I saw in the "New English File - Advanced" book (p. 139, Unit 2A) from Oxford University the use of "used to" and "would" for past simple and one of the rules says:

"we don't use would with stative verbs, i.e. to talk about situations or states which have changed."

But in an exercise of the same book the correct sentence are:

"Our grandmother would always have a little surprise waiting for us when we visited."

"Our grandmother always used to have a little surprise waiting for us when we visited."

And "have" is a stative verb ... Someone could explain me why is this correct? please

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    Please give the name of the book. A stative verb doesn't preclude there being a change. 'I owned a Ford for seven years, but then I sold it.' // Here, 'would always have a little surprise' is probably better classed as iterative. Commented May 11, 2018 at 19:42
  • have is not a stative verb in my opinion there. Have is neither possession nor attribution in that sentence: He owns a house.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 20:59
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    I believe "have"means "prepare" here, so it Isn't stative.
    – V.V.
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 21:08
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    This is a pretty dumb generalization; there are many different uses (and senses, or meanings) of would and they certainly aren't banned before stative predicates. Aside from the natural omniscience of the writer, is there any source or rationale for this obiter dictum? Commented May 12, 2018 at 0:25

1 Answer 1


Have is not a stative verb in those sentences. The sense of have is definition 2.4 in Oxford Dictionaries (ODO):

2.4 (with object and complement) Cause to be in a particular state or condition.

Notice you need the verb have + an object + complement.

The verb is active, because you are causing the object to be in the expressed state or condition

Look at this construction in the simple past, using a simpler version of the same sentence:

Our grandmother had a little surprise waiting for us.

had (simple past) + object (a little surprise) + complement (waiting for us)

So, you can use this verb have, which is not stative, with would/used to, as in the grammar book's two sentences.

You should look at the 10 sample sentences in the ODO to see the different forms that the complement can take in this construction; it does not always have to be in an -ing form. You can convert any of those examples sentences into sentences using would or used to. For example:

I (would/used to have) + the TV + on with the sound turned down.


‘We (would/used to have) + a room + ready as soon as possible.

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