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Non-continuous Verbs

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It is important to understand that not all verbs can be used in the continuous form. We will refer to these verbs as ‘Non-continuous Verbs. Another thing which is particular about verbs and the continuous forms is that some verbs that can be used in both the simple and perfect forms and also in the continuous forms have two different meanings.

Verbs that are physical actions which you can see someone doing can be used in all forms and with all tenses; run, walk, eat, read, fly, say, touch etc. can be used in all tenses.

Non-continuous Verbs

Non-continuous verbs; verbs that cannot be used in continuous forms are usually verbs that you cannot see somebody doing. These verbs are rarely used in continuous forms. They are:
Abstract verbs  Be, want, cost, need, care, contain, owe, exist etc.
Possession verbs Own, belong, possess etc.
Emotion Verbs Like, love, hate, dislike, fear, envy etc.;
She needs help.  Not She is needing help.
He wants a break. Not He is wanting a break.

Verbs with different meanings

There is a small group of verbs that have different meanings. Some meanings behave like non-continuous verbs while other meanings behave like normal verbs.

Here is a list of verbs that have different meanings when used in the continuous forms/tenses;

to appear:

Sarah appears confused. Non-Continuous Verb
Sarah seems confused.

My favourite singer is appearing at the jazz club tonight. Normal Verb
My favourite singer is giving a performance at the jazz club tonight.

to have:

I have a pound now. Non-Continuous Verb
I possess a pound.

I am having fun now. Normal Verb
I am experiencing fun now.

to hear:

She hears the music. Non-Continuous Verb
She hears the music with her ears.

She is hearing voices. Normal Verb
She hears something others cannot hear. She is hearing voices in her mind.

to look:

Tess looks tired. Non-Continuous Verb
She seems tired.

Jane is looking at the pictures. Normal Verb
She is looking with her eyes.

to miss:

John misses Sarah. Non-Continuous Verb
He is sad because she is not there.

Alison is missing her favourite TV program. Normal Verb
She is not there to see her favourite program.

to see:

I see her. Non-Continuous Verb
I see her with my eyes.

I am seeing the doctor. Normal Verb
I am visiting or consulting with a doctor.

I am seeing her. Normal Verb
I am having a relationship with her.

He is seeing ghosts at night. Normal Verb
He sees something others cannot see. For example a vision of the future, etc.

to smell:

The coffee smells good. Non-Continuous Verb
The coffee has a good smell.

I am smelling the flowers. Normal Verb
I am sniffing the flowers to see what their smell is like.

to taste:

The coffee tastes good. Non-Continuous Verb
The coffee has a good taste.

I am tasting the wine. Normal Verb
I am trying the wine to see what it tastes like.

to think:

He thinks the test is easy. Non-Continuous Verb
He considers the test to be easy.

She is thinking about the question. Normal Verb
She is pondering the question, going over it in her mind.

to weigh:

The case weighs a lot. Non-Continuous Verb
The case is heavy.

She is weighing herself. Normal Verb
She is determining her weight.

Verbs that cause confusion:

to be:

Bob is American. Non-Continuous Verb
Bob is a citizen of America.

Bob is being very American. Normal Verb
Bob is behaving like a stereotypical American.

Bob is being very rude. Normal Verb
Bob is behaving very rudely. Usually he is not rude.

Bob is being very formal. Normal Verb
Bob is behaving very formally. Usually he is not formal.

Only rarely is "to be" used in a continuous form. This is most commonly done when a person is temporarily behaving badly or stereotypically. It can also be used when someone's behaviour is noticeably different.

to feel:

The massage feels great. Non-Continuous Verb
The massage has a pleasing feeling.

I don't feel well today. Sometimes used as Non-Continuous Verb
I am a little sick.

I am not feeling well today. Sometimes used as Normal Verb
I am a little sick.

The second meaning of "feel" is very flexible and there is no real difference in meaning between "I don't feel well today" and "I am not feeling well today."