Some English verbs, which we call state, non-continuous or stative verbs, are not used in continuous tenses (like the present continuous, the future continuous, etc.).
These verbs often describe states that last for some time. Here is a list of some common ones:
|verbs of perception||verbs that express feelings/ emotions||verbs of the senses||other verbs|
believe / think*
I wanted to talk to you at ten o'clock yesterday. – Not: I was wanting to talk to you at ten o'clock yesterday.
A verb which isn't stative is called a dynamic verb, and is usually an action. This verb can be used in continuous tenses.
I was doing my homework at ten o'clock yesterday. / I did my homework yesterday.
* Some of the verbs can be used in continuous tenses. But in this case they have different meanings.
I thought she was hungry.
I was thinking of drinking a cup of tea.
I felt you were wrong.
The water felt cold.
(a link verb)
I was feeling happy.
(= I felt happy.)
I could see a lake from my room.
(= it was visible)
I saw your problem.
(= I understood)
He was seeing the town.
(= was visiting as a tourist)
This tea tasted sweet.
(a link verb [= it was] had the flavour of)
Ann was tasting the soup to see if it had enough salt.
(= was trying)
This flower smelled nice.
(a link verb = had the aroma)
The dog was smelling its food.
(= was sniffing)
That cake looked good.
(a link verb)
He was looking at the picture.
This coat fitted me perfectly.
(= was the right size)
We were fitting new windows in our house.
(= were installing)
She was a nice girl.
(= that was her nature)
She was being rude yesterday.
(= is behaving, only yesterday)
He had a cat.
(= owns, possess)
He was having dinner.
(= eating/ action)
* Some verbs can be used in simple or continuous tenses with no difference in meaning.
look (when we refer to somebody's appearance)
Teresa looked wonderful yesterday. = Teresa was looking wonderful yesterday.
feel (when we experience a particular emotion, physical or mental condition)
I felt happy. = I was feeling happy.