First published at http://www.staff.ncl.ac.uk/jon.west/. © 2001 Jonathan West.
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Stative, or state verbs, or more accurately still, sentences which contain state verbs, express a situation which continues over a period, but it is irrelevant how long this period is.
sein, bestehen, sich befinden, gelten.
State verbs may be thought of as standing in opposition to event verbs, and activity verbs. As a rule, state verbs do not form an imperative or a passive and cannot be used with modal particles. These restrictions therefore form a set of tests for identifying state verbs.
The distinction stative vs. non-stative is also useful for distinguishing adjectives, e.g. alt, reich are stative and schnell, hilfreich are non-stative.