Many verbs are used in continuous tenses. These verbs are known as action verbs as they express something that is done. Here are some examples:
- Present continuous – I’m working at the moment.
- Past continuous – Jack was cooking dinner when I arrived.
- Future continuous – I will be playing tennis this time tomorrow.
- Present perfect continuous – She’s been working here for three years.
Generally, continuous (or progressive) tenses are used to describe what is happening at a particular moment in time. The focus when using continuous tenses is always on an action in progress. However, there are some important exceptions to using continuous tenses. Most importantly, there are a number of common non-continuous verbs that are never or rarely used with continuous forms. These verbs are called stative verbs and fall into a few categories:
- Mental and emotional states
Mental and Emotional States
- Believe – I believe what you say.
- Dislike – She dislikes eating pizza.
- Doubt – I doubt what you say is true.
- Imagine – He imagines he needs some time off work.
- Know – I know Tom very well.
- Like – I like watching TV in the evening.
- Love – They love to visit friends.
- Hate – I hate to see him suffer.
- Prefer – They prefer to take tests on Monday.
- Realize – She realizes that it was her mistake.
- Recognize – Peter recognizes his mistake.
- Remember – I remember that day very well.
- Suppose – I suppose you are right.
- Understand – Tim understands the situation.
- Want – I want to wish you well.
- Wish – I wish life were easier.
- Appear – It appears to be finished.
- Hear – I hear what you are saying.
- See – I see that it’s difficult.
- Seem – It seems rather simple to me.
- Smell – It smells like a rat.
- Sound – It sounds like a good idea.
- Taste – It tastes like almonds.
- Agree – I agree we need to finish the project.
- Astonish – He astonishes me every time.
- Deny – The criminal denies any wrong doing.
- Disagree – I disagree with what you say.
- Impress – He impresses his teachers at school.
- Mean – I mean that very honestly.
- Please – She pleases her students every day in class.
- Promise – I promise I’m not telling a lie.
- Satisfy – She satisfies all the requirements.
- Surprise – It surprises me every time.
- Be – I’m a teacher.
- Belong – It belongs to Tom.
- Concern – It concerns all of us.
- Consist – It consists of chocolate, cream and cookies.
- Contain – The letter contains a threat.
- Cost – The jeans cost $100.
- Depend – It depends on how you look at it.
- Deserve – You deserve much better.
- Dit – That doesn’t fit my schedule.
- Include – The vacation includes all meals.
- Involve – The job involves lots of travel.
- Lack – It lacks any meaning.
- Matter – It doesn’t matter what you think.
- Need – I need some time off.
- Owe – He owes you a lot of money.
- Own – I own a Porsche.
- Possess – Jack possesses all the right skills.
Non-Continuous and Continuous
There are also a number of verbs that don’t take the continuous forms in one meaning but DO take the continuous forms in other meanings. Here are some of the most important:
|Verb||Non-Continuous Meanings||Continuous Meanings|
|Feel||‘have an opinion’ – He feels he should get a second chance.||‘feel physically’ – I’m feeling awful this afternoon.|
|See||‘understand’ – I see what you mean.||‘visit’ – She’s seeing a doctor this morning.|
|Think||‘have an opinion’ – I think we should leave immediately.||‘use the brain’ – He’s thinking hard about the problem.|
|Appear||‘look like’ – That appears to be stale.||‘be on stage / perform’ – Jack Daniels is appearing at the Paramount tonight.|
|Look||‘seem’ – It looks impossible!||‘stare at’ – I’m looking at that strange man.|
|Taste||‘have a taste’ – That tastes yummy!||‘use the mouth’ – The cook is tasting the sauce!|