Some verbs cannot be used in the progressive tenses. They are called non-action verbs.
Non-action verbs indicate state, sense, desire, possession, or opinion. The most common non-action verbs are:
Note the usage in the following sentences:
|Mr. Tactful is seeming like a nice guy.||(Wrong)|
|Mr. Tactful seems like a nice guy.||(Correct)|
|This salad is tasting delicious.||(Wrong)|
|This salad tastes delicious.||(Correct)|
|I am liking banana cream pie.||(Wrong)|
|I like banana cream pie.||(Correct)|
Some verbs have both action and non-action meanings. They are indicated by an asterisk* in the table above. The situation determines whether the action or non-action form of the verb is used.
|Those flowers look beautiful.||(Non-action)|
|Flora is looking out the window.||(Action)|
|I think that’s a great idea.||(Non-action)|
|I am thinking about my upcoming speech.||(Action)|
|We have a brand new car.||(Non-action)|
|We are having a party this weekend.||(Action)|
|Craig is a real estate agent.||(Non-action)|
|Billy is being naughty today.||(Action)|
An action verb is used to describe an action that is performed. Action verbs can be used in simple, perfect and progressive (continuous) tenses. Most of the verbs we use are action verbs.
Read Write Cook Drive Make Do Create Listen Watch
Non-action verbs are used to describe states, senses, desires, possession, emotions and opinion.
Non-action verbs are not usually used in continuous tenses.
Like Love Want Need Believe Remember Belong Seem Own See Taste Hear
verbs with continuous tenses
We can only use ‘Action Verbs’ with continuous tenses (for example, Present Continuous). We do not use ‘Non-Action Verbs’ with continuous tenses.
Look at these examples:
- ‘I am liking this pizza’
‘To like’ is a state verb, not an action verb, and does not happen. It cannot be continuous. You like (or you don’t like) something. “I like this pizza” is correct.
- ‘I am not believing you’
‘To believe’ is a state verb, not an action verb. It cannot be continuous. You believe (or you don’t believe) somebody or something. “I don’t believe you” is correct.
verbs which have both action and non-action forms
Some verbs can be used as action or non-action verbs, depending on their meaning. For example:
‘To think’ can mean ‘to believe’ or ‘to have an opinion’. In this sense it is a non-action verb.
- I think he is American…. >> Not: I am thinking he is American.
- What do you think about my plan?… >> Not: What are you thinking about my plan?
However, ‘to think’ can also mean ‘to consider’ and this is an action you perform. In this sense, ‘to think’ is an action verb.
- I’m thinking about buying a new car. >> This means ‘I am considering buying a new car’ and is correct.
‘To have’ can be used to talk about possession and in this form is a non-action verb. In this form, the verb ‘to possess’ can replace ‘to have’.
- Laura has a BMW…or: Laura possesses a BMW >> Not: Laura is having a BMW.
- They have a nice house (or) They possess a nice house >> Not: They are having a nice house.
Verbs to Express Action
Action words, or action verbs, simply express an action. The action is something the subject of the sentence or clause is doing and includes sleeping, sitting, and napping—so even though there is no movement, there is still an action. Other examples are:
Verbs to Express Being
Non-action words, or non-action verbs, do not refer to an action as such, but represent a state of being, need, opinion, sense, or preference. Examples are the “be” verbs, like: am, are, was, were, is, has been, and had. Referring to the senses, some non-action words are: look, smell, feel, taste, and sound.
More examples of non action words are:
Active vs. Passive Voice in Writing
When you are writing, you have to choose between using action or non-action words. This decision will depend on what kind of writing you are doing. When you write in the active voice, it adds impact to your writing and makes it stronger. Your sentences will be more positive and concise. Using action words is part of the process of active writing, where the subject is doing the action. When you use the passive voice, the action is done to the subject. Using non-action words, your sentence is less dynamic. Here are some examples:
- Active: The kids ate the cookies.
Passive: The cookies were eaten by the kids.
- Active: Mary guided the tourists.
Passive: The tourists were guided by Mary.
You can see from these sentences that the active voice is more direct and strong, whereas the passive voice is weak and less concise. The passive voice in writing can also be confusing to the reader, because it is not precise and uses more words. Many times the passive voice is awkward because you have to work harder to figure out who did what. It can also be vague and is often used a lot by politicians, businesses, and advertisers to obscure facts and place blame elsewhere. For example:
- Mistakes were made. (By whom?)
- Your service will be interrupted. (Not, We will interrupt your service.)
If you are writing a mystery story or novel, you may want to be deliberately vague. You may want to place emphasis on “the painting that was taken” rather than on who is responsible, as you won’t reveal that information until later in the book or story. Crime reports often have to be written in the passive voice because all the facts are not available. You would have to say “the store was robbed” if you don’t know who did it yet.
Another place that the passive voice may be used is in reporting on scientific findings. The passive voice will keep the author’s opinions out of the writing, so the sentence may read like this: “Data supports the theory that this disease is caused by bacteria XYZ.” That is better than saying: “I think that bacteria XYZ caused the disease.”
action vs non action verbs
Test Your Knowledge
Five of the following sentences are active and five are passive. Remember that the state of being verbs (are, am, were, is, was, and has been) are used in passive sentences. Also to identify an action word pay attention to the person or thing doing the action.
- Tom walked to the park.
- The horse is being brushed by Sarah.
- I ran all the way home!
- His new kite was broken.
- Is your dad going to the movie?
- Information was discovered yesterday.
- Our snowman is melting.
- The cake was baked yesterday.
- I can’t decide what to do.
- That play has been seen by thousands of people.
Answers: The odd numbered sentences are active, and the even numbered ones are passive.