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Whether you're a learner of English or an ESL/EFL teacher, there are times when we can get confused by those non-continuous verbs, or how to explain their use. Although by no means comprehensive, this article seeks to set out a few groundrules.
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These are the -ing forms of verbs, used for a specific event or plan at a specific time (whether mentioned or not), e.g.
- I am going to school tomorrow.
- He is playing the piano now
Compare those with the simple present forms used for habits, e.g.
- I go to school every day.
- He plays piano at the new jazz bar.
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As usual in English there are exceptions to the -ing usage. Some verbs cannot be used in the continuous form, or can only be used this way with a "special" meaning.
These include some very commonly used verbs such as: remember; forget; have; verbs of emotion such as love (except as used in a particular hamburger chain's commercial!), hate; the verbs of the five senses; consist; contain; want; need.
Even though you are doing it right now, you cannot normally say "I am remembering......". Instead, say, "I remember ...".
Never say, "Are you wanting...?" but, "Do you want...?"
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The verb "have" in its basic meaning of "to own" cannot be used continuously
- I am having two sisters. BAD!
- She is having a new car. BAD!
However, when it is used for its many other meanings, there is no problem in using "having":
- She is having (= giving birth to) her baby now.
- They will be having (= eating) dinner together tomorrow night.
- I'm having (= "taking"/making use of) a bath later. etc.
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Verbs of sense
These have only non-continuous forms when used as linking verbs, explaining what our senses convey to us.
- It looks pink.
- That smells awful!
- Her singing sounds great.
- This cake tastes wonderful.
- The carpet feels rough.
When we use these as active verbs, however, continuous forms are again acceptable:
- She is looking at me very strangely.
- He was smelling the rose petals. etc.
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Listen carefully to what people say. Practice the different versions of the verbs of sense until it becomes second nature.
Are you having fun yet?