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I've been struggling to distinguish between durative and punctual verbs! What I found as a rule for durative verbs is that they are typically identified when using a continuous tense, but let's consider these examples:

-Pam cured herself with large doses of vitamin C.

-He is happy with the results.

When I checked for the answers, I was surprised to find both of the verbs as durative! Where does duration lie exactly?

And is there indeed any rule or hint to find out durative verbs?

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You should not think of "durative" and "punctual" verbs as grammatical categories. They are semantic categories. The verbs are grouped by meaning.

And with categories based on meaning, there can be grey areas, or words that don't neatly fit in to one category or another.

For example "cure": You could view this as a "punctual" event, or a "durative" process. Now the usual analysis is that to cure someone you need to do various things to them. It isn't (or at least it doesn't have to be) a magic touch that cures someone, and so this has an internal process and is durative.

Similarly consider "kill" and "die". Killing something has an internal process. Dying does not. And so "kill" is durative, but "die" is punctual. [And yet people do talk about the process of dying, so even this is not completely black-and-white]

So the "rule" is to consider the meaning of the word, does it describe an event that normally happens in the blink of an eye, or does it describe an event that has an internal temporal structure.

Reference: I'm lovin' it

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    Thank you! That's helpful! And I changed the tag into semantics May 8 at 19:39
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Remember that it is more sensible to consider usages, not verbs, as punctive/punctual or durative. Contrast

  1. Tom smiled and reached for his coat.
  2. Tom was smiling all the way to the ice-cream parlour.

(1) shows a punctive (approximated as happening at a single point in time) usage of smile, while (2) shows a durative (considered temporally long enough / compositional enough to treat as a period of time) usage.

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  • As James says in his answer, 'Pam cured herself with large doses of vitamin C.' may be seen as either punctive (though who can say when the actual instant she was totally well occurred!?) (and notice that she treated/dosed herself more than once, so this reading is strained) or durative (her condition improving over time). The sentence is ambiguous (though she's thankfully better now either way).

  • 'Be' is used to show states, and these persist over a reasonable duration. 'He is / remains happy / sad / tired / as thin as a rake.

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You may also find it helpful to consider dynamic and stative usages and the connection with continuous constructions. This is treated well at Stative verbs in the continuous form on ELU, Jasper Locke's answer.

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