refer to your opinion, in which case it is a stative verb.

    Eg. How do you feel about the new project? I don't feel very happy about it.

    'Feel' can refer to a person's health and is used as a normal verb.

    Eg. How are you feeling today? I'm not feeling very well.

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