Stative verbs

(Using stative verbs in English grammar)

Table of contents – state verbs

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Use of stative verbs
  2. Stative verbs in the ing-form
  3. ing-form as a different part of speech
  4. Further explanations and exercises

What are stative verbs and how are they used in English?

English grammar differentiates between stative verbs (also called state verbs), inchoative verbs, and dynamic verbs (also action verbs). This difference becomes particularly apparent with the continuous tenses (progressive forms) because many state verbs cannot appear in these due to their static nature. In spite of that, the majority of English verbs consists of inchoative and dynamic verbs and can be used in continuous tenses accordingly.

Information: As an English learner, it may be difficult to distinguish between these two types of verbs. For this reason, it is advisable to learn the list of stative verbs to avoid incorrect use; for many of them, the feeling may already tell you that an ing-form would be wrong.

  1. Some of the state verbs are:
    • to be, feel, like, know, hate, love, remember, agree, need, etc.
  2. Example sentence with ‘to hate’:
    • “I’m hating fast food.”
      • This version is not appropriate.
    • “I hate fast food.”
      • This sentence is the grammatically correct one.
  3. Example sentence with ‘to know’:
    • Are you knowing more about that company?”
      • Incorrect; this would be a very unusual statement.
    • Do you know more about that company?”
      • This sentence is correct.

Note: Although state verbs cannot typically stand in continuous tenses, they can very well appear as a gerund:

  • “We are looking forward to seeing you.”
    • Therefore, this sentence is entirely correct.

Can stative verbs also be used in the ing-form?

Furthermore, a typical source of error is the particularity that some of the stative verbs can also be utilised as action or dynamic verbs in the ing-form. However, if such a progressive use happens, the verbs change their meaning. Some examples are:

  • see:
    • “I see what you’re saying.”
      • Incorrect: “I’m seeing what you’re saying.”
    • “I’m seeing the lawyer at four o’clock.”
      • correct
  • think:
    • “I think that it’s a good idea.”
      • Incorrect: “I’m thinking that it’s a good idea.”
    • “I’m thinking about the job offer I have received.”
      • correct
  • have:
    • “We have a house and two cars.”
      • Incorrect: “We’re having a house and two cars.”
    • “We’re having dinner at the moment.”
      • correct
  • feel:
    • “I feel it might be a good idea to tell them the truth.”
      • Incorrect: “I’m feeling it might be a good idea to tell them the truth.”
    • “I’m feeling fine today. What about you?”
      • correct

Information: It is also necessary to know that in colloquial language – contrary to grammatical rules – one may also hear typical state verbs in progressive form. Examples:

  • “I’ve been wanting to do that for quite a while.”
    • This utterance is grammatically false, but still relatively common in spoken language.
  • “I’ve been trying to tell him, but he’s not understanding me.”
    • The verb ‘to understand’ refers to a currently occurring situation for emphasis.

Use of state verbs in ing-forms as different parts of speech

In addition to being used as a verb, ing-forms can also function as other parts of speech, such as nouns or adjectives. Note that if this is the case, state verbs can also appear in ing-forms. Compare:

  1. On the one hand, state verbs with ing-forms can occur as nouns:
    • “I’m sorry; I didn’t want to offend your feelings.”
    • “I appreciate your understanding.”
  2. On the other hand, they can also be adjectives:
    • “This looks promising.”
    • “She is a caring mother.”

Further explanations related to the ‘Stative verbs’

The following explanations are related to the topic ‘Using stative verbs (state verbs) in English’ and could be interesting as well: