State verbs

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گرامر انگلیسی در شش دقیقه

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State verbs

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Is it ever ok to say Im loving your work? If youre still unsure about the difference between state verbs and action verbs, listen on. In the next 6 minutes, Catherine and Neil explain the right way to use these verbs.

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Catherine Hello and welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me Catherine.

Neil And me, Neil. Hello.

Catherine In this programme we’re talking about state verbs . We’ll explain what they are…

Neil We’ll show you how to use them…

Catherine We’ll give you lots of examples…

Neil And we’ll finish with a quiz to see what you’ve learnt.

Catherine So let’s get started. We can separate English verbs into two groups : state verbs and action verbs . Most verbs are action verbs…

Neil And of course action verbs describe actions, so verbs like go, kick, watch, rain are all action verbs . And we can use them in any tense we want - past, present, future, perfect, passive, continuous, the lot.

Catherine Yes but state verbs are different - because we don’t usually use them in the continuous tenses.

Neil That’s right. We don’t use state verbs in tenses that use the i-n-g form, such as the present continuous and the past continuous.

Catherine Right, now, you’re probably asking: what kind of verbs are state verbs? Well, there are three main types. The first type is verbs that describe feelings and attitudes such as love, hate, like and prefer . Here’s Harry with an example.

Harry What’s this music? I like it.

Catherine Thanks Harry. In that example, Harry is talking about his feelings now, but he doesn’t say I’m liking it .

Neil No, I’m liking is the present continuous tense and with state verbs that’s usually wrong. We’ll say a bit more about this later on, but the general rule is: use the present simple for verbs of feelings like love , like and hate .

Catherine Now for the second type of state verb: that’s verbs of thinking .

Neil So verbs like think, know, believe, understand, remember . Here are some examples.

Harry I believe Andrew’s living in Dubai now. Do you remember if he’s married?

Catherine Good. In this example, Harry’s using the present simple tense with the verbs believe and remember . You can’t use them in the continuous.

Neil And the third group of state verbs are verbs that describe senses . Verbs like see, smell, taste, hear and sound. Another example, please Harry.

Harry What are you eating? It smells delicious!

Catherine So Harry says it smells delicious and not it’s smelling delicious.

Neil Exactly. That would be wrong because smell is a state verb.

Catherine It is. And as well as these three main types, there are some other common state verbs, for example: have, own, belong …

Neil … want , need , mean …

Catherine … cost , seem , appear and wish.

Neil Well, that’s quite a lot of verbs to remember. But one way to decide if a verb is a state verb is to ask yourself: does it describe an action?

Catherine Good tip. And if the answer is “no it doesn’t”, then it’s probably a state verb.

IDENT 6 Minute Grammar from

And we’re looking at state verbs. OK so far? Good. Now: couple of points to make.

Neil Yes. A few verbs can have two meanings. In one meaning, they are an action verb, so you can use them in the present continuous.

But in the other meaning, they are state verbs, so you can’t use a continuous tense. Some examples please Harry:

Harry Mick looks like his sister.

Catherine And:

Harry Mick’s looking at his sister.

Neil Thanks. So, in the first example, Mick looks like his sister, looks is a state verb. We’re talking about Mick’s appearance, not his actions.

Catherine But in the second example, Mick’s looking at his sister , Mick’s doing something. So, in this sentence, look is an action verb.

Another verb with two meanings like this is have , for example: I have a cat but I’m having a bath.

Catherine And think . Listen. I think you’re right - but - I’m thinking of going to Spain . And all the sense verbs can have two meanings too. Another example, Harry?

Harry Can you see that man?

Catherine And:

Harry I’m seeing the doctor.

Right. Now, do you remember that we said it’s wrong to say I’m liking it because it’s the present continuous? Well, you might hear this sometimes in very informal spoken English. Or you might hear I’m hating this movie or I’m loving your work. But only in very informal conversations.

Catherine Thanks for that Neil, I’m loving your explanations… And now it’s quiz time! Are these sentences correct or wrong? Number one: Do you prefer jazz or rock music?

Neil And that is correct. Prefer is a state verb so we use the present simple tense: Do you prefer …?

Catherine Well done! Number two: Are you belonging to the football club?

Neil That’s not correct. Belong is a state verb. We have to say Do you belong…? Not: Are you belonging…?

Catherine Right again! Number three: I’m having lunch with Kate today.

Neil And that is correct. Have is an action verb here, so it’s fine to use the present continuous tense. In this sentence, I’m having means I’m eating.

Catherine Well done if got them all right. There’s more about this on our website at Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar.


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