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Session 2

I love London

State verbs are important for describing attitudes, thoughts, senses and belonging. Learn how to use them in this session, and listen to some people talking about life in London.

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Activity 3

6 Minute Grammar

State verbs

Is it ever ok to say ‘I’m loving your work’? If you’re still unsure about the difference between state verbs and action verbs, listen on. In the next 6 minutes, Catherine and Neil explain the right way to use these verbs.


Can you hear the right way to say ‘Are you belonging to the football club?'

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Catherine
Hello and welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me Catherine.

Neil
And me, Neil. Hello.

Catherine
In this programme we're talking about state verbs. We'll explain what they are...

Neil
We'll show you how to use them...

Catherine
We'll give you lots of examples...

Neil
And we'll finish with a quiz to see what you've learnt.

Catherine
So let's get started. We can separate English verbs into two groups: state verbs and action verbs. Most verbs are action verbs...

Neil
And of course action verbs describe actions, so verbs like go, kick, watch, rain are all action verbs. And we can use them in any tense we want - past, present, future, perfect, passive, continuous, the lot.

Catherine
Yes but state verbs are different - because we don't usually use them in the continuous tenses.

Neil
That's right. We don't use state verbs in tenses that use the i-n-g form, such as the present continuous and the past continuous.

Catherine
Right, now, you're probably asking: what kind of verbs are state verbs? Well, there are three main types. The first type is verbs that describe feelings and attitudes such as love, hate, like and prefer.  Here's Harry with an example.

Harry
What's this music? I like it.

Catherine
Thanks Harry. In that example, Harry is talking about his feelings now, but he doesn't say I'm liking it.

Neil
No, I'm liking is the present continuous tense and with state verbs that's usually wrong. We'll say a bit more about this later on, but the general rule is: use the present simple for verbs of feelings like love, like and hate.

Catherine
Now for the second type of state verb: that's verbs of thinking.

Neil
So verbs like think, know, believe, understand, remember. Here are some examples.

Harry
I believe Andrew's living in Dubai now. Do you remember if he's married?

Catherine
Good. In this example, Harry's using the present simple tense with the verbs believe and remember. You can't use them in the continuous.

Neil
And the third group of state verbs are verbs that describe senses. Verbs like see, smell, taste, hear and sound. Another example, please Harry.

Harry
What are you eating? It smells delicious!

Catherine
So Harry says it smells delicious and not it's smelling delicious.

Neil
Exactly. That would be wrong because smell is a state verb.

Catherine
It is. And as well as these three main types, there are some other common state verbs, for example: have, own, belong...

Neil
...want, need, mean...

Catherine
...cost, seem, appear and wish.

Neil
Well, that's quite a lot of verbs to remember. But one way to decide if a verb is a state verb is to ask yourself: does it describe an action?

Catherine
Good tip. And if the answer is "no it doesn't", then it's probably a state verb.

IDENT
6 Minute Grammar from bbclearningenglish.com.

Catherine   
And we're looking at state verbs. OK so far? Good. Now: couple of points to make.

Neil
Yes. A few verbs can have two meanings. In one meaning, they are an action verb, so you can use them in the present continuous.

Catherine   
But in the other meaning, they are state verbs, so you can't use a continuous tense. Some examples please Harry: 

Harry
Mick looks like his sister.

Catherine
And:

Harry
Mick's looking at his sister.

Neil
Thanks. So, in the first example, Mick looks like his sister, looks is a state verb. We're talking about Mick's appearance, not his actions.

Catherine
But in the second example, Mick's looking at his sister, Mick's doing something. So, in this sentence, look is an action verb.

Neil             
Another verb with two meanings like this is have, for example: I have a cat but I'm having a bath.

Catherine
And think. Listen. I think you're right - but - I'm thinking of going to Spain. And all the sense verbs can have two meanings too. Another example, Harry?

Harry
Can you see that man?

Catherine
And:

Harry
I'm seeing the doctor.

Neil             
Right. Now, do you remember that we said it's wrong to say I'm liking it because it's the present continuous? Well, you might hear this sometimes in very informal spoken English. Or you might hear I'm hating this movie or I'm loving your work. But only in very informal conversations.

Catherine
Thanks for that Neil, I'm loving your explanations... And now it's quiz time! Are these sentences correct or wrong? Number one: Do you prefer jazz or rock music?

Neil
And that is correct. Prefer is a state verb so we use the present simple tense: Do you prefer...?

Catherine
Well done! Number two: Are you belonging to the football club?

Neil
That's not correct. Belong is a state verb. We have to say Do you belong...? Not: Are you belonging...?

Catherine
Right again! Number three: I'm having lunch with Kate today.

Neil
And that is correct. Have is an action verb here, so it's fine to use the present continuous tense. In this sentence, I'm having means I'm eating.

Catherine
Well done if got them all right. There's more about this on our website at bbclearningenglish.com. Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar.

Both           
Bye.

Did you hear the right way to say ‘Are you belonging to the football club?’ – it was ‘Do you belong to the football club?’

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End of Session 2

That’s all for this session. Join us in Session 3 when it’s time to meet our house-sharers again. You can listen to what they have to say about the experience of living with other people plus lots of state verbs, phrasal verbs and other useful vocabulary.

Session Grammar

  • Action verbs describe things we do or things that happen. 

    Ted is playing football.
    The sun rose at six this morning.

    We use state verbs to talk about attitudes, thoughts, senses or belonging. Sometimes, state verbs can also describe actions. Most state verbs are not used in the continuous (-ing) form.

    The children love ice cream.
    believe in angels.

Session Vocabulary