Stative verbs are verbs that express a state rather than an action. They usually relate to thoughts, emotions, relationships, senses, states of being and measurements. These verbs are not usually used with ing in progressive (continuous) tenses even though they may take on time expressions such as now and at the moment. We use the simple tenses for them.

Paul feels rotten today. He has a bad cold.

Do you recognize him? He is a famous rock star.

Our client appreciated all the work we did for him.

Incorrect: I’m smelling your wife’s wonderful spaghetti sauce.

Correct: I smell your wife’s wonderful spaghetti sauce.

However, there are some verbs that look like they should be stative, but may appear in the ing form. These verbs differ in meaning to the stative verbs.


see Michael, but he can’t see me. I’m too far away. (I see him with my eyes.)

James is seeing Marsha. They’ve been together for a month. (He’s dating her.)


hear music coming from the Smith’s apartment. Someone must be home now. (To experience sound)

I’m hearing voices. (I’m imagining it) have

Jeremy has a Mercedes. (He owns it.)

Sara is having lunch with her editor. (She’s eating lunch)

States and actions


A state means something staying the same.

The flat is clean.

The farmer owns the land.

The box contained old books.

State verbs cannot usually be continuous.

I think you’re right. (= believe)

We have three cars. (= own)

I come from Sweden. (= live in)

I see your problem. (= understand)

Do you see that house? (= have in sight)

This picture looks nice.

She appears very nervous. (= seems)

The bag weighed five kilos.

The coat fits. (it is the right size)

These examples with the verb be are about how people behave.

Permanent Quality

Claire is a very sociable person.

That man is an idiot.

Some state verbs: be, believe, belong, consist of, contain, depend on, deserve, exist, hate, know, like, love, matter, mean, own, need, prefer, remember, resemble, seem, understand.

I think/l’m thinking.

Sometimes we can use a verb either for a state or for an action.


An action means something happening.

I’m cleaning the flat.

The farmer is buying the land.

He put the books in the box.

Action verbs can be simple or continuous.

He put / He was putting everything away.

I’m thinking about the problem.

We’re having lunch. (= eating)

I’m coming from Sweden. (= travelling)

I usually come on the plane.

Mark is seeing his boss. (= meeting)

I see Daniel quite often.

I’m looking at this picture.

She appeared/was appearing in film.

They weighed/were weighing my bag.

I’m fitting a lock to the window.

Temporary Behaviour

Amanbek is being very sociable today. You are being an idiot this morning.

(= You are behaving like an idiot.)

Short Period (continuous)

I’m liking/enjoying this party.

I’m liking school much better now.

This trip is costing me a lot of money.

We use am/are/is being only to talk about behaviour, not about other things.

I’m better now, thanks. Are you ready? Is anyone interested?

We can use some state verbs in the continuous to talk about a short period of time.

Permanent (simple tenses)

I love/enjoy parties.

I like school.

Holidays cost a lot of money.

Sometimes we can use either the simple or the continuous with no difference in meaning.

You look well or You’re looking well. We feel a bit sad or We’re feeling a bit sad.