I am confused on how to distinguish if a verb is stative or dynamic when used in a sentence. For example, 持つ appears to have two definitions, one for a dynamic meaning and one for a stative meaning.

  1. 物の一部分をつかむ
  2. 所有している

How do I tell the difference between the two definitions when used in a sentence? For example,


Is the interpretation "The hijackers who had weapons terrified the passengers" (stative) or "The hijackers who had obtained weapons terrified the passengers" (dynamic)?

2 Answers 2


You should be able to tell from the context nearly 100% of the time. On the rare chance that it is difficult to tell, it would generally be of little importance which way you interpret it. Off hand, I could not think of such an example.


In this sentence, the vast majority of Japanese-speakers, myself included, would take the 武器を持った part to mean "holding weapons". That is because it is really irrelevant as to who actually legally owns those weapons that are presently in the hijackers' hands.

  • What about when 持つ is in the negative form? For example, 彼はカードを持たないで外に出ていた。 Would it be "He went outside without taking his card" or "He went outside without the card on him?"
    – Joe
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 7:55
  • That would be "without the card on him". He left it at home; He forgot. To be honest, though, I am not too sure how exactly that is different from "He went outside without taking his card."
    – user4032
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 10:32
  • "Taking his card" reflects an action and makes 持つ a dynamic verb, while "without the card on him" reflects a state of being and makes 持つ a stative verb.
    – Joe
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 21:04

(sorry, not enough reputation to comment)

I agree with l'électeur, you will and most of the time can be interpreted from the context.

If you want to be specific

"He went outside without taking his card" << action caused by him 彼はカードを持たないで外に出ていた。

"He went outside without the card on him" << a condition 彼はカードがない状態で外に出ていた。

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .