Stative verbs in the progressive form

(Reposted from old newsgroup on 2/13/03)

I've been wondering about stative verbs in the progressive form.

We teach our students that verbs such as hear, see, and love are not used in the progressive. Yet, we are constantly hearing sentences like these:

We're seeing more women sportscasters than ever before.

I'm loving it!

We're now recognizing that even children made unhappy by divorce very often grow up to be happy and productive citizens.


What should we tell our students?

Julia Cayuso
University of Miami
jcayuso@miami.edu
Original Post
(Reposted from old newsgroup on 2/13/03)

It's true that stative verbs, such as hear, see, and love are not usually used in the progressive. However, if you mean to emphasize an ongoing situation of the present time "” and to show that it's indeed different from a past situation "” you can put these verbs in a progressive form. You can also do this with many of these verbs: realize, understand, and recognize, too, for example:

We're seeing a lot of computer viruses these days.

Social scientists are now understanding the great impact of technology on everyday life.

You're just now realizing that I have needs, too?

This use of the progressive in this sense appears to be more frequent now than previously, and often can be a bit more conversational in tone than the simple present, as in your example, "I'm loving it!" This use emphasizes the momentary condition and even seems to intensify it.

"We're loving our new home" describes a state as though it could be an activity of a temporary nature in progress at the time, and is quite informal in tone, as opposed to "We love our new home," which connotes a general statement of truth.

Rachel
(Reposted from old newsgroup on 2/13/03)

In England, in my social/educational group, 'I am wanting' is quite common.
'I want him to go to nursery school.'
has a subtle difference in meaning from
'I'm wanting him to go to nursery school.'

The first is a simple statement of fact - and expresses a feeling you have that you have no doubt about.

The second is more refelctive: you have had internal doubts - or possibly you think someone may challenge or be surprised at your view.

There are other uses of the presnt continuous of want- all convey a certain degree of reflection. Tne same kind of thing applies to PC of feel, think, and probably more. As lunch calls, I'll leave you, anonymous reader, to find others.

Bob Cordell
cordell@ntlworld.com
Hi everybody.This is my firts post here:

Can we then say that because our life is becoming more dynamic the number of stative verbs is decreasing but adverbs are becoming like adjectives because they are shorter? Pure stative verbs like hope, understand and want are being used dynamically at least in spoken English to become part of standard language later. This change and development underway unfortunately leaves no room for permanent quiet states. Everything is subject to change.
Jamshid
The number of stative verbs is not decreasing, although perhaps the use of stative verbs used in the dynamic sense is increasing.

I would not say that the form of adverbs is changing to the form of adjectives because adjectives are shorter, although that could be the case.

In general, though, you are correct -- many aspects of language are subject to change, constant change. Just look at the change in our English language since Shakespeare's time!

Rachel
quote:
Pure stative verbs like hope, understand and want are being used dynamically at least in spoken English to become part of standard language later. This change and development underway unfortunately leaves no room for permanent quiet states.

In re-reading your post, Dr. Ibrahim, I'm getting what you are saying: that our state of being has a greater percentage of unquiet times as opposed to quiet times.

I'm beginning to understand what you have stated. When I finally do understand it, I will say to myself: "Aha! Now I get what Dr. Ibrahim wanted to say: that our quiet states are too few now, in comparison with the number there were in times gone by."

Your thoughts are more than comments on grammar; they are comments on our life style of today.

Am I right?

Rachel
Hi Rachel:
Sorry to reply so late.

Grammar is a product of human mind, so you can't really look at it separate from human life. Since life is dynamic subject to change my observation is that originally pure stative verbs are acquiring a dynmaic sense just like the change from irregular to regular verbs. I tended to think that the simple tenses whether past, present or future were more frequently used than any continuous tense(70% simple to 30% continuous). However, I notice that learners of English have a chronic tendency for continuous tenses. They simply think they sounds more English. But I thought this might go back to the fact that our life is becoming dynamic like fashion whose collections keep changing from season to season. Everything is becoming short-term.
Regards
Jamshid
I didn't realize that English language learners were so frequently overusing the progressive aspect of tenses. Maybe they are.

As we discussed, the progressive does seem to be being used more than previously. For example, I saw a TV show a few nights ago in which one of the male characters said to another, "You're smellin' bad, Dude," to mean that Dude had a bad odor about him.

Of course, the sentence is perfectly understandable, and probably only three people in the whole world noticed how unusual and, I guess formerly, ungrammatical it was.

That you think the progressive aspect reflects a more rapidly changing world with more frequent appearances of short-term situations is interesting. That may very well be the case!

Thank you for writing, Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim. We look forward to hearing from you again.
Well Rachel "smell" has a dual function. Some verbs have a dual function. Just take HAVE meaning possess (stative) or action like eating (dynamic) or think meaning believe (stative) and intellectual action (dynnamic). If smell is used dynamically ie in the progressive the meaning then changes to a temporary state which is not a fact. In addion semll is a link verb which means it takes an adjective not an adverb. Of course spoken language uses continuous more than simple. Formal English: I hope .. Informal English makes hope dynamic to emphasize it: I am hoping. Thanks Rachel.
Regards
Jamshid
Dr, Jamshid Abraham:

Yes, of course, "smell" functions as both a stative and a dynamic verb.

Usually, the progressive aspect -- "is smelling" -- refers to a person or an animal who is sniffing. To refer to the odor given, we use only the stative.

That's why it's unusual to hear "You're smelling bad," which means, "You smell bad."
Today I would like to give some examples how formerly pure stative verbs develop a dynamic sense to describe a process. This reminds me of what the philosopher Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) said in his book: One-Dimensional Man because our capitalist system being totallitarian, turns everything into a process with only one dimension: the dimension of machine preoduction process:

Cost: We are having a factory built. It is costing us a forttune (cost describing a process still going on)

realize, regret, understand:
we are understanding more and more about the human genes.
We are now realizing the dangers involved.

Forget: she is forgetting her boyfriend (after a split)
Verbs of Dual Function (processes and states):
England and its Germanic language came into contact with numerous other languages and cultures throughout its past and present history. The past contacts were more hostile most prominently Scandinavian and Norman invasions which changed the language into what we call English today. Relatively more modern contacts after the Norman invasion were more peaceful and colonial in nature and English developed from a simple language into a global one.

As a result of this development English became the language of “double everything”. For example for an everyday Germanic monosyllabic word which is more phrasal there is a formal multisyllabic Romance word: go in – enter, give up – abandon, give in - surrender. This in turn made the emergence of a man like Shakespeare possible. No Shakespeare would have been possible before those contacts. Playing on words and their meanings necessitates a rich language. However, since our life is dynamic most English verbs are dynamic (change, action) not stative.

Categorization of state verbs in alphabetical order:
These categories are regarded as state verbs in the aspect of English when contrasted syntactically and semantically with dynamic verbs because they have no duration (the states expressed are unchanging for a long or indefinite period of time) or end point. They usually denote states rather than actions i.e. the way things 'are' (relate existence or equivalence). They do not indicate activities or processes and are thus non-progressive verb forms. State verbs can signify cognitive, emotional and physical states (willed/controlled and "non-willed/cannot be controlled). Still, the boundary between stative and dynamic verbs is in practice fuzzy and many of these verbs have a dynamic meaning and function i.e. they have an end point or have become processes or simply such differences are ignored so that sentences like (I am owning this house) and (She is liking this game) are commonplace in spoken English. This may be due to the importance given to the present continuous aspect when teaching English.

The list of pure state verbs is becoming smaller. Formerly pure stative verbs develop a dynamic sense to describe a process. This reminds me of what the philosopher Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) said in his book: One-Dimensional Man because our capitalist system being totallitarian, turns everything into a process with only one dimension: the dimension of machine preoduction process:
We are having a factory built. It is costing us a forttune (cost although primarily a stative verb describes here a process still going on)

Some of these state verbs are also link (copula) verbs i.e. they take adjectives not adverbs depending upon their meaning:
She looks happy (adjective)
She is looking happily at me (adverb)

Stative verbs have the following characteristics:
Verbs of appearance:: appear, look, seem, sound
Verbs of desire, hope intention: desire, hope, impress, intend, involve, mean, promise, wish
Verbs of emotion: abhor, adore, astonish, detest, dislike, forgive, hate, like, love, prefer, regret.
Verbs of mind: agree believe, deny, deserve, disagree, doubt, feel, find, forget, guess, imagine, know, matter, mind, presuppose, realize, recall, regard, suppose, recognize, remember, think, and understand.
Verbs of need: lack, need, require, want
Verbs of perception: feel, hear, perceive, see, smell, taste
Verbs of measurement and size/relation: consist, contain, cost, fit, include, measure, take (size) weight
Verbs of Possession/relation: belong to, get, have, owe, own, possess
Verbs of satisfaction: please, satisfy
Verbs of states: be, concern, depend, deserve, keep, reach, signify, stay, surprise
Other verbs: come (nationality), do (job)

Alphabetical list of verbs of dual grammatical function (simple-state)/(continuous -process) and different meanings with examples:
Act: behave/ perform
He acts oddly He is acting in the new film

Appear: look/ Perform
He appears pleased. He is appearing on stage tonight.

Be: permanent state, personality trait/ Temporary state, acting or behaving uncooperatively temporarily
My friend is German He is being difficult these days.
You are stupid: always in personality You are being stupid: only now.

Become: sate/ Process
He becomes easily irritated You are becoming an expert

Come: nationality/ travelling
I come from Germany I am coming from Germany.

Cost: price/ a process
It costs a lot of money Our house is costing a fortune

Do: job/ action
What do you do? What are you doing.

Enjoy: permanently/ Temporarily
I enjoy short stories. (permanently) I am really enjoying this film.

Feel: believe, have an opinion/ quality of mood/ touch
I feel I am tired. I am feeling miserable
This fabric feels smooth He is feeling the material.

Forget: cognitive state/ process of forgetting

Get: sate/ Process
He get easily angry He is getting better and better

Guess: believe/ trying to find out by guessing
I guess we need to think it over You are guessing. Aren’t you?

Have: possession/ other meanings
I have a nice office/ a house We are having lunch now
She is having a baby We are having a nice time

Imagine: think/ seeing things in the mind
I imagine it is all the same to you. Ghosts! You are imagining things

Look: appear, seem/focusing your eyes on...
You look nice She is looking at me.

Measure: have measure have length/take measure
This sofa measures two meters He is measuring the hall.

Realize: know/ process
People don’t realize its importance. We are now realizing the dangers of pollution.

Regret: feeling/ Process
We deeply regret this matter. We are regretting the sad development in our department.

See: understand/ other meanings (visit…)
Do you see what I mean I am seeing my aunt on Saturday.

Smell: natural instinct/ action of finding out
It smells horrible. Why are you smelling the food?

Suppose: believe/ make an assumption
I suppose this is him. You are supposing he is to blame.

Take: measure/ Other meanings
What size do you take?
I am taking an exam.

Taste have a certain taste/ the action of tasting
This soup tastes fantastic The cook is tasting the soup.
The coffee tastes really bitter

Think: believe , have an opinion/ consider, intellectual action, have in mind
What do you think about it? I am thinking of a transfer.

Understand: know/ process
Do you understand what they say? We are understanding more and more about it.

Weigh: have weight/ act of weighing
It weighs three kilos I am weighing the pros and cons

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