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Stative and Dynamic Verbs – Not All Verbs Are About Action!

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We normally think of verbs as ‘doing’ words – words that describe an action, or doing something, right?

But not all verbs are about doing something! While some do – others are more about describing being a certain way. In this post, we’ll look at these two types of verbs – dynamic and stative verbs. Read on to learn more!

What are dynamic verbs?

Dynamic verbs, as you might be able to guess from the name, are about doing some kind of action. This can include all kinds of action – from things that are quite physical and ‘dynamic’ – such as running, hitting, and climbing.

But it can also include other verbs that are not quite as active, but still describe some kind of action – such as eating, reading and sleeping. While not all of these are activities, dynamic verbs can also include processes or momentary actions, too.

One of the important things to note about dynamic verbs is that they describe something that usually has a start and a finish to the action. Let’s look at some examples!

“She eats her breakfast late every morning.”

“He ran up the hill until he came to the top.”

“I watched TV for hours yesterday.”

Dynamic verbs can be used in all the different tenses you may have learned about – including the simple and perfect forms, and also progressive or continuous forms.

Stative verbs

Unlike dynamic verbs, stative verbs are more about ‘static’ activities – things that don’t necessarily describe an action, but instead something that doesn’t change much at all.

This might sound a bit confusing, especially when you think of verbs as ‘action’ words, but let’s take a closer look to understand them better.

Stative verbs usually describe the activity of perceiving or thinking about something in a particular way. For example:

“She hates chocolate.”

“He loves to swim every morning.”

“The dog liked being taken for a walk.”

All of these examples show an action of feeling something about a particular thing – hating, loving and liking. These are all stative verbs as they don’t describe a physical action – but they still express an activity taking place in the mind.

Unlike dynamic verbs, there doesn’t necessarily have to be a clear start and finish to them. All of these things can stay the same over a period of time, or they may change.

Another aspect that stative verbs describe is the relationship between things. For example:

“She has five cats.”

“The box contained a lot of old books.”

“We owned a lot of horses in the past.”

In these examples, the verbs describe the relationship between the subject and the object in each sentence – having, containing and owning. These are all states – not actions, so they will stay the same over a period.

An important thing to note about these kinds of verbs is that you cannot use the continuous or progressive form with them – they are always used in the simple form!

Your turn

The best way to practice getting familiar with the two groups of verbs is by reading a lot, and thinking about the different activities you do every day. Which parts of your day can be described by stative verbs, and which parts are dynamic? Try writing down a short description of things you do or think about, and highlight the verbs!