Stative and Action Verbs

What is the difference between stative and action verbs? Well, the answer is simple. Stative verbs describe a state and action verbs describe an action. They are also known as state and dynamic verbs.

For example:

  • Mary likes ice cream. 
  • The book belongs to Peter.

The verbs like and belong describe a state rather than an action.

Let’s look at some action verbs:

  • Simon is reading a book.
  • Sara always cycles to school.

The verbs read and cycle are action verbs because they refer to an action rather than a state.

What is the difference between them? Action verbs can be used in all tenses while stative verbs cannot be used in continuous tenses.

For example:

  • We usually cycle to work.
  • We are cycling to work now. 

Cycle is an action verb, so we can use it in both Present Simple and Present Continuous.

But stative verb want cannot be used in continuous forms.

  • Tim wanted to buy a bicycle.
  • Tom was wanting to buy a bicycle when we were in town.  (we cannot use the verb want in continuous form because it is a stative verb.)

Let’s look at some stative verbs:

Verbs of feelings and emotions

Love, like, hate, prefer, adore, need, want, wish, etc.

For example:

  • We need coffee (not we are needing coffee)
  • Simon loves his new trainers. 
  • Clare adored her daughter.
  • She’s never felt so happy.
  • I’ve always wanted to travel.
  • Peter wished he exercised more when he was younger.

Verbs of thoughts and opinions

know, understand, believe, agree, recognise, suppose, doubt, mean, remember, etc.

For example:

  • Thomas understood clearly what his mother told him.
  • I’ve known him ever since high school.
  • No one believed us when we told them that we saw aliens.
  • I’m afraid I don’t agree (disagree) with you.
  • I recognized her immediately although I hadn’t seen her for a long time.
  • Do you suppose that they will hire him?

Verbs of possession

Have, possess, own, belong, etc.

  • I’ve had this car for ten years now.
  • He was arrested because he possessed a gun.
  • Mark owns a small Italian restaurant.
  • These plates belong in that cupboard over there.

Verbs of senses 

See, hear, smell, taste, feel, look, seem, sense, etc.

  • I saw a great film last night.
  • Have you heard what happened to Rebecca?
  • The soup smells delicious.
  • The salad tastes too salty and sour.
  • You look great in that dress.
  • Brian seemed younger than he really was.

Verbs that are both stative and action verbs

Some verbs can be both stative and action verbs, depending on the context they are in. These verbs are: be, have, see, taste, smell, look, think, feel, weigh, fit, appear, etc.

BeAdam is always so polite. (it happens all the time)You are being so selfish all day! (it is happening today)
HaveThe Taylors have a big house. (it is about possession)I can’t talk to you now, I‘m having breakfast. (it is happening now)
SeeI see them coming down the road! (state)The children are seeing the dentist tomorrow morning. (action)
TasteThe dish tastes bitter and sour. The cook was tasting the soup when we came. 
SmellHe always smells of cigarettes and alcohol.Brenda was smelling the roses. 
HearI‘ve heard that you got married. Is it true?Oh, it’s you. I thought I was hearing things.
LookShe doesn’t look her age.I‘m looking for my car keys all day. Have you seen them?
AppearNew variants of the virus appear periodically.
They will be appearing in court on Monday.
ThinkI don’t think I’ve seen that film before.They are thinking about moving house to Canada.
FeelHow do you feel about going on holiday to Greece?Norman is still feeling weak after the flu.
WeighSandra weighs ten kilos less than last year.I’m weighing the ingredients for the cake.
FitThis telephone fits into the palm of your hand.They are fitting the carpets in all bedrooms this weekend.
Stative and Action Verbs

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