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Non-continuous Verbs

Non-continuous verbs are verbs that we do not normally use with continuous tenses. These
"stative" verbs are about state, not action, and they cannot express the continuous or
progressive aspect. Here are some of the most common non-continuous verbs:

feeling: hate, like, love, prefer, want, wish


senses: appear, feel, hear, see, seem, smell, sound, taste
communication: agree, deny, disagree, mean, promise, satisfy, surprise
thinking: believe, imagine, know, mean, realize, recognize, remember, understand
other states: be, belong, concern, depend, involve, matter, need, owe, own, possess

Look at these example sentences, right and wrong:

I want a coffee. not I am wanting a coffee.


I don't believe you are right. not I am not believing you are right.
Does this pen belong to you? not Is this pen belonging to you?
It seemed wrong. not It was seeming wrong.
I don't hear anything. not I am not hearing anything.

Notice that we often use can + see/hear:

I can see someone in the distance. not I am seeing someone in the distance.
I can't hear you very well. not I am not hearing you very well.

With verbs that we cannot use in continuous tenses, there is no real action or activity.
Compare hear and listen. The verb "hear" means "receive sound in your ears". There is no
action or activity by you. We cannot use hear with continuous tenses. But listen means "try to
hear". You make an effort to hear. There is a kind of action or activity. We can use listen with
continuous tenses.

Dual Meaning Verbs


Some verbs have two different meanings or senses. For one sense we cannot use a continuous
tense. For the other sense we can use any tense.

For example, the verb think has two different meanings:

1. to believe, to have an opinion


I think red is a strong colour.
2. to reflect, to use your brain to solve a problem
I am thinking about my homework.

In sense 1 there is no real action, no activity. This sense is called "stative". In sense 2 there is
a kind of action, a kind of activity. This sense is called "dynamic".
When we use the stative sense, we cannot use a continuous tense. When we use the dynamic
sense, we can use any tense, depending on the situation.

Look at the examples in the table below:

Stative sense Dynamic sense


- no real action - a kind of action
must use: can use:
non-continuous tenses continuous tenses non-continuous tenses I think she is beautiful.
Be quiet. I'm thinking. I will think about this problem tomorrow. I don't consider that he is
the right man for the job. We are considering your job application and will give you our
answer in a few days. We consider every job application very carefully. This table measures
4 x 6 feet. She has been measuring the room for a new carpet. A good carpenter measures
his wood carefully. Does the wine taste good? I was tasting the wine when I dropped the
glass. I have always tasted wine before drinking it. Mary has three children. Please phone
later. We are having dinner now. We have dinner at 8pm every day.