Every English sentence must have a verb. The verb could be classified as dynamic, stative, or both. A dynamic verb describes an action; a stative verb describes a condition. This classification is important because it determines how the verb can and cannot be used. Knowing the difference between stative and dynamic verbs will help you speak and write correctly and avoid basic errors in exams or emails, as well as in many social, academic, and business situations.

Verbs: Dynamic, Stative, or Both?

Dynamic verbs describe action. Examples are run, jump, work, play, eat, or drink. They are the most common type of verb and can be used correctly in all verb tenses and aspects. They are usually the easiest to learn.

Dynamic Verbs – Correct Usage
simple I run.
I ran.
I will run.
continuous I am running.
I was running.
I will be running.
perfect I have run.
I had run.
I will have run.
perfect continuous I have been running.
I had been running.
I will have been running.

Stative verbs describe states or conditions. Examples are know, believe, or understand. These verbs can be used in simple and perfect tenses and aspects. However, they cannot be used in the continuous or progressive forms. This limitation makes stative verbs a little more difficult to master, which means practice is necessary.

Stative Verbs – Correct Usage
simple I know.
I knew.
I will know.
perfect I have known.
I had known.
I will have known.
Stative Verbs – Incorrect Usage
continuous I am knowing.
I was knowing.
I will be knowing.
perfect continuous I have been knowing.
I had been knowing.
I will have been knowing.

Dynamic/Stative verbs can be used in either way, depending on the context or meaning. Examples are have, think, and feel. These verbs are usually the most challenging because there’s no one rule; you have to think about each situation separately. Practice is essential. However, by paying careful attention, you can learn to use these unusual verbs correctly and confidently.

Dynamic/Stative Verbs – Correct Usage
for possession
I have a car.
I had a car.
I will have a car.
for activity
I am having a good time.
I was having a good time.
I will be having a good time.
Dynamic/Stative Verbs – Incorrect Usage
for possession
I am having a car.
I was having a car.
I will be having a car.
admire, believe, desire, doubt, know, need, realize, recognize, suppose, understand, want
Common Errors know, need, understand
Correct Usage Yes, I know John.
We need some help.
Sorry, I don’t understand what you mean.
Emotional States
adore, amaze, appreciate, astonish, care, dislike, envy, fear, hate, like, loathe, love, mind, please, prefer, surprise
Common Errors love, like, hate
Correct Usage The kids love ice cream.
She likes you.
I hate washing dishes.
belong, owe, own, possess
Common Errors own
Correct Usage Who owns that car?
It’s mine. I own it.
consist of, contain, cost, deserve, equal, exist, involve, lack, matter, perceive, promise, resemble, seem
Verbs: stative or dynamic, depending on the situation
consider, forget, imagine, remember, think
I think
refers to an opinion
What do you think?
I think you should accept that job offer.
I am thinking
refers to the act of thinking
What are you thinking about?
I’m thinking about what to do next.
I have
refers to possession or relation
I have $120 with me right now.
I have 3 kids.
I am having
refers to an activity
I am having a party this Friday.
We’re having a great time.
feel, taste, smell, see
It tastes…
refers to a quality or state of being
The cake? It tastes delicious.
She is tasting…
refers to an activity
She’s tasting the soup to check if it needs more salt.
appear, be, cost, deny, include, look, sound, weigh
They are…
refers to a general condition or state
They are helpful, no matter what happens.
They are being…
refers to a temporary state
They are being helpful, under the circumstances.

Although stative verbs may seem complicated, you have now taken the first step to mastering them: you know that they exist! Soon, you will start noticing them while reading books, websites, and articles, as well as while listening to songs, shows, and presentations. Before long, you will begin using stative verbs correctly yourself.

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