Stative or non-action verbs are verbs that describe a state or condition rather than an action. As a state has no real beginning or end, stative verbs are only used with simple and perfect tenses. They cannot be used with continuous tenses.
These are some of the most common verbs that refer to states or conditions, so they are stative verbs.
Possession and size.
Examples: belong, own, have (meaning ‘possess’), possess, weigh, measure.
- Ali owns three cars.
- Ali is owning three cars.
Examples: know, believe agree, think (meaning ‘believe’ or ‘have an opinion’), imagine, understand.
- I know what the answer is.
- I am knowing what the answer is.
Likes and dislikes, feelings and emotions.
Examples: like, love, want, need, wish, prefer, dislike.
- Sam likes vegetables.
- Sam is liking vegetables.
Perception and the senses.
Examples: sound, hear, seem, see*, appear*, look*, taste*, smell*, feel*.
- You sound sad.
- You are sounding sad.
* Although they are usually used as stative verbs, these verbs can also be dynamic when they are used to describe voluntary actions, not perceptions.
Dynamic verbs are verbs which describe an action, change or process that has a beginning and an end. They are the most common type of verb and can be used in all tenses and aspects.
When referring to an action that is or was in progress, we use dynamic verbs with a continuous tense.
- I am eating breakfast now.
However, when referring to habits or things that are always true, we use them with a simple tense.
- I eat breakfast at the same time each day.
Here are some common verbs that refer to actions, not states, so they are dynamic and can be used in both simple and continuous tenses: eat, run, swim, speak, talk, walk, sleep, make, cook, come, go, buy, sit, watch, listen, do, play, say, read, write, stand, bring, take, give, jump, drive, ride, climb, fly, fall, cry, drink, send, kiss, wear, smell*, taste*, feel*, look*.
* These are often stative verbs but they can be used in continuous forms when they are voluntary actions.
Verbs which are both stative and dynamic
Some verbs can be both stative and dynamic. Here are some common examples.
Have, meaning ‘to possess’, describes a state, so it is a stative verb.
- I have two cats.
But when have doesn’t mean ‘to possess’, it describes an action, so it is a dynamic verb.
- They are having a party on Saturday.
- I was having dinner when someone knocked at the door.
The verb be is normally used to describe a state, so it is a stative verb.
- James is a doctor.
But when be means ‘to act or behave’, it describes an action, so it is a dynamic verb.
- He is being very kind to us.
Think, meaning ‘to believe’ or ‘to have an opinion’, describes a state, so it is a stative verb.
- I think it is a good idea.
Think, meaning ‘to use your brain to reflect”, is an action, so it is a dynamic verb
- Sara is thinking about her boyfriend.
Look, meaning ‘to appear’, is a state, so it is a stative verb.
- Tom looks like his sister.
Look, meaning ‘to focus the eyes on something’, is an action, so it is a dynamic verb.
- Peter is looking out the window.
Taste, see, smell, feel
Although they are usually classified as stative, some verbs of the senses (e.g., taste, see, smell, feel) can also be dynamic when they refer to voluntary actions and not perceptions.
- This soup tastes horrible. (=Perception, not voluntary.)
- I am tasting the soup. (=Voluntary action meaning ‘to put food in your mouth to see how it tastes’.)
- I saw a man looking through a window. (=Not voluntary)
- Tom is seeing Katie this afternoon. (Voluntary action meaning ‘to meet or visit someone’)