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.

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


get married

get engaged

get divorced





find out



fall asleep

fall in love

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


be married

be engaged

be divorced

be out of school

be dead






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)



(We saw each other the first time.)

(Wrong! I only met him once.)


(That’s when he received his degree.)



(That’s when the ceremony occurred.)



(Changed from “awake” to “asleep”)



(Specific time)


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