Action Vs. Status


Some English “action” verbs refer to events or actions that happen at a specific time, usually only once. These verbs cannot be used with “how long” or expressions of duration. “Status” verbs must be used to indicate conditions which exist over periods of time.


Some common action/status pairs are as follows:

    Action/Event (one time occurrence)
    (present or past)

    become

    get married
    get engaged
    get divorced

    graduate

    die

    meet
    learn
    find out

    buy/purchase
    get/aquire

    fall asleep
    fall in love

    Status/Condition (long time)
    (present or present perfect)

    be

    be married
    be engaged
    be divorced

    be out of school

    be dead

    know
    know
    know

    have
    have/own

    be asleep
    be in love


For example,

    I got married last May.


    I was single last April.

    I am married now.

    How long have you gotten married?

    How long have you been married?

    I met Mr. Carter last week.


    I have met Mr. Carter for one week.


    I have known Mr. Carter for one week.

    Nathan became a doctor in 1998.


    Nathan has become a doctor for two years.

    Nathan has been a doctor for two years.

    I graduated last August.


    How long have you graduated?

    How long have you been out of school?

    The baby fell asleep two hours ago.


    The baby has fallen asleep for two hours.

    The baby has been asleep for two hours

    I found out the news yesterday.

    I have found out the news since yesterday.

    I have known the news since yesterday.

    (The ceremony occurred last May.)

    (Status previous to last May)

    (Current status)

    (Wrong!)

    (Correct)

    (We saw each other the first time.)

    (Wrong! I only met him once.)

    (Correct)

    (That’s when he received his degree.)

    (Wrong!)


    (Correct)

    (That’s when the ceremony occurred.)

    (Wrong!)

    (Correct)

    (Changed from “awake” to “asleep”)

    (Wrong!)

    (Correct)

    (Specific time)

    (Wrong!)


    (Correct)

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