Entries Tagged as 'Stative Verbs'

See or Watch: It’s a stative thing

Whether to use see or watch is another question regarding stative or active verbs.

See in the stative form (meaning it can’t be progressive) refers to a mental rather than a deliberate activity, such as experiencing the sense of sight (I see the monument every day on my way to work), or declare understanding (Do you see what I mean?).

You can use see in the active form (meaning it can be progressive), when you are referring to a meeting or appointment that is organized at a set time (such as noon tomorrow, or later this evening).

What to do: When you feel like using see in the active form, ask yourself if the action takes place at a set time. If so, go ahead and use any verb tense that fits your meaning. If the action is deliberate, using watch is better.

Look at these examples:

  • We’re seeing a movie tonight. (correct)
  • We saw a movie last night. (correct)
  • We watched a movie last night. (correct)
  • While we were watching a movie, we heard a noise from the kitchen. (correct)
  • While we were seeing a scary movie, we heard a noise from the kitchen. (incorrect)

One more example might help.   Sally is seeing Tommy.  This means they have had several meetings with possible romantic intentions.   They are dating each other.  If you say, “Sally is watching Tommy,” that would be creepy.

Present (Active or Stative) vs. Present Progressive (Active)

The active and stative forms of a verb notifies you which verb tense to use, but stative and active are not actually verb tenses.  Use this chart to help you:

Active:  All verb tenses are possible
Stative:  All but the progressive tenses are possible (in other words, you can’t use verb tenses with the -ing ending)

Click here for a quick activity to help you understand the difference and practice the present and present progressive verb tenses.

Stative Verb Activities

If you haven’t seen the Stative Verbs (and a list) post, read it here.  It provides a good guideline for when you are using stative verbs.

Two activities for stative verbs are available here.  Print them for classroom use or self-study online!

Stative or Active Verbs Activity 1
Stative or Active Verbs Activity 2

Stative Verbs Explained (and a list)

Click here to listen.

When the same verb, to smell for example, can be used in both the stative and active form, confusion about what verb tense to use can arise.

These roses still smell fresh.
She is smelling the roses.

After some confusion myself, I looked around the internet and found Dowty’s Analysis. It can be a helpful tool in distinguishing between the stative and the active form of a verb.  Simply put, Dowty’s Analysis states:

If you cannot force the action, then it is stative.


  • My cat is forced to weigh 10 pounds.
  • The candy bar is forced to cost $1.20.
  • The trip is forced to take 7 hours.

These sentences are nonsense because the actions (to weigh/to cost/to take) cannot be forced!

However, in this example…

I forced my cat to take the antibiotics.

…you see that the action of taking antibiotics was forced (and I have the scratch marks to prove it)!

Here is a list of stative verbs. Not all of these verbs are stative all the time, so use Dowty’s analysis if you get stuck!

  • act
  • amaze
  • appear
  • appreciate
  • astonish
  • become
  • believe
  • belong
  • cost
  • feel
  • get
  • hate
  • have
  • impress
  • know
  • like
  • look
  • love
  • measure
  • need
  • possess
  • recognize
  • remember
  • resemble
  • see
  • seem
  • smell
  • sound
  • surprise
  • taste
  • think
  • to be
  • understand
  • want
  • weigh

I have simplified the Dowty’s Analysis so it can be useful to English language learners, but you can view the full wiki-version here.