When to Use Non-Continuous or Stative Verbs

Two women looking happy
Feeling Happy. Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

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:

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
  • Sense
  • Communication

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.

Sense

  • 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.

Communication

  • 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.

Other States

  • 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:

VerbNon-Continuous MeaningsContinuous 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!

Stative and Active Verbs Quiz

Check your understanding of the continuous and non-continuous use of these verbs by conjugating the verb in either the present continuous or the present simple based on whether the verb is expressing an action or a state in the following sentences.

1. He _____ (feel) that you shouldn't worry too much about college now. He thinks you should just focus on doing well in high school.

2. The Rock 'N Roll twins _________ (appear) this weekend at the Highland Concert Arena.

3. Could you be quiet? I ________ (think) about this math problem and I can't concentrate!

4. The tiramisu _____ (taste) amazing! Could you give me the recipe?

5. Who _____ you _____ (look) at and why?!

6. I think Peter _______ (see) Marcia at the moment. I've heard they're in love.

7. I'm afraid that _____ (look) too difficult for me to do.

8. Julie _____ (appear) to be very nervous about her job interview tomorrow.

When to Use Non-Continuous or Stative Verbs

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When to Use Non-Continuous or Stative Verbs

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