What Are Stative Verbs? List And Examples

People have a lot of different opinions. Some people think warm weather is the best while others prefer colder weather. Some of your friends may believe comedies are the best movies and others may feel that horror movies reign supreme. And as horrible as it may sound, some people like putting milk in a bowl before cereal. Yikes!

Well, everybody’s free to have an opinion and to use verbs to express them. As you may know, a verb is a word that we use to describe actions and states of being. We use several different types of verbs in our sentences, but there is one particular type of verb that is especially handy to refer to states of being or conditions. This type of verb is called the stative verb.

What is a stative verb?

A verb is considered to be a stative verb if it is expressing a state or condition rather than an action. For example, the sentence Scott likes pepperoni pizza uses the stative verb likes to describe Scott’s opinion of food rather than state an action that he performed. As another example, the sentence Hydrogen usually exists as a gas uses the stative verb exists to describe a state that hydrogen usually is in as it takes up space in reality.

Stative verbs are often differentiated from two other types of verbs: action verbs and linking verbs.

Action verbs, as their name suggests, are used to describe physical and mental actions. For example, the sentence Miki bought a new car uses the action verb bought to describe a physical action that Miki did. Likewise, the sentence The children dreamed of a snowy Christmas uses the action verb dreamed to express a mental action that the children did.

📝Grammar note: Grammatically, the main difference between stative verbs and action verbs is that we are much less likely to use stative verbs in the continuous verb tenses, which are formed with the verb be and the -ing form of the verb. What does that mean? Well, for one thing, you are much more likely to hear someone say I am reading a book (read is an action verb) than I am having two dogs (have is a stative verb). Because stative verbs refer to states of being, it would be unusual to describe them as being “in progress” by using, as in our examples here, the present continuous verb tense.

Many verbs have multiple meanings, which means it is possible for a verb to be used as either a stative verb or an action verb depending on the meaning of a sentence. Look at the following two sentences:

 

  • The committee considered my proposal.
  • Edward considers hot dogs to be sandwiches.

In the first sentence, the verb considered is an action verb because it refers to an action that the committee did: they thought about my proposal. In the second sentence, though, the verb considers is a stative verb because it is expressing Edward’s beliefs rather than describing an action that he did.

One last important thing to know is that, although it may sound strange, inanimate objects and concepts can also be described with action verbs. For example, the verb ended is an action verb in the sentence The book ended after 400 pages of exciting tales. Although a book can’t physically perform any actions, the verb ended still refers to a thing that the book did.

Need a refresher on different kinds of nouns? Start with this review of concrete vs. abstract nouns.

Often, stative verbs are used similarly to linking verbs as they are both used to provide more information about a subject’s state of being. Some verbs, such as the verb be, can even be used as either a stative verb, a linking verb, or both. However, there are some differences in how we use the two types of verbs.

Firstly, stative verbs can be transitive verbs (can be used with a direct object) while linking verbs do not use a direct object. For example, the sentence Natalie loves Penelope uses a transitive stative verb while the sentence Albert is a professional boxer uses an intransitive linking verb. Secondly, we often use adverbs with stative verbs while we typically do not use adverbs with linking verbs nearly as often. For example, you are likely to hear the sentence We really want candy but are less likely to hear the sentence She really is busy. 

There is a lot of overlap in how we use stative verbs and linking verbs. Generally speaking, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that most linking verbs are also stative verbs. However, not all stative verbs are linking verbs.

List of stative verbs

For the most part, we use stative verbs to express abstract concepts. Listed below are just some of the different reasons why we use stative verbs:

 

  • Opinions and beliefs: believe, know, think, support, disagree
  • Emotions: like, love, hate, need, want, wish, desire, fear
  • The senses: look, see, appear, taste, sound, hear, feel, seem, smell
  • Possession: have, own, possess, belong, control
  • Condition: weigh, lack, involve, resemble, include

Stative verb examples

The following sentences use a variety of stative verbs. Remember, stative verbs describe states of being or conditions rather than actions. Look at each sentence and consider what each stative verb actually means.

 

  • Miranda wants a new puppy.
  • They think baseball is a really boring sport.
  • The entire town supports the new tax law.
  • Judging by her reaction, I don’t think she liked how the soup tasted.
  • He has a summer home in the Bahamas.
  • The huge tornado is in Texas right now.
  • The mechanic said that the truck needs more oil.

Stative verb rules & best practices

As we’ve noted, what sets apart stative verbs from action verbs is that they are much less likely to be used in continuous verb tenses. Aside from that, stative verbs follow other general rules of verbs. For example, stative verbs can be used in the active or passive voice and can be used in all 12 of the verb tenses. Stative verbs follow the rules of verb moods such as using were instead of was in the subjunctive mood. Note the following sentence:

 

  • It is imperative that she know the rules. (This is a stative verb in the subjunctive mood.)

Check out this case study on the subjunctive mood that looks at whether to use “wish I were” or “wish I was.”

Different types of verbs can also be stative verbs: both regular and irregular verbs can be stative verbs, for example. Stative verbs can also be either transitive or intransitive verbs.

Let’s put your knowledge of stative verbs to the test. Read each of the following sentences and see if you can determine why each bolded verb is or is not a stative verb. Check your answers below!

 

  1. Henry likes chocolate ice cream.
  2. Leslie practices jujitsu.
  3. Josh thinks fishing is a fun pastime.
  4. We are thinking of new dance moves.
  5. The United States owns a lot of military bases.
  6. Larry owes me a lot of money.
  7. The rickety bridge looks dangerous.
  8. I waited under the tree until the rain stopped.
  9. Felicia stood next to the stage while she watched the concert.

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Answers: 1. Stative verb 2. Action verb 3. Stative verb 4. Action verb, the verb refers to a mental action. Because it is an action verb, a continuous verb tense is not seen as unusual. 5. Stative verb 6. Stative verb 7. Stative verb, also a linking verb 8. Action verb 9. Action verb

They may seem simple, but action verbs have a lot more variety than you think. Learn about them here.