Stative Verbs: Some Extra Thoughts (4 of 6): Can you smell the durian?


In the previous posts, I looked at the four sorts of stative verbs. ‘Stative’ means ‘about states’ or unchanging conditions. The four sorts of verbs are verbs of Senses (smell, hear, sense), Ownership (have, contain, belong), Mind (believe, trust, know), Emotion (love, hate, adore). I remember these by thinking ‘SOME verbs are stative’.

But in the previous two posts, I mentioned that it is not just the meaning of the verb which matters, but the way the verb is used. But it can also depend on the situation.

Let’s look at the verb ‘smell’. Isn’t this a verb about the senses? That’s the S in SOME? So, it must be stative, right? Right! Look at the picture at the top of this post. It’s a fruit called a ‘durian’, and you probably know that it has a very strong smell. And if someone walked into that room, they would not say …

Mmmm, I’m smelling durian. [incorrect]

Something is smelling bad here. [incorrect]

But if a professional durian inspector was studying two types on the table in front of him, he might explain to an observer ….

Right now, I’m smelling the durian in order to determine the quality. [correct]

As I’m smelling this durian, I’m also counting to five. [correct]

So, when thinking about stative (SOME) verbs, it is not just the meaning of the verb which matters, but also the way the verb is used, and this can depend on the specific situation.

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