From Wikipedia:

According to some linguistics theories, a stative verb is a verb that describes a state of being, in contrast to a dynamic verb, which describes an action.

That is, stative verbs describe what an entity is, i.e. it’s properties, attributes or qualities. Something that’s inherent in their nature.

On the other hand, dynamic verbs only describe specific actions. By “specific” I mean those that happened, happen or will happen, and can be pointed at.

Having said that, is “live” stative or dynamic verb in the following two examples?

(1) On average, human beings live 80 years.

(2) (to somebody) I live for you.

In the first example, “live” describes a property inherent in human beings. Thus, it is a stative verb. In the second example, the same verb describes what a specific entity (the speaker) does—an action that can be pointed at. Thus, it is a dynamic verb.

Is this reasoning correct?

  • (American English speaker) I'm curious about what context it's important to know this in? In my understanding, English doesn't distinguish between these two categories and there aren't any grammatical rules that depend on them. My first thought to tell the difference was actually to think about how I'd say this in Spanish, where there are some differences between stative and dynamic verbs (e.g., ser vs estar). But I don't think English has anything like that. Jun 17, 2023 at 17:45
  • 1
    This is more an ELU question. See english.stackexchange.com/questions/558533/…
    – James K
    Jun 17, 2023 at 22:10
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    @FriendlyRacoon English certainly distinguishes between them. Stative verbs cannot normally be used with continuous constructions nor with "would" for the function of repeated actions in the past. So sentences like, "I am having a red bicycle" and "When he was a child, he would be fat" are incorrect.
    – gotube
    Jun 19, 2023 at 20:05

1 Answer 1


Your reasoning makes sense, but won't always help you if your goal is to use this reasoning to learn English.

The reason is English has two categories of verbs which are mostly distinguished by whether they describe state or an action, but some don't follow the pattern, so in the end, to get the grammar right, you have to memorize which are action verbs and which are non-action verbs.

For instance, the verb "live" pretty clearly describes a state rather than an action, but English grammar treats it as an action verb:

When I first started succeeding in business, I would live the high life.
He's dead, but I am still living.

These sentences are significant because the structure [ "would" + base form ] with the function of repeated action in the past can only be used with action verbs. The present continuous is also almost only used with action verbs.

The following two sentences are bad grammar because "be" and "have" (for possession) are non-action verbs:

*I am having a red bicycle.
*When he was a child, he would be fat.

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