Stative Verbs 1: Can you smell the coffee?

Cup of coffee.jpg

Look at the following eight verbs, then answer the three questions which follow.

1 Buy

2 Smell

3 Copy

4 Run

5 Taste

6 Hear

7 See

8 Go

Question 1

Which verbs are ‘action verbs’ and which ones are about the senses [eyes, ears, tongue, fingers, and so on]?

Question 2

What’s the grammatical difference between them? Hint: try putting them all in a logical sentence using the continuous tense – that is, using ‘to be ~ing’ for something happening around a point in time. For example, use the pattern: “I am [V]ing ……. right now.”

Question 3

Now, choose the correct tense of the verbs in the following two sentences.

I was smelling / smelt coffee, so I still am buying / buy a cup right now.

I was hearing / heard someone at the door, so I am going / go to check.


You probably realised that buy, copy, run, and go are action verbs, and the others are verbs about the senses. These ‘sense verbs’ (such as smell, taste, hear, and see) cannot be used in the ~ing form; however, action verbs can, especially when talking about a point in time e.g. right now. [Right now, I am typing on a keyboard].

Sense verbs’ are one sort of ‘stative’ verbs. ‘Stative’ means ‘about states’ or unchanging conditions. Students often make the mistake of using ‘sense verbs’ (stative verbs) in the continuous tense, but now, you won’t make that mistake, I hope.

By the way, when you look at the picture at the top, you almost smell the coffee, right?.