Before you begin the verb tense lessons, it is extremely important to understand that NOT all English verbs are the same. English verbs are divided into three groups (types of verbs): normal verbs, non-continuous verbs, and mixed verbs.
Group 1: Normal Verbs
Most verbs are "normal verbs." These verbs are usually physical actions which you can see somebody doing. These verbs can be used in all tenses.
to run, to walk, to eat, to fly, to go, to say, to touch, etc.
- I eat dinner every day.
- I am eating dinner now.
Group 2: Non-Continuous Verbs
The second group, called "non-continuous verbs," is smaller. These verbs are usually things you cannot see somebody doing. These verbs are rarely used in continuous tenses. They include:
to be, to want, to cost, to seem, to need, to care, to contain, to owe, to exist...
to possess, to own, to belong...
to like, to love, to hate, to dislike, to fear, to envy, to mind...
- He is needing help now. Not Correct
- He needs help now. Correct
- He is wanting a drink now. Not Correct
- He wants a drink now. Correct
Group 3: Mixed Verbs
The third group, called "mixed verbs," is the smallest group. These verbs have more than one meaning. In a way, each meaning is a unique verb. Some meanings behave like "non-continuous verbs," while other meanings behave like "normal verbs."
to appear, to feel, to have, to hear, to look, to see, to weigh...
List of Mixed Verbs with Examples and Definitions:
- Donna appears confused. Non-Continuous Verb
Donna seems confused.
- My favorite singer is appearing at the jazz club tonight. Normal Verb
My favorite singer is giving a performance at the jazz club tonight.
- I have a dollar now. Non-Continuous Verb
I possess a dollar.
- I am having fun now. Normal Verb
I am experiencing fun now.
- She hears the music. Non-Continuous Verb
She hears the music with her ears.
- She is hearing voices. Normal Verb
She hears something others cannot hear. She is hearing voices in her mind.
- Nancy looks tired. Non-Continuous Verb
She seems tired.
- Farah is looking at the pictures. Normal Verb
She is looking with her eyes.
- John misses Sally. Non-Continuous Verb
He is sad because she is not there.
- Debbie is missing her favorite TV program. Normal Verb
She is not there to see her favorite program.
- I see her. Non-Continuous Verb
I see her with my eyes.
- I am seeing the doctor. Normal Verb
I am visiting or consulting with a doctor. (Also used with dentist and lawyer.)
- I am seeing her. Normal Verb
I am having a relationship with her.
- He is seeing ghosts at night. Normal Verb
He sees something others cannot see. For example ghosts, aura, a vision of the future, etc.
- The coffee smells good. Non-Continuous Verb
The coffee has a good smell.
- I am smelling the flowers. Normal Verb
I am sniffing the flowers to see what their smell is like.
- The coffee tastes good. Non-Continuous Verb
The coffee has a good taste.
- I am tasting the cake. Normal Verb
I am trying the cake to see what it tastes like.
- He thinks the test is easy. Non-Continuous Verb
He considers the test to be easy.
- She is thinking about the question. Normal Verb
She is pondering the question, going over it in her mind.
- The table weighs a lot. Non-Continuous Verb
The table is heavy.
- She is weighing herself. Normal Verb
She is determining her weight.
Some Verbs Can Be Especially Confusing:
- Joe is American. Non-Continuous Verb
Joe is an American citizen.
- Joe is being very American. Normal Verb
Joe is behaving like a stereotypical American.
- Joe is being very rude. Normal Verb
Joe is behaving very rudely. Usually he is not rude.
- Joe is being very formal. Normal Verb
Joe is behaving very formally. Usually he is not formal.
NOTICE: Only rarely is "to be" used in a continuous form. This is most commonly done when a person is temporarily behaving badly or stereotypically. It can also be used when someone's behavior is noticeably different.
- The massage feels great. Non-Continuous Verb
The massage has a pleasing feeling.
- I don't feel well today. Sometimes used as Non-Continuous Verb
I am a little sick.
I am not feeling well today. Sometimes used as Normal Verb
I am a little sick.
NOTICE: The second meaning of "feel" is very flexible and there is no real difference in meaning between "I don't feel well today" and "I am not feeling well today."