State verbs and action verbs

State verbs and action verbs


A state means something staying the same.
The flat is clean.
The farmer owns the land.
The box contained old books.

The flat is clean.

The farmer owns the land.

The box contained old books.

State verbs cannot usually be continuous.

NOT The farmer is owning the land.


An action means something happening.

I’m cleaning the flat.

The farmer is buying the land.

He put the books in the box.

Action verbs can be simple or continuous.

He put I He was putting everything away.

Some state verbs: be, believe, belong, consist of, contain, depend on, deserve, exist, hate, know, like, love,

Matter, mean, own, need, prefer, remember, resemble, seem, understand

I think/I’m thinking etc

Sometimes we can use a verb either for a state or for an action.

STATES (simple tenses)

Think you’re right. (= believe)

We have three cars. (= own)

I come from Sweden. (= live in)

I see your problem. (= understand)

Do you see that house? (= have in sight)

This picture looks nice.

She appears very nervous. (= seems)

The bag weighed five kilos.

The coat fits. (= is the right size)

ACTIONS (simple or continuous)

I’m thinking about the problem.

We’re having lunch. ( – eating)

I’m coming from Sweden. (= travelling)

I usually come on the plane.

Mark is seeing his boss. (= meeting)

I see Daniel quite often.

I’m looking at this picture.

She appeared/was appearing in a film.

They weighed/were weighing my bag.

I’m fitting a lock to the window.

These examples with the verb be are about how people behave.


Claire is a very sociable person.

That man is an idiot.


Andrew is being very sociable today.

You are being an idiot this morning. (= You are behaving like an idiot.

We use am/are/is being only to talk about behaviour, not about other things.

I’m better now, thanks.

Are you ready?

Is anyone interested?

I like/I’m liking etc

We can use some state verbs in the continuous to talk about a short period of time.

PERMANENT STATE (simple tenses)

I love/enjoy parties.

I like school.

Holidays cost a lot of money.

SHORT PERIOD (continuous)

I’m loving/enjoying this party.

I’m liking school much better now.

This trip is costing me a lot of money.

Sometimes we can use either the simple or the continuous with no difference in meaning.

You look well, OR You’re looking well.

We feel a bit sad. OR We’re feeling a bit sad

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State verbs and action verbs