Stative verbs are verbs that express a state rather than an action. They usually relate to thoughts, emotions, relationships, senses, states of being and measurements. These verbs are not usually used with ing in progressive (continuous) tenses even though they may take on time expressions such as now and at the moment. We use the simple tenses for them.
- Paul feels rotten today. He has a bad cold.
- Do you recognize him? He is a famous rock star.
- Our client appreciated all the work we did for him.
- Incorrect: I’m smelling your wife’s wonderful spaghetti sauce.
- Correct: I smell your wife’s wonderful spaghetti sauce.
However, there are some verbs that look like they should be stative, but may appear in the ing form. These verbs differ in meaning to the stative verbs.
- I see Michael, but he can’t see me. I’m too far away. (I see him with my eyes.)
- James is seeing Marsha. They’ve been together for a month. (He’s dating her.)
- I hear music coming from the Smith’s apartment. Someone must be home now. (To experience sound)
- I’m hearing voices. (I’m imagining it)
- Jeremy has a Mercedes. (He owns it.)
- Sara is having lunch with her editor. (She’s eating lunch)