What Is a Stative Verb?

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

McDonalds Slogan
As Susan Behrens mentions below, the McDonald's slogan uses a stative verb ( love) in the present progressive form.

In English grammar, a stative verb is a verb used primarily to describe a state or situation as opposed to an action or process. Common examples include be, have, like, seem, prefer, understand, doubt, and know. Also known as a stative, state verb, or static verb. Contrast this with a dynamic verb.

Stative verbs usually don't occur in the progressive aspect or the imperative mood.

Examples and Observations

  • "We are what we believe we are."
    (attributed to C.S. Lewis, Jean Paul Sartre, and others)
  • "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
    (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
  • "The table is vestigially sticky, the curtains still drawn, the coffee instant, the bacon fatty and the light barely adequate to read my paper."
    (Joe Bennett, Mustn't Grumble. Simon & Schuster, 2006)
  • "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
    (Eleanor Roosevelt)
  • Characteristics of Stative Verbs
    "[S]tative verbs can signify cognitive, emotional and physical states. They have the following characteristics, which can serve as tests for stative verbs:
    • The states expressed are continuous and unchanging while they last, which usually is for a long or indefinite time.
    • They do not have an end point. . . .
    • It is impossible to ask the question How long have/has . . .? (e.g., How long have you known/needed/owned . . .?)
    • They do not normally occur in progressive aspect forms (*She is having a car).
    (Ron Cowan, The Teacher's Grammar of English. Cambridge University Press, 2008)
  • Stative Verbs in Advertising
    "[T]here is some advertising that plays with stative verbs. The McDonald's slogan I'm loving it uses a stative verb in the present progressive form. I recently saw a magazine ad with the tagline, 'She's sensing a change in the air.' So the advertising world seems to be having fun with stative verbs."
    (Susan J. Behrens, Grammar: A Pocket Guide. Routledge, 2010)
  • Differences Between Stative and Dynamic Verbs
    "In practice, the boundary between stative and dynamic verbs is sometimes fuzzy, and it is generally more useful to talk of stative and dynamic meaning and usage. In most varieties of English, some verbs are normally stative (therefore no *I am owning this car, *Know how to give first aid!), but others are partly stative and partly dynamic (no *She is liking to help people, but How are you liking your new job?; no *I am forgetting their address, but Forget it!). Some verbs belong to both categories but with distinct meanings, as with have in She has red hair and She is having dinner, In IndE [Indian English], the stative/dynamic distinction described above is considered standard, but it is widely ignored, so that expressions like I am owning this car and She is liking to help people are commonplace."
    (Sylvia Chalker and Tom McArthur, The Oxford Companion to the English Language. Oxford University Press, 1992)
  • Four Semantic Classes of Stative Verbs
    "Our analysis follows previous proposals (notably Leech 2004 and Huddleston and Pullum 2002) that divide verbs lending themselves to stative interpretation into four semantic classes:
    (a) Perception and sensation (e.g. see, hear, smell, hurt, taste) . . .
    (b) Cognition, emotion, attitude (e.g. think, feel, forget, long, remember) . . .
    (c) Having and being (e.g. be, have, have to, cost, require) . . .
    (d) Stance (e.g. sit, stand, lie, live, face)"
    (Geoffrey Leech, Marianne Hundt, Christian Mair, and Nicholas Smith, Change in Contemporary English: A Grammatical Study. Cambridge University Press, 2012)
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    Your Citation
    Nordquist, Richard. "What Is a Stative Verb?" ThoughtCo, Jul. 25, 2017, thoughtco.com/stative-verb-1692139. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, July 25). What Is a Stative Verb? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/stative-verb-1692139 Nordquist, Richard. "What Is a Stative Verb?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/stative-verb-1692139 (accessed June 19, 2018).