Sunday, June 17, 2007

Teaching Stative Verbs

When teaching progressive tenses (“to be” + “—ing”) to ESL and EFL learners, you also have to teach students that some verbs cannot be used in the progressive form. For example, “I am knowing him for a long time.” This is not correct because the verb “to know” is a stative verb. Another example, “It is belonging to me.” This is also incorrect because the verb “to belong” is stative.

A stative verb is one that is used to talk about states of being or conditions. For example, “This flower smells good.” The state or condition of the floor is a pleasant smell. I can’t say, “The flower is smelling.” At least, I can’t say it and be grammatically correct.

Two areas are confusing for English language learners. The first is that some words can be used in progressive forms and in stative forms. For example, “I have a car.” I can’t say, “I’m having a car.” But I can say, “I’m having a party tonight.” Different meanings.

The next thing that is confusing is that many times even though a verb is stative, some native speakers will use it in the progressive. Most native speakers instinctively know when we can get away with using a stative verb progressively. For example, “realize” is supposed to be a stative verb, but many people may say, “I’m realizing how much she means to me.” And it makes perfect sense. Then there is the McDonald’s commercial that says, “I’m lovin’ it.” Ugh! “Love” is a stative verb!

Interestingly, the word “stative” is not recognized by MS Word and most native-English speakers do not know this word, but we intuitively know the concept. As with most of the English language, I suppose.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good points--I need to go over stative verbs with a student tomorrow and I was looking for a refresher. Thanks!