Recently, I encountered the term "non-continuous verb" used by an English language learner to describe verbs that can't be put into the present progressive (for example: "possess"; no one would say "I am possessing"). Although I found the term on at least one website (EnglishPage.com), and at least one question here at EL&U (https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/349938/present-progressive-with-non-continuous-verbs), I find the term confusing. It suggests that the verb is not continuous, when in fact it is continuous by its very nature. It strikes me that a term like "inherently continuous" would be more accurate. My questions are the following:

  1. Is "non-continuous verb" a favored term among linguists?
  2. Is it a favored term among English language teachers?
  3. Are there any widely accepted alternatives?

UPDATE: I would not consider this question a duplicate of one in which someone asked whether the verb "attempt" was punctual or durative, even though those terms are useful here. First of all, that question was restricted to a specific verb. Secondly, the term "stative" was not mentioned in that discussion.

  • 3
    "stative verb" is the term you're looking for.
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 3:53
  • @GregLee, thanks for that. Am I right in thinking that the Wikipedia page on stative verbs is not as helpful as it could be? It contains a chart which suggests that intransitive "stand", "sit", and "burn" are stative. But all three of these verbs can be put into the present progressive, which should indicate that they are not stative.
    – Alan
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 4:30
  • Yes, I think that Wikipedia chart is wrong.
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 4:50
  • Stative verbs are used with the progressive aspect, just not very often.
    – deadrat
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 4:53
  • 1
    The chart on the Wikipedia page is not wrong per se, but it is not very clear from that page that two different meanings of ‘stative’ are being used. The meaning you’re talking about here is specific to English, but ‘stative’ has another, slightly different, meaning in general linguistics, which is what the first part of the Wikipedia article (with the table) is talking about. ‘Stand’, ‘sit’, ‘lie’, etc. are indeed stative verbs in that sense—just not in the sense of ‘inherently continuous verbs in English’. Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 11:11

1 Answer 1


As mentioned in the comments, the word you need is stative.

"stative verb" is the term you're looking for.
– Greg Lee

The Free Dictionary explains the term better than I could:

Stative verbs (also known as state verbs) are verbs that describe a static condition, situation, or state of being. They are contrasted with action verbs (also called dynamic verbs), which describe an active, dynamic action that can be performed by a person or thing.

Stative verbs can be in the present, past, or future tense; however, because they describe static conditions, they are usually unable to progress through time, and they therefore cannot be used when forming the continuous or progressive forms of verb tenses. For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as non-continuous or non-progressive verbs.

(Final emboldening me)

  • So is sit (which describes a state) a stative verb? "I will sit here" definitely refers to an action; but "I am sitting here" is a state.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 11:42

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