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Dual Meaning Verbs

Some verbs have two different meanings or senses. For one sense we cannot use a continuous tense. For the other sense we can use any tense.

For example, the verb think has two different meanings:

  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 cannot use a continuous tense. When we use the dynamic sense, we can use any tense, depending on the situation.

Look at the examples in the table below:

Stative sense
- no real action
must use:
Dynamic sense
- a kind of action
can use:
non-continuous tenses continuous tenses non-continuous tenses 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 has been 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 have always tasted wine before drinking 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?"