States of Being (Static Verbs)

Express existence and changes in states

Sleepy
 

States of "being"   

  • are conditions or situations that exist 
  • are inactive states; no action is performed
  • are typically followed by adjectives
  • are not progressive (with a few exceptions).

My name is Albert.  I am a sleepwalker.  I know the condition seems very unusual.  As you can guess, I never know where I will wake up in the morning.  I am tired much of the time. I have medicine to suppress my sleepwalking, but it doesn't work well. My footsteps in the middle of the night surprise people. 

 

 

 

Static (Stative) vs. Dynamic Verbs  

STATIC

Static verbs express states that exist, no action is taken. For this reason, they are mostly nonprogressive. These verbs have relatively little meaning other than relating the subject to the complement, which is usually an adjective or participle modifier.                                               

SUBJ PRED COMPLEMENT 
N STATIC VERB ADJECTIVE

Albert

is¹  (=)  

good / quiet / difficult.   

 

looks   (has the appearance)

tired.  

 

seems  (has the behavior)

upset.  

 

appears  (has the behavior)

happy.  

 

acts   (has the behavior)

strange.  

 

becomes  (changes)  

excited.  

 

¹is becoming  (gradually changing)

tired. 

 

gets²   (changes)

angry / tired.  

 

¹is getting   (gradually changing)

better, older, bored, tired

DYNAMIC

Dynamic verbs express activities, actions that we do or perform.  For this reason, they can take progressive verb forms. Note, in the examples below, how the meaning of the dynamic verb in the progressive differs from the meaning of the static verb in the nonprogressive. 

SUBJ PRED COMPLEMENT 
N DYNAMIC VERB ADJ / PP / NP

Albert

is being    (is behaving)

good / difficult.  (Adj)

 

is looking  (watching)

at you (PP)

 

*is seeming   (is acting)

upset.   (Adj)

 

is appearing  (is performing)

on stage. (PP)

 

is acting  (is performing)

in a movie. (PP)

 

 

 

 

 is becoming   (is working to become)

a good technician. (NP)

 

 

 

 

is getting  (is working for)

his PhD degree. (NP)

 

¹is getting / is becoming – an action is not being taken, but something is happening gradually (little by little),

is looking – In modern usage: He's looking good, You're looking well, The situation was looking bad.

look – face, have a view: These windows look south.

is becoming (Adj) – attractive: That suit is becoming on you.

²Also see  Get Passives

Static verbs are also called linking, copula or copular verbs.

*Yellow highlighting indicates example of incorrect usage

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

She is seeming upset.

~He is acting strangely. 

("He is performing on stage in a strange manner.")

The crowd went wildly.

SOLUTION

She seems upset.  (Do not use progressive with seem.) 

He acts strange.  (His behavior is odd or unusual.)

He is acting strange.  (Currently, his behavior is odd.)

The crowd went wild.   went (expression) – behaved, acted.

 

Related Article:   "Make-or-Break Verbs", New York Times, Web 16 Apr 2012 Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grammar Notes

Traditional and Linguistic Description

 

 

 

Traditional and Linguistic Description

TRADITIONAL DESCRIPTION

The Verb Be—A sentence with be as the main verb has three basic patterns.  (Azar A-5)

  • be + noun  John is a student.
  • be + adjective  John is intelligent.
  • be + prepositional phrase  John is in the library.

 

Linking Verbs—Other verbs like be that may be followed immediately by an adjective are called "linking verbs." An adjective following a linking verb describes the subject of a sentence. (Azar A-6)

  • feel, look, smell, sound, taste
  • appear, seem
  • become (get, turn, grow with the meaning of become)

 

LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION

Copular verbs (or copulas) are used to associate some attribute, expressed by the subject predicative following the verb, with the subject of the clause.  You're stupid.  The copula be links the attribute very stupid with the subject you.

There are a number of other verbs functioning as copulas:

  • current copular verbsbe, seem, appear, keep, remain, stay
    • likelihood— seem and appear
    • continuation of pre-existing state—remain, keep, stay
    • personal attitude—seem
  • resulting copular verbsbecome, get, go, grow, prove, come, turn, turn out, end up, wind up.

Subject predicatives are realized by a noun phrase, adjective phrase, or prepositional phrase.  The obligatory adverbial pattern is usually a prepositional phrase.

The copular verbs be, seem, and appear take the widest range of patterns occurring with complement clauses as well as adjectival and nominal complements. He seems angry. He seems a good boy. He seems in great form. He seems to be healthy.  (Biber 5.5.1-4)

 

Categories "Parts of Speech": N – noun; NP – noun phrase; V – verb; VP – verb phrase; Adj – adjective; AdjP – adjective phrase; Adv – adverb; AdvP – adverb phrase; P – preposition; PP – prepositional phrase; Detdeterminative; Subord – subordinator; Coord – coordinator; Interj – interjection.

Functions: Subj – Subject; Pred – Predicate/Predicator – Pred; Comp – Complement – an element that is required by the subject or verb to complete the meaning of the sentence such as DO – direct object; IO – indirect object; PC – predicative complement; Nonfinite Cls nonfinite clause: (Inf – infinitive: Ger – gerund); Adjunct – an element not required by the verb, an optional element such as a modifier, a subordinate clause, or a supplemental clause; Supplement – clauses or phrases tacked on but not closely related the central idea of the sentence.

 

 

 

Resources

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Robert

Italian Actor Roberto Benigni
 

 

Complete the paragraph with the correct verb forms.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

1.
2.
Robert is a very funny Italian actor. . In this movie, the police think he is a dangerous killer, but this is a mistake. A beautiful policewoman invites him to her apartment.
Feedback
Robert is a very funny Italian actor. Currently, . In this movie, the police think he is a dangerous killer, but this is a mistake.   A beautiful policewoman invites him to her apartment.
3.
He is delighted with her invitation. However, He bumbles, and fumbles.  This causes the policewoman to think he is going to attack her at any moment.  Meanwhile, the real killer is caught.
Feedback
He is delighted with her invitation. However, He bumbles, and fumbles. This causes the policewoman to think he is going to attack her at any moment.  Meanwhile, the real killer is caught.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

A Mathematical Mind

 

 

 

Is the verb static (expresses a state) or dynamic (expresses action)?

  1. Select an option: static or dynamic
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check 11-20" button at the bottom.

 

11.
When Robert walks in the room, nobody notices him because he seems so quiet.

   

12.
But then, he starts to talk about mathematics and he gets very energetic.  (full of energy)

   

13.
He looks so normal.

   

14.
But then you realize that he is looking at the world through "mathematical glasses".

   

15.
To him, even a rose appears mathematical

   

16.
He always gets the highest grade in the class.

   

17.
He is becoming very popular in class.

   

18.
He is being very helpful to his classmates.

   

19.
Sometimes, he acts smarter than the teacher!

   

20.
He is appearing on the game show Jeopardy this week.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 3

Becoming a Gymnast

gymnast
 

Read for Errors

My friend Chelsea is an inspiration.  She becomes an excellent gymnast.  She practices gymnastics six hours a day.  She very hard working to master her floor exercises.  She also a very smart person. She is looking amazing while she is performing.

Sometimes, she seeming tired and discouraged.  Occasionally, she tells me her coach is being difficult.  Yet I see she is getting stronger and better everyday.. She is appearing in the next national competition.

coach (N) – a trainer, an instructor, usually in sports

inspiration (N) – a feeling of great respect and liking for someone

 

 

 

 

Edit for Errors

  1. Edit the sentence(s) in the text box.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check" or the "Check 1-10" button.

 

21.
My friend Chelsea is an inspiration. She becomes an excellent gymnast.


22.
She practices gymnastics six hours a day. She very hard working to master her floor exercises.


23.
She also a very smart person. She is looking amazing while she is performing.

24.
Sometimes, she seeming tired and discouraged. Occasionally, she tells me her coach is being difficult.

25.
Yet I see she gets stronger and better everyday. She is appearing in the national competition this month.

 

 

medal