Home / Articles / Grammar / Verbs with different meanings when they are states and actions

Verbs with different meanings when they are states and actions

By Matthew, September 15 2015, 06:05
An image of a scale
Cristoph via Flickr
Some verbs can talk about a state or describe an action, but the meaning changes.

Remember that state verbs talk about how things are. They describe a state or condition. Dynamic verbs talk about actions and change. They describe what happens. Some verbs can can be used both to talk about a state and an action. However, the meaning of the word changes.

Examples:

Have

  • [Dynamic] I am having lunch now. = I am eating lunch now.

  • [State] I have a car. = I possess/own a car.

See

  • [Dynamic] I am seeing my friends in the evening. = I am meeting my friends in the evening.

  • [State] I see why that is a problem. = I understand why that is a problem.

Weigh

  • [Dynamic] The man is weighing the fruit = The man is measuring the weight of the fruit.

  • [State] The man weighs 75kg. = The man's weight is 75kg.

Think

  • [Dynamic] I am thinking about my future. = I am considering my future.

  • [State] I think that is a great idea! = My opinion is that is a great idea.

Other words that can be used in this way are appear, be, costexpectfeelfit, hear, imaginelook, smell, and taste.

NOTE:

When you use the dynamic meaning of the verb, you can use both the continuous or the simple form of the verb.

  • I am having lunch now. and
  • I have lunch every day at the same cafe.

The state meaning of the verb is almost always never used with a continuous form.

  • I have a car not I am having a car.
  • Matthew's picture
    Matthew
    About me
    I am from New Zealand. I lived in Japan for a long time, but now I live in Brazil. I am the founder of Poligo. I like to play guitar and video games and surf when I get the chance. I have a wife and two boys.
    Experience
    I specialize in teaching English to professionals and English teachers. I have taught English since 2001 in Japan, New Zealand and Brazil. I speak Japanese & Portuguese. I am the founder of Poligo and The English Farm (an online school for business English).

Try Poligo now for free

Get help with your English writing from professional teachers 24 hours a day. We'll correct your writing and give you lots of useful advice and feedback. Poligo's service is super fast — if you don't get help in less than 24 hours, you get your money back. It's free to join & new members get 500 characters of writing checked for free.

  • Fast service.
  • 100% private.
  • Professional quality.

Write better English