Some verbs are not usually used in the continuous form, even when we are talking about temporary situations or states. These are called stative verbs.
- So, we say I’m sorry, I don’t understand rather than
I’m not understanding.
1. Stative verbs are often verbs connected with thinking and opinions.
- She doesn’t know what to do NOT
She isn’t knowing what to do
- Do you agree with me?
- I don’t recognise it, do you?
Other verbs in this group include: believe, doubt, guess, imagine, mean, remember, think
2. Other stative verbs are connected with feelings and emotions
- I like this song. Who sings it? NOT
I’m liking this song
- What do you want to do now?
- I hate my new boss!
Other stative verbs in this group include: dislike, love, prefer. want, wish
NB – although ‘enjoy’ is a verb of emotion, it is used in the continuous tense
- I’m enjoying the party.
3. ‘see’, ‘hear’, ‘taste’, ‘smell’, ‘feel’ are verbs that describe senses.
These verbs aren’t usually used in continuous forms. They are often used with ‘can’.
- It smells of smoke in here. NOT
It’s smelling of smoke in here
- I can’t see anything. It’s too dark.
4. Stative verbs describe things that are not actions.
Look carefully at these 2 sentences.
- He smells of fish.
- He’s smelling the fish.
The second sentence is an action – not a state. The man wants to know if the fish is OK to eat.
- I think we should go to Croatia for our holiday this year.
- Sorry, what did you say? I was thinking about my holiday.
The first sentence is an opinion but the second sentence is an action.