In September, Converse International School of Languages’ grammar lesson is about action and non-action verbs. What are they? What is the difference between them? And, most importantly, how can we correctly use them in our writing and speaking?
English language verbs can be broken into two categories: action and non-action. Just like the name suggests, action verbs (also called “dynamic verbs”) are verbs where the subject is doing something active. The following are examples of action verbs:
As you can see, there is a clear action happening with each of these verbs.
Non-action verbs (also called “stative verbs”) are the opposite. These verbs are for things which are not active, like the following:
believe belong disagreedoubt
These verbs are usually things we feel, mental states, or verbs of ownership (as we see with the verbs “have” or “own”).
The Differences in Use of Action and Non-Action Verbs
How do we use these two types of verbs? There is a simple rule students must follow to remember how to use them correctly:
Do not use non-action (stative) verbs with the progressive (-ing) tenses.
Remember, progressive tenses (also called “continuous” tenses) are the “be” verb + “-ing” tenses, like the following:
[am/is/are + verb + ing]
I am learning Chinese.
She is cooking dinner.
They are playing soccer.
[was/were + verb + ing]
I was sleeping earlier today.
He was talking on the phone.
She was driving very fast!
Future Progressive 1
[is/am/are + going to + be + ing]
I am going to be leaving at 10.
She is going to be studying in San Francisco.
They are going to be taking the TOEFL test in two weeks.
Future Progressive 2
[will + be + ing]
I will be living in San Diego for the next six months.
He will be working in a new office very soon.
We will be studying action and non-action verbs all month.
With each of these tenses, you cannot use the non-active verbs. This is a common error with English language students.
Incorrect: I am having a car.
(Wrong: “have” is non-active because it is a verb of ownership)
Correct: I have a car.
Incorrect: I am needing some food!
(Wrong: “need is non-active.)
Correct: I need a sandwich.
Incorrect: I was wanting a new computer.
(Wrong: “want” is a non-active verb.)
Correct: I wanted a computer.
Can you guess which of the verbs below are non-active?
Answer: They are ALL non-active! Do you see how they are all verbs which are clearly different from action verbs like “run” and “jump” and “yell”?
There is a very special rule for when we can use SOME non-active verbs with the progressive tenses. Check back in two weeks for this lesson!