English Grammar, Stative Verbs


Stative verbs describe states; how is something? A basic example of this would be:

“She is happy.”

Stative verbs are normally used in “simple” tenses, ie. do not use them in the continuous form:

“She is hungry” and not “She is being hungry.”

This rule applies no matter how temporary the states they are describing:

At the moment, I am liking Adele’s album.”

It is useful to divide the other examples into four groups; emotional states, mental states, appearance/senses and possession.

Emotional States Mental States Senses Possession
to like/dislike

to love

to hate

to hope

to want

to wish

to mean

to prefer

to impress

to mind

to surprise

to please

to astonish


to believe

to think (opinion)

to know

to understand

to imagine

to remember

to realise

to recognise

to mean

to agree/disagree

to doubt

to suppose

to promise

to deny

to be

to seem

to look (seem)

to sound

to appear

to see

to smell

to taste

to hear


to have

to own

to include

to depend (on)

to belong (to)

to consist (of)

to contain

to involve

to owe

to possess

to lack




Notice how to have is in the “possession” column. Be careful with this verb; it is only stative when used to mean “to possess”. There are many set expressions using to have which can be used in the continuous form:

“We were having breakfast when the phone rang…”

“I come tomorrow because I’m having a dinner party….”

“Don’t stop me now, I’m having a good time…”

As you can see above, the rules about stative verbs apply in the past, present and future.

Find this information in a printable PDF: Stative Verbs Handout.