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Verbs with Two Meanings

Some verbs have two different meanings or senses. For one sense we must use a simple tense. For the other sense we can use a continuous or simple tense.

For example, the verb to think has two different senses:

  1. to believe, to have an opinion
    I think red is a sexy colour.

  2. to reflect, to use your brain to solve a problem
    I am thinking about my homework.

In sense 1 there is no real action, no activity. This sense is called "stative". In sense 2 there is a kind of action, a kind of activity. This sense is called "dynamic".

When we use the stative sense, we use a simple tense. When we use the dynamic sense, we can use a simple or continuous tense, depending on the situation.

Look at the examples in the table below:

Stative sense
(no real action)
Dynamic sense
(a kind of action)
Simple only Continuous Simple
I think she is beautiful. Be quiet. I'm thinking. I will think about this problem tomorrow.
I don't consider that he is the right man for the job. We are considering your job application and will give you our answer in a few days. We consider every job application very carefully.
This table measures 4 x 6 feet. She is measuring the room for a new carpet. A good carpenter measures his wood carefully.
Does the wine taste good? I was tasting the wine when I dropped the glass. I always taste wine before I drink it.
Mary has three children. Please phone later. We are having dinner now. We have dinner at 8pm every day.
If you have a doubt about a particular verb, ask yourself the question: "Is there any real action or activity?"

Be and Continuous Tenses »

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