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definition - Stative_verb

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Stative verb


A stative verb is one that asserts that one of its arguments has a particular property (possibly in relation to its other arguments). Statives differ from other aspectual classes of verbs in that they are static; that is, they have undefined duration. Verbs that are not stative are often called dynamic verbs.



Examples of sentences with stative verbs:

he has always loved it.
I am tired.
I have two children.
I like the color blue.
I think they want something to eat.
We hold these truths to be self-evident...
The case contains six bottles.
This would imply that we didn't care.

In languages where the copula is a verb, it is a stative verb, as is the case in English be. Some other English stative verbs are believe, know, seem, and have. All these in general denote states rather than actions. However, verbs like have and be, which are usually stative, can be dynamic in certain situations. Think is stative when it means "believe", but not when it means "consider". The following are not stative:

You are being silly.
She is having a baby.
Quiet please, I am thinking.

Propositions that are expressed in most Indo-European languages by noun qualifiers (such as adjectives) are instead expressed by stative verbs in many other languages. In Japanese, so-called i-adjectives are in fact best analyzed as intransitive stative verbs (for example, takai alone means "is high/expensive", and samukunakatta means was not cold).

  Difference from dynamic

The same verb may act as stative or dynamic. An English phrase like "he plays the piano" may be either stative or dynamic, according to context.

Some languages use the same verbs for dynamic and stative situations, while other use different (but often etymologically related) verbs with some kind of qualifiers to distinguish between the usages. A stative verb is often intransitive, while a corresponding one would be transitive. Compare, for example, modern English with modern Swedish.

Swedish English
dynamic/transitive stative/intransitive dynamic/transitive stative/intransitive
lägga ligga lay
(someone/something down)
sätta sitta set, seat
ställa stå stand
in an upright position)
bränna brinna burn
(i.e., be on fire)

  Difference from inchoative

In English, a verb that expresses a state can also express the entrance into a state. This is called inchoative aspect. The simple past is sometimes inchoative. For example, the present-tense verb in the sentence "He understands his friend" is stative, while the past-tense verb in the sentence "Suddenly he understood what she said" is inchoative, because it means "He began to understand". On the other hand, the past-tense verb in "At one time, he understood her" is stative.

Likewise, in Ancient Greek, a verb whose imperfect expresses a state (e.g., ebasíleuon "I was king") may use the aorist to express entrance into the state (e.g., ebasíleusa "I became king"). But the aorist can also simply express the state as a whole, with no focus on the beginning of the state (eíkosi étē ebasíleusa "I ruled for twenty years").

  Formal definitions

In some theories of formal semantics, including David Dowty's, stative verbs have a logical form that is the lambda expression

\lambda (x): \ [\operatorname{STATE} \ x]

Apart from Dowty, Z. Vendler and C. S. Smith have also written influential work on aspectual classification of verbs.


English grammar series
English grammar

  Dowty's analysis

Dowty gives some tests to decide whether an English verb is stative. They are as follows:

  • Statives do not occur in the progressive (the * before a sentence means that it is ungrammatical or absurd to most native English speakers):
    • John is running. (non-stative)
    • *John is knowing the answer.
  • They cannot be complements of "force":
    • I forced John to run.
    • *I forced John to know the answer.
  • They do not occur as imperatives.
    • Run!
    • *Know the answer!

(The phrase "Know thyself!" is imperative, but it uses the archaic "know" as a dynamic verb.)

  See also




All translations of Stative_verb

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