Talk:Stative verb

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I came to this article to find out what a stative verb is, but all the examples given are of verbs that aren't stative. Does this not seem wrong somehow? --holizz 13:15, 12 May 2006 (UTC)


I have problems with Dowty's analysis. It would be original research if I were to put my criticisms into the article myself, but perhaps someone up on current literature on this can balance the argument by citing published criticism or alternative views. I agree that standard English would not normally put a stative verb into a progressive form, though some regional Englishes use progressives much more widely, so that this would not be true for example in Scottish Highland English. However, the other three "tests" are dubious even in standard English.

  • A stative verb cannot be put into the imperative? What's wrong with an imperative of know as an expression of a wish that a person would have a (stative) understanding? "Be still and know that I am God."
  • Can you not force a person to adopt a state? "My parents more or less forced me to like vegetables." That might be slightly humorous but certainly not ungrammatical or absurd.
  • And the cleft sentence is entirely unproblematic. "What did she do to deserve such luck? Well, what she did was know how to work the system!" Dowty is right that "doing" is not a usual way to speak of a state, but he is wrong to think that sentences linking "do" to a stative verb are therefore unidiomatic.

(Assuming he has been represented correctly in this article, that is. I haven't read his work!) --Doric Loon 13:05, 13 May 2006 (UTC)

Are the examples in the first box correct? should it not be

lay---lie who says..."be lying" set---sitPhebert61 (talk) —Preceding comment was added at 18:46, 8 May 2008 (UTC)

I agree with Doric Loon. There should be at least some mention in the article of the flaws of Dowty's analysis. I don't much like Wikipedia's policies on OR and so-called "reliable sources" but I suppose one must play by the rules if anything is to get done; so by all means, let's find ourselves something that can show how really quite silly this analysis is. D4g0thur 07:12, 3 March 2009 (UTC)
"Know what you're going to do before you do it." That is an imperative but hardly archaic or in any way odd, ungrammatical or unusual. Also, I think "Know it or die/suffer the consequences." fits the bill against Dowty. (talk) 12:40, 21 January 2013 (UTC)

I think therefore I amEdit

Are we sure that in this example think is stative? It refers to mental activity, which is a process which happens in time rather than a state, at least according to my POV. "I am thinking" is a perfectly legitimate sentence using the verb with the same meaning, for example. I'm removing this example, if someone believes it should stay for some reason, feel free to re-add it explaining why. --Army1987 10:06, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

  • I think "am" is the stative verb here. Perhaps we should put it back in and then bold or italicize the stative verbs in each sentence. Khepidjemwa'atnefru 15:59, 2 June 2006 (UTC)
All the other sentences have one verb, so that would be redundant. What about replacing it with a sentence with the same meaning such as "I exist."? --Army1987 19:59, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

No, it was me who added that example, and it was indeed "think" I had in mind. But Army1987 is right, it is a bad example. --Doric Loon 20:14, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

English grammar seriesEdit

Seriously, who put this box there? As if English were the only language that had stative verbs! 17:23, 5 November 2006 (UTC)

Past tense stativesEdit

I would be interested to know whether stative verbs can have past tenses e.g. "I used to be an atheist" - or can this reanalysed as a state "I no longer believe in God"?

I'm not sure what you mean. That surely depends on the pragmatics of the language and the context. Yes, I guess if verbs have a past tense, then stative verbs may as well have one. E. g. Japanese: Kyou atsui "It's hot today", Kinou atsukatta "It was hot yesterday". —Pablo D. Flores (Talk) 17:39, 14 November 2006 (UTC)
Yes, statives can have past tenses. Stative verbs simply say that somebody/something is/was/will be in a certain state. They are pretty common in semitic languages. As an example, in hebrew chakhmah, is an adjective meaning 'wise'. But it is also a verb, meaning 'to be wise, become wise, act wiselly'. That's a stative. These verbs generally translate into English as 'to be' + adj. Xavier 02:47, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
Not really. What Semitic languages (and others) have is zero copula, by which "to be" in the present tense is left unmentioned when followed by an adjective. In tenses other than the present, "to be" does appear. —Pablo D. Flores (Talk) 01:14, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

A more extensive list of stative verbs?Edit

I wonder if this page would benefit from a more extensive list of stative verbs in English, perhaps divided into the categories usually used for teaching English - long-term mental states, performative verbs, verbs that describe possession etc. (Although I realise one can apply Dowty's analysis to determine if a verb is stative or not). I also wonder if there should be a discussion of the fact that sense verbs can be both stative and dynamic, for example, 'I am tasting the soup' vs 'the soup tastes bad'. Finally, how about 'see', being a state verb when it means 'see with your eyes' but not when it means 'meet' or 'have a relationship with' ('I am seeing Julie tomorrow', 'I have been seeing my boyfriend for three years') Seonaidbeckwith 10:56, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

Bad ExplanationEdit

The examples and explanation of the stative here seems rather vague. granted, my knowledge of it comes from Middle Egyptian, but I understood it to describe the state resulting from the action of the verb - for example, "the table is laid". I think it could do with some clarification. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:51, 18 May 2008 (UTC)

"[Stative verbs] have no duration and no endpoint"Edit

Can someone correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the duration and endpoints of verbs generally expressed by the aspect and tense as well as any supplemental expressions of time or duration accompanying the verb? Thus, you can have a progessive past tense stative verb like in this example: "I was being a real ass yesterday" or a perfect future tense stative verb like in: "I will have two children by the time I am thirty". With these examples, I do not understand how the claim that Stative Verbs have no duration and no endpoint can be made.

Any thoughts? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:00, 12 October 2011 (UTC)

I think Lexical aspect explains the intended meaning of endpoint. Endpoint doesn't mean the beginning of a situation, as in your example "I will have two children by the time I am thirty", but the end, the goal to which the situation naturally leads. Stative verbs don't have a goal; you simply have and the having may eventually end, but doesn't necessarily. You could continue having your children (in the sense of them belonging to you, not in the sense of giving birth) for your whole life. — Eru·tuon 03:35, 13 October 2011 (UTC)

Dynamic vs Stative VerbsEdit

I'm not a linguist, just an English teacher, so I can't pronounce on the validity of this article for languages such as Swedish. However, it contains some misleading material.

First of all, the affirmation that "An English phrase like 'he plays piano' may be either stative or dynamic ..." is confusing on many levels: 1) it introduces the notion that there are Stative/Dynamic "phrases" while the article is about "verbs"; 2) it's unclear what meanings the author is referring to (I presume he means Stative = "he knows how to play/he has the habit of practicing ...", Dynamic = "he is playing"); 3) if "play" refers to a general property of the subject "he" here, it's because that's a condition of the Present Perfect verb aspect, not because "play" is a stative verb (the putative subject of the article); at this rate all verbs are stative when put in this aspect ("he eats whole wheat bread", etc).

Next, the affirmation that "A stative verb is often intransitive, while a corresponding [dynamic] one would be transitive" may be useful in some languages, but doesn't hold up well in English. Stative verbs like "love", "contain" and "owe" are Transitive, while the Dynamic verbs "rain", "rise" and "snore", for example, are (or can be) Intransitive. "Look" is Dynamic and Intransitive, while "see" is Stative and Transitive. In the table of English verbs, all the "stative/intransitive" verbs are by my lights Dynamic! 1) position verbs like "lie", "sit" and "stand" can all take the Progressive form ("he's lying/sitting/standing on the sofa") and be imperatives ("Lie/Sit/Stand there!"); 2) the particles furnished in parentheses normally give these verbs an inchoative aspect (Sit = be sitting, Sit down = assume a seated position), drawing us even further from a Stative notion towards voluntary, punctual actions.

Now, I've always assumed that the Progressive test was sufficient proof that these position verbs were Dynamic, however strange that may seem (compare French "être assis" vs "s'asseoir"), suggesting that our English ancestors visualised these acts as implying some investment of the person. If not, I'd like somebody to explain what to do with these verbs. Caballerodelfebo (talk) 11:05, 18 March 2012 (UTC)

German examplesEdit

After reading this article I'm still not quite sure what stative verbs really are, but I think that the German preposition examples are not well chosen or at least not well explained. Those "Wechselpräpositionen", as they are called in the article, are not really determined by verbs. They take the accusative case if they express a change of location, but otherwise the dative case. You can easily make sentences with two prepositions, one of which takes the accusative and one the dative. For example: Auf dem Schulhof klettern die Kinder auf einen Baum. "In the schoolyard, the children are climbing on a tree." Auf dem Schulhof "in the schoolyard" is dative because it does not express a change of location (the children stay in the schoolyard), while auf einen Baum "on a tree" is accusative because there is a change of location (they climb to the top). So verbs don't (directly) determine the behaviour of these prepositions. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:28, 9 December 2012 (UTC)

Imperative of "to know"Edit

I'm not a native English-speaker, so I don't know if an imperative can be used for to know in English. But for the German and French equivalents wissen and savoir, imperatives certainly can be used. For example: Wisse, dass ich immer für dich da sein werde! (German) and Sache que je serai toujours là pour toi! (French), both meaning: "Know" that I will always be there for you! So does that mean that the German and French verbs are not stative, even though they are otherwise used exactly as is to know in English? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:52, 9 December 2012 (UTC)

I did a quick internet research and there are numerous examples where people used the sentence: "Please know that I will always be there for you" (1,400,000 hits if you type it with quotation marks). So I don't know if "to know" is maybe not stative in this particular context, but the bottom line is that the article is full of questionable or plain wrong statements, one of them being that there is no imperative for "to know". — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:04, 9 December 2012 (UTC)
"Be still and know that I am God!" Yes, it's stative. Unless you do the circular argument of defining a stative as a verb that can't be imperative, and then say a particular verb cannot be stative because it can be imperative. This Bible verse is definitely talking about knowing in the sense of being in a state of knowing. --Doric Loon (talk) 19:33, 22 January 2013 (UTC)
Actually, "know" isn't stative when it means "begin the state of knowing". Verbs that are normally stative can be used in an inceptive or inchoative way, so that they indicate the act of beginning a state, and in that case they are no longer stative. I believe imperatives are an example of this. Maybe you could analyze "know!" as "continue to be in the state of knowing", but I think that's a little weird, and it's not a correct analysis when someone is telling someone to know something that they don't already know. — Eru·tuon 23:56, 9 March 2014 (UTC)
Yes, but this Bible verse doesn't say or imply anything about beginning, does it? I think the implication is, rather, that the addressee already knows this, and can be still in the knowledge. --Doric Loon (talk) 17:46, 15 August 2019 (UTC)

Stative and intransitiveEdit

The identification of stative with intransitive is misleading.

Examples (all the following are intransitive):

He sat (may be stative or dynamic)

He sat as soon as he was told to do so (dynamic)

He sat down as soon as he was told to do so (dynamic)

He sat for three hours (stative)

*He sat down for three hours (not a valid sentence)

while the following example is transitive but stative:

He kept the child hidden until the danger had passed

Ehrenkater (talk) 18:06, 9 March 2014 (UTC)

One thing I don't like about the section Distinction between intransitive and transitive is that all examples are from Germanic languages which apparently share some things they inherited from Proto-Germanic. I have a much stronger problem with it, though: I suspect this is original research presenting a trivial observation.
    Some verbs have a causative counterpart (to sit – to set = to make sit; to fall – to fell = to make fall; to drink – to drench = to make drink; etc.). Most verbs do not have one (for example, there is no verb with the meaning 'to make jump'). Among the verbs that have a causative, some are transitive (to drink) while others are intransitive (to sit). English causatives, on the other hand, are always transitive. So if you have a verb that is intransitive, and that verb happens to have a causative, you have a transitive–intransitive pair (e.g., to set–to sit).
    This has nothing to do with verbs being stative or dynamic, except that causative verbs are not only transitive but also dynamic. Among the stative verbs, some are transitive (to know), others are intransitive (to sit). And some have a causative while others do not. Basically, all possible eight combinations that can be formed from the attributes has-a-causative/has-no-causative, is-transitive/is-intransitive, and is-stative/is-dynamic are populated. If you take any verb from the combination has-a-causative + is-intransitive + is-stative, you have a transitive–intransitive pair, as observed above. But because we picked a stative verb and causative verbs are dynamic, you also have a stative–dynamic pair.
    This observation has a high duh level. It is like observing that oblong eggs are more nutritious than spherical pebbles. True, but it has nothing to do with their shapes. Likewise, the transitive–intransitive pairing has nothing to do with the intransitive verb being stative.  --Lambiam 21:05, 1 April 2018 (UTC)
Moreover, in a language like Swedish, which actually does have a separate inchoative formation (although it is more often used for forming verbs from adjectives than from intransitive verbs), the choice of contrasting 'the original verb' with the causative instead of the inchoative seems rather arbitrary.
An exampe is the triad vaka (intransitive and (normally) static, 'to be awake'), väcka (causative to vaka, and thus transitive and (normally) dynamic, 'to wake (someone)'), and vakna (inchoative to vaka, and thus intransitive but (normally) dynamic, 'to wake up'). JoergenB (talk) 18:49, 31 July 2019 (UTC)


I was led to this page when I read in another article that Chinese has no adjectives but stative verbs. Now I'm still confused because Chinese is not included at all in this article. Why did you put a link to this when it causes more questions than answers? -- (talk) 20:54, 5 July 2014 (UTC)

Regrets re. this articleEdit

I'm not suggesting scrapping this messy article, which contains some useful concepts. Yet, several sections in this article are predicated on dubious linguistic premises that seem to conflate notions relating to "stative" (i.e. a state/status that can be dynamic, fluid, continuative or not) and "static" (which contrasts dynamic). Sorry that I lack interest in attempting to discombobulate this article. I intend an alternative forum to re-indoctrinate individuals who champion the article's intended premise. --Kent Dominic 01:52, 21 April 2020 (UTC)

P.S. I was being gracious:
  • was - (intransitive verb) static/transitory sense of stative verb
  • being - (intransitive verb) dynamic/continuative sense of stative verb
I.e., the semantic premise entailed in contrasting stative and dynamic rests on some pretty shaky linguistic ground. --Kent Dominic·(talk) 07:03, 11 January 2021 (UTC)
P.P.S. Contrary to what this article alleges about dynamic verbs, my being gracious entails a verb that describes a dynamic state (re. an intransitive act of existing), not a dynamic action (re. a transitive act, deed, or performance of undertaking or doing something). --Kent Dominic·(talk) 07:18, 11 January 2021 (UTC)
Return to "Stative verb" page.