Friday, 19 July 2013

How to Use Stative Verbs

Here is a quick reminder:

Dynamic = moving or changing.

Dynamic verbs are verbs that describe an action, not a state.

For example:
Take, break, eat, jump, work, find, buy, dance, fish.

Stative = having a state, or existing.

Stative verbs are verbs that describe a state, not an action.

For example:
Have, love, agree, be, want, hate, know, own, cost, sound, prefer, seem, hear.

Note that stative verbs usually describe:
Relationships between things or people (for example, "have")
Emotions or states of mind (for example, "love" and "agree") 
Appearance and senses (for example, "seem" and "hear")
Measurements (for example, "weigh")

Using stative verbs

Stative verbs are not usually used in
the progressive tenses.

Correct: I love you.
Incorrect: I'm loving you.

Correct: Do you agree?
Incorrect: Are you agreeing?

Correct: He doesn't deserve to win.
Incorrect: He isn't deserving to win.

Correct: She hated the winter.
Incorrect: She was hating the winter.

Correct: Did you hear that noise?
Incorrect: Were you hearing that noise?

Correct: The trip didn't include a visit to the beach.
Incorrect: The trip wasn't including a visit to the beach.

Correct: They will remember us.
Incorrect: They will be remembering us.

Correct: Will it surprise you?
Incorrect: Will it be surprising you?

Correct: This will probably weigh a lot.
Incorrect: This will probably be weighing a lot.

As you must know, words usually have more than a single meaning. 
Likewise, some verbs have both stative and dynamic meanings.

For example, the verb "have" is such a verb. 

It has many different meanings (you can learn about them in the English Helping Verbs Course). One of these meanings is "to own." This is a stative meaning, since it describes a state, and not an actual action.

"I have two cats."
"You have a new laptop."
"We have too many problems."

Another meaning of the verb "have" is "to drink, eat, or smoke something."

"They had a drink at the bar."
"We have lunch every day at noon."
"I will have a cigarette or two."

I think you can agree with me that this meaning is fully dynamic. 
Drinking, eating and smoking are definitely actions and not states.

So in such a case, "have" can be used in the progressive tenses, too.

Correct: We never have breakfast. (dynamic meaning)
Correct: We are having lunch right now. (dynamic meaning)
Correct: We have a house. (stative meaning)
Incorrect: We are having a house. (stative meaning)

Correct: Jenifer tastes wine for a living. (dynamic meaning)
Correct: Jenifer is tasting some wine right now. (dynamic meaning)
Correct: This wine tastes awful. (stative meaning)
Incorrect: This wine is tasting awful. (stative meaning)

Correct: I always think too much. (dynamic meaning)
Correct: I am thinking about your offer. (dynamic meaning)
Correct: I think you are right. (stative meaning)
Incorrect: I am thinking you are right. (stative meaning)

Here are some verbs with both dynamic and stative meanings:
Be, have, see, smell, taste, think, expect, feel.

Example sentences (stative and then dynamic):
He is (has the identity of) a boy /
He is being (behaving) naughty.

I can see (notice with eyes) you now /
am seeing (dating) a doctor.

He can't smell (notice the smell) from birth /
Your puppy is always smelling (trying to get the smell of) me.

This cake tastes (has a taste) great /
We are just tasting (checking the taste of) the cake.

They think (have opinion) this is wrong /
They are thinking (considering) what to do.

I don't expect (think it will happen) a raise /
We were not expecting (waiting for) any guests.

She feels (has a feeling) depressed /
She is feeling (touching) the texture of the fabric.

For more info and a set of online exercises, visit Dynamic Verbs and Stative Verbs - Examples and Exercises.

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