Stative and Dynamic Adjectives

As their name suggests, STATIVE adjectives denote a state or condition, which may generally be considered permanent, such as big, red, small. Stative adjectives cannot normally be used in imperative constructions:

*Be big/red/small

Further, they cannot normally be used in progressive constructions:

*He is being big/red/small

In contrast, DYNAMIC adjectives denote attributes which are, to some extent at least, under the control of the one who possesses them. For instance, brave denotes an attribute which may not always be in evidence (unlike red, for example), but which may be called upon as it is required. For this reason, it is appropriate to use it in an imperative:

Be brave!

Dynamic adjectives include:

calm
careful
cruel
disruptive
foolish
friendly
good
impatient
mannerly
patient
rude
shy
suspicious
tidy
vacuous
vain 

All dynamic adjectives can be used in imperatives (Be careful!, Don’t be cruel!), and they can also be used predicatively in progressive constructions:

Your son is being disruptive in class
My parents are being foolish again
We’re being very patient with you

The majority of adjectives are stative. The stative/dynamic contrast, as it relates to adjectives, is largely a semantic one, though as we have seen it also has syntactic implications.

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