non-continuous verbs – different meanings

Continuous and non-continuous verbs with different meanings

In this section we will show you some examples of how some verbs can be used in continuous tenses with one meaning but not with another:


  • What are you thinking about?  (here “think” = process of thinking)
  • What do you think about the new teachers at your school? ( here “think” = your opinion)
  • What are you thinking about your new teachers?  Is not possible


More examples:


  • The doctor is measuring me to see how tall I am.  (here “measure” = to find the length or height of something or someone)
  • My son measures 1m 95   (here “measure” = have length or height)
  • My son is measuring 1m 95  Is not possible


  • I’m seeing my old classmates on Friday  (here “see” = meet)
  • I see what the problem is.   (here “see” = understand)
  • I’m seeing what the problem is.   Is not possible


  • I’m looking at the Financial Times (here “look” = the action of looking)
  • It looks to be an important economic reform  (here “look” = seem)
  • It’s looking to be an important economic reform   Is not possible


  •  Why are you smelling the fish? Isn’t it fresh?  (Here “smell” = act of smelling)
  •  Does the fish smell bad?  (here “smell” = sense of smell)
  • Is this fish smelling good to you?    Is not possible*


  • My Mum’s feeling really well today. I think she’s recovered from her illness.
  • I feel we should buy our teacher a present. (here “feel” = have the opinion)
  • I’m feeling we should buy our teacher a present.  Is not possible


Further comments 

Continuous verb forms with Always

We can use “always”, “continually” and other similar words with a continuous form to mean “very often”

  • John’s always losing his keys.
  • Mrs smith is wonderful. She‘s always giving people vegetables and flowers from her garden.


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