We know for a fact that if a stative predicate is used in the progressive form, it will change the meaning of the sentence, e.g. 'I have a car' / 'I'm having a headache', where in the former a possessive meaning is given, and in the latter an experience meaning is given. According to the official IELTS grammar book, there are some verbs which cannot absolutely be used in the progressive form. Is it because they do not change meaning in the progressive form and thus don't make grammatical sense? If so, would 'own' be a good example? In this case would you be able to share a list of verbs that don't make grammatical sense in the progressive form?

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  • Related and I'd say an essential starting point: I am having ... (especially John Lawler's answer). Feb 6, 2018 at 22:31
  • @KarlG I was not asking for that, rather a list of verbs which can't, in any case be used in continuous form. (I'm loving x can be used, for instance)
    – Geeh
    Feb 6, 2018 at 23:00
  • @EdwinAshworth indeed, my question was based off of his answer, but I wanted an answer containing verbs which cannot change meaning, and therefore cannot, in any case, be used in continuous form, if that makes sense.
    – Geeh
    Feb 6, 2018 at 23:01
  • Note the caveat (to the point of contradiction) in the article KarlG gives: 'verbs that cannot be used in continuous forms are usually verbs that you cannot see somebody doing. These verbs are rarely used in continuous forms....' Feb 6, 2018 at 23:06

1 Answer 1


Practically speaking, every verb can be used in the continuing form. If you're speaking English as a second language and don't want to sound outlandish, there are some simple rules, as noted by the commenters above.

However, the continuing form of a verb allows you to convey a slightly different message to your reader or listener.

For example, abstract verbs can be used in the continuing form if you want to describe a state of being in contrast to a preceding or subsequent state:

  • The experience changed her. She is appreciating what she still has.
  • When he looked back, it all seemed so simple. He was owning his house, having his friends in for parties on the weekends, fearing The Big One, but disliking intensely his neighbor with the basement full of survival kit. Then it all changed.

By using a verb form that normally gets used in describing concrete and visible actions, you distance yourself slightly from the subject.

  • I suggest that using such a list is a pathway to madness. You arrive at the choice of a continuous tense by considering the meaning you need, not via any rules for how certain verbs may or may not be used. Feb 7, 2018 at 15:47

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