Wikipedia says that stative verbs are always inchoative when used as imperatives. However, negative imperatives are used to exhibit prohibition in "including the giving of prohibition," and saying "Believing that is prohibited" does not seem to have the inchoative aspect. So in a sentence like "don't think badly of this" does it have the inchoative aspect?

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    In other words, does Don't think badly of this mean "Don't start to think badly of this"? – John Lawler Mar 23 '16 at 22:36
  • Wikipedia says that it is Dowty who says that stative verbs are always inchoative when used as imperatives. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 23 '16 at 23:06
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    Once you shift from 'have an opinion' to 'change your opinion', the notion of stativeness (of say 'think' = 'hold an opinion') becomes blurred. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 23 '16 at 23:17
  • If you are attending to my wounds as I’m lying on the ground and I squirm as you touch a tender spot, you might command “Be still.” Which I’d interpret not as, “start being still” but rather, “Remain [or continue] being still.” – Jim Sep 12 '16 at 5:28

To comply with the use of a stative verb one must either start, stop or continue (not in the sense of resume) one's current state. As inchoative refers only to a start, I consider Wikipedia to be inaccurate in this respect.

An example:

See the screen! One way you can be complying is if you've continued the state (seeing the screen) that you were in when you read that (presuming that someone didn't read it to you). So a stative verb is clearly not always inchoative when used as an imperative.

"Don't think badly of this!" would only imply a start (thinking well or having no opinion either way) if the listener was already thinking badly of it, so the answer to your question is "No."

  • 'Remain standing!' is obviously a non-inchoative imperative. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 20 '16 at 20:44

Inchoative when used as main verbs.

When used otherwise they permit other readings.


The use of the term 'inchoative aspect' in the post deserves special admiration. Before we move on to the larger issue, let us examine the terms, ASPECT, STATIVE as apposed to DYNAMIC, IMPERATIVE and INCHOATIVE.

ASPECT is difficult to define. Roughly, on a superfluous level, it expresses how an action, event or state denoted by a verb relates to the flow of time. English tense system is made of the stuff of TIME (present/past/future) and ASPECT(simple/continuous/perfect). Time refers to 'when' and ASPECT to 'how'.

Stative verbs describe a state of being/perceiving/mind/relationship. Stative verbs like 'know','believe' or 'love' are static or unchanging through out their entire duration and do not require imput or energy like DYNAMIC (action) VERBS.

Strictly speaking, inchoative verbs are literally those set of verbs that express a state of change, require no causing agent and seem to suggest that something is occurring spontaneously of its own accord. Cf.* The leaves turned brown. However, they have nothing to do with inchoative aspect of our discussion.

Imperative is a sentence type standardly used for the communication of a demand. The speaker desires ACTION expressed in the sentence to take place. When in negative the speaker intends that something shouldn't happen or is not desired. * Run. * Do not play in the Sun.

IMPERATIVE VERBS ARE TENSE LESS. Imperative are usually odd with statives. It is believed that they are restricted to dynamic verbs. When stative verbs are used in imperatives the interpretation is ,nevertheless, dynamic.

Interestingly, in English a verb that expresses a state can also express the entrance into a state. This ENTRANCE INTO A STATE /ITS PROBABILITY/CONDITIOAL DESIRABILITY is meant by INCHOATIVE ASPECT. Inchoative is an aspect that expresses the beginning of an event or state of a verb. English does not have a separate form to express the inchoative. But the expression - be about to- is a marker of inchoative meaning.

Dowty gives some test to decide if a verb is stative. One of them says that statives don't occur as imperative unless used in an inchoative manner as we have explained already. Some examples. * Know Greek by Friday. * Remain seated. * Know that we went yesterday. * Look elated.* Please remember where the money was hidden.

In the above examples, statives are coerced by the imperative mood into dynamic interpretation, or in other words, into inchoative aspect.

It is true that there are forty or so stative verbs and not all of them have an inchoative aspect.

But once it is admitted that stative verbs have inchoative presence in imperatives, it matters little whether the sentence is positive or negative. The verb is inchoative in both:* Love me / Don't remain seated long. John Lawler nicely explained in his comment what,"Dont think badly of this" is suggestive of. Being negative, it is inchoative as well. It is an invitation to start anew.

However, day by day the borderline between stative and dynamic is getting blurred. McDonald tweaked standard usage of stative verbs to call attention to itself -"I'm lovin' it." , and the shops post signs saying, "Enjoy your beverages outside." However, Dowty is very much right though.

https://www.usingenglish.com/forum/threads/80691-stative-verbs-vs-dynamic-verbs?s=7d998d4ad770a2e4e5d144b9366ec831 Reference may be drawn to the uses by J K Rowling as shown in the link . So it is proof enough that statives are gradually getting free of inchoative stigma, and even embracing continuous.


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