Non-Continuous Verbs

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Many verbs are used in continuous tenses. 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 fall into a few categories:

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. 

She dislikes that boy. NOT She is disliking that boy.
Jack prefers going out for dinner tonight. NOT Jack is preferring going out for dinner tonight.
I recognize you! NOT I'm recognizing you!


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.

I saw him when the train arrived. NOT I was seeing him when the train arrived.
It tastes strange. NOT It is tasting strange.
Did you hear that? NOT Were you hearing that?


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.

You astonish me! NOT You are astonishing me!
I'm afraid I disagree with you. NOT I'm afraid I am disagreeing with you.
I meant to tell him yesterday afternoon. NOT I was meaning to tell him yesterday afternoon.

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. 
fit - 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. 

It depends on how much it costs. NOT It is depending on how much it is costing.
She said it involved a lot of work. NOT She said it was involving a lot of work.
It doesn't matter. NOT It isn't mattering.

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:

Non-Continuous Meanings

feel = 'have an opinion' - He feels he should get a second chance.

see = 'understand' - I see what you mean.
think = 'have an opinion' - I think we should leave immediately.
appear = 'look like' - That appears to be stale.
look = 'seem' - It looks impossible!
taste = 'have a taste' - That tastes yummy!

Continuous Meanings

feel = 'feel physically' - I'm feeling awful this afternoon.
see = 'visit' - She's seeing a doctor this morning.
think = 'use the brain' - He's thinking hard about the problem.
appear = 'be on stage / perform' - Jack Daniels is performing at the Paramount tonight.
look = 'stare at' - I'm looking at that strange man.
taste = 'use the mouth' - The cook is tasting the sauce!