I got a quesiton recently which was:

True or False: The linking verb 'be' is always considered a stative verb?

To my knowledge, the answer should be True (i.e., the verb 'be' is always supposed to be a stative verb) but in the answer section of the book, the correct answer has been provided as: 'False'. I would like to know who is right here. Furthermore, if I am wrong, please provide examples to make it clear to me.


1 Answer 1


Thought.co explains that there are verbs which are both stative and active:

English also has plenty of gray areas, where a word isn't always only in one or the other category—sometimes words are stative and sometimes active. As with so many things in English, it depends on context.

Be is such a verb. Collins explains

People’s behaviour. For this we use the continuous tenses of the verb with a suitable adjective.

  • I am not being slow, I am being careful.
  • You were being very rude to your mum when I came downstairs.

So in the progressive tense, be refers to temporary behaviour. There is this question about the usage of "being" that can give you a clearer idea about the matter.

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    Thank you for the clarafication. I was unable to recall any sentence in which the verb 'be' could be a dynamic/action verb. I think your example: "You were being very rude..." does just that. It shows action in a way. So, thank you for that.
    – G.M.
    Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 10:02
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    'Be good!'' at least strongly implies a change in overall behaviour, and according to Dowty's third test [in the relevant Wikipedia article] probably can't be considered a stative usage, while according to @John Lawler's response at Are inchoative and causative verbs action or stative verbs? the situation is complicated. I'd say JL's response is essential reading for an overview. Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 10:53
  • Imperatives invoke compliance, which is a matter of doing something, and hence have a dynamic VP, as opposed to a stative one. Imperative "be" is thus lexical not auxiliary, thus not stative.
    – BillJ
    Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 13:46
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    Be is always an auxiliary, and -- to the extent it has any semantic properties, which is not very much -- it's always stative. Or you can say it copies the active/stative property from the predicate it's introducing. You can say it's "active" when it's the auxiliary of an active predicate like good, in the behavior sense; but it's "stative" when it's the auxiliary of a stative predicate like tall. Except that semantic properties aren't copied onto auxiliary verbs -- they stay with their predicates. Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 15:53
  • "Be" is predominantly an auxiliary, but it's also a lexical verb in imperatives and examples like "Why don't you be more tolerant?", where it behaves as a lexical verb by virtue of taking do -support in present tense negatives.
    – BillJ
    Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 17:32

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