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stative verbs


Tammo Lotz from Germany writes:

Could you please explain with the help of examples the difference between stative and dynamic verbs?

Moreover, I would be interested in why the sentence 'I am smelling the soup in order to see if it's OK' is possible. Thanks.

Roger Woodham replies: more questions

Stative verbs

Stative verbs describe states or conditions which continue over a period of time, so like, love, hate, want, need, hear and see would all be examples of stative verbs. These verbs are not normally used in the progressive form.

Thus, we would say
'I've always liked tennis'
and NOT 'I've always been liking tennis'.

Dynamic or action verbs describe things that happen within a limited time, things which have a definite beginning and end. Come, bring, buy, get, learn, listen and watch would all be examples of dynamic verbs. These verbs may be used in both progressive and simple forms:

  • I shall be bringing Ben with me when I visit you on Friday, if that's all right.
  • I shall bring Ben with me when I visit you on Friday, if that's all right.
  • I learnt how to scuba dive when I was in Costa Rica.
  • I was learning how to scuba dive when I heard that you were coming.

However, some stative verbs are occasionally used in the progressive form when they describe something with a definite beginning and end - like your soup example, Tammo.

Let us have a look at a few examples of some of the most common stative verbs. In each of these examples, the stative aspect is listed first and the progressive form, to describe something that is temporary, is listed second.


  • My new boyfriend's a doctor and he's extremely nice.
  • There's no point losing your temper. You're being very silly about this. Just calm down!


  • He has sparkling blue eyes and wavy blond hair.
  • Where is that noise coming from? ~ It's our neighbours. They're having a party.


  • Do you think our love affair will last? I have never loved anybody as much as I love Ben.
  • I'm thinking of going to Mauritius for my next holiday.


  • His aftershave smells of orange blossom. Such a heavenly smell!
  • Why are you smelling the cream, Richard? ~ It's three days old. I think it may be off.


  • He was looking at me in a strange way and I saw/knew at once that something was wrong.
  • I'm seeing her tomorrow. Then we'll know whether she wants to work here or not.


  • He said he felt that we weren't suited to one another after all.
  • How are you feeling today? ~ I'm not feeling / I don't feel very well, actually.


  • Melissa tried to comfort me. "He doesn't mean what he says," she said.
  • I've been meaning to ask you this for some time. Is there anyone else?


  • He treated me so badly but I shall never forget him.
  • Oh yes, of course, I was forgetting: Daphne's birthday is on Saturday.

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