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ESL Grammar Resources

Non-Action Verbs Non-Action Verbs


Some verbs cannot be used in the progressive tenses. They are called non-action verbs.

Non-action verbs indicate state, sense, desire, possession, or opinion. The most common non-action verbs are:

be* seem appear*     (existence)
look* sound* smell* taste* feel* (senses)
like want prefer love*   (desire)
have* own possess     (possession)
think* believe consider*     (opinion)

Note the usage in the following sentences:

Mr. Tactful is seeming like a nice guy. (Wrong)
Mr. Tactful seems like a nice guy. (Correct)
This salad is tasting delicious. (Wrong)
This salad tastes delicious. (Correct)
I am liking banana cream pie. (Wrong)
I like banana cream pie. (Correct)

Some verbs have both action and non-action meanings. They are indicated by an asterisk* in the table above. The situation determines whether the action or non-action form of the verb is used.

Those flowers look beautiful. (Non-action)
Flora is looking out the window. (Action)
I think that's a great idea. (Non-action)
I am thinking about my upcoming speech. (Action)
We have a brand new car. (Non-action)
We are having a party this weekend. (Action)
Craig is a real estate agent. (Non-action)
Billy is being naughty today. (Action)

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