Learning English – State verbs “I understand” or “I am understanding”?

Imagine – you’re learning English. You learn about the past continuous tense. You understand that it describes actions happening at a specific time in the past. Then you have this conversation with your English teacher:

You: I was speaking English.

Teacher: Yes! Perfect grammar! You’re amazing!

You: I was understanding the past continuous tense.

Teacher: No! Wrong!

You: Shocked guy

But why?

Because of state verbs.

State verbs in English

Some verbs in English are called “state” or “stative” verbs. These verbs are not usually used in continuous tenses.

There are lots of state verbs in English, but the most common ones fall into 2 main groups:

Verbs describing feelings and opinions

  • love, hate, like, dislike, prefer

Verbs describing your thinking

  • believe, understand, recognise, know, remember

If you’re using these verbs, just remember that it’s usually more natural not to use them in any continuous tenses even if you normally would.

For example:

Actions happening now

Actions which continued in the past before another past action:

For a complete list of state verbs, check out this list of state verbs.

Do you know someone who’s confused by state verbs? Share this post with them and make their life easier.




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