Verbs not used in continuous/progressive tenses

There are 4 continuous (or progressive) verb tenses in English: the present continuous (I  am eating), the past continuous (I was eating), the present perfect continuous (I have been eating), and the past perfect continuous (I had been eating).  Just about any verb can be put into these continuous tenses, but there are some verbs that can’t.

The following list contains verbs that are not normally used in any continuous/ progressive tense.

•    Senses:  hear, see
•    Thinking:  believe forget, know, rememberthink, understand
•    Possessing:  belonghave, own, possess,
•    Preferences:  dislike, hate, likelove, need, prefer, want
•    Being:  be, exist, seem, look (appear)

I hear someone at the front door.
NOT:  I am hearing someone at the front door.
We believe we’re doing the right thing.
NOT: We are believing we’re doing the right thing
We own that house.
NOT:  We are owning that house.
She wanted a glass of cold water.
NOT:  She was wanting a glass of cold water.
They are my cousins.
NOT:  They are being my cousins.


If one of these verbs is happening right now or was happening at the time indicated, you can use a continuous/progressive tense.

What are you thinking about? (happening right now)
I was loving that experience until I fell. (happening at the time that I fell)
He was being an idiot last night. (happening all last night)

When “have” doesn’t mean “possess” but means “experience,” then you can use the continuous/progressive tense.

We were having such a good time that we forgot what time it was.

When “see” doesn’t mean “see with the eyes” but means “romantically date” or “have regular meetings with,” then you can use the continuous/progressive tense.

These days he’s seeing a woman he works with, but I don’t think it’s serious.
I didn’t know you were seeing a psychiatrist.

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© 2013 Ambien Malecot


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