Definition and Examples of Dynamic Verbs

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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In English grammar, a dynamic verb is a verb used primarily to indicate an action, process, or sensation as opposed to a state. Also called an action verb or an event verb. Also known as a non-stative verb or action verb. Contrast with stative verb.

There are three major types of dynamic verbs: 1) accomplishment verbs (expressing action that has a logical endpoint), 2) achievement verbs (expressing action that occurs instantaneously), and 3) activity verbs (expressing action that can go on for an indefinite period of time).

Examples and Observations

  • "They throw the ball, I hit it.They hit the ball, I catch it."
    (Hall of Fame baseball player Willie Mays)
  • "He had learned to walk and run and fight in the twisting alleys and dirty gutters of Rome."
    (Howard Fast, Spartacus. Blue Heron Press, 1951)
  • "I ate a banana and drank a glass of nonfat chocolate milk for breakfast. After that, I washed the breakfast dishes with liquid soap and lemon juice. I threw them in the dish drainer so they could dry naturally and left the house."
    (Lori Aurelia Williams, Broken China. Simon & Schuster, 2006)
  • "They roared and clapped, sang and shouted as I performed, and with each moment my heart filled fuller."
    (Emmanuel Jal, War Child: A Child Soldier's Story. St. Martin's Griffin, 2010)
  • "America is a large, friendly dog in a very small room. Every time it wags its tail, it knocks over a chair."
    (Arnold Toynbee, BBC news summary, July 14, 1954)
  • "[I]n summer everything fills. The day itself widens and stretches almost around the clock; these are very high latitudes, higher than Labrador's. You want to run all night. Summer people move into the houses that had stood empty, unseen, and unnoticed all winter. The gulls scream all day and smash cockles; by August they are bringing the kids."
    (Annie Dillard, "Mirages," 1982)
  • "Brandt ran back to the deepest corner of the outfield grass, the ball descended beyond his reach and struck in the crotch where the bullpen met the wall, bounced chunkily, and vanished."
    (John Updike, "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," 1960)
  • "Verbs act. Verbs move. Verbs do. Verbs strike, soothe, grin, cry, exasperate, decline, fly, hurt, and heal. Verbs make writing go, and they matter more to our language than any other part of speech."
    (Donald Hall and Sven Birkerts, Writing Well, 9th ed. Longman, 1997)

What's the Difference Between a Dynamic Verb and a Stative Verb?

A dynamic verb (such as run, ride, grow, throw) is primarily used to indicate an action, process, or sensation. In contrast, a stative verb (such as be, have, seem, know) is primarily used to describe a state or situation. (Because the boundary between dynamic and stative verbs can be fuzzy, it's generally more useful to talk of dynamic and stative meaning and usage.)

Three Classes of Dynamic Verbs

"If a​ clause can be used to answer the question What happened?, it contains a non-stative (dynamic) verb. If a clause cannot be so used, it contains a stative verb. . . .

"It is now accepted practice to divide dynamic verbs into three classes. . . . Activity, accomplishment and achievement verbs all denote events. Activities denote events with no built-in boundary and stretching out over time. Achievements denote events conceived of as occupying no time at all. Accomplishments denote events with an activity phase and a closure phase; they can be spread out over time, but there is a built-in boundary."
(Jim Miller, An Introduction to English Syntax. Edinburgh University Press, 2002)

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Definition and Examples of Dynamic Verbs." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 27). Definition and Examples of Dynamic Verbs. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Definition and Examples of Dynamic Verbs." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 27, 2023).