A verb can be an action verb or a state verb

Action Verb

An action verb is used for an action that has happened, or is still taking place at the time of speaking, or is done habitually.

  • He cycled to the shopping mall.
  • He is cycling to the shopping mall.
  • He cycles to work.

An action verb conveys the same meaning when used in different tenses.

  • John read the newspaper. / John was reading the newspaper.
  • The Queen will meet the President. / The Queen will be meeting the President.

Some action verbs cannot be used in the continuous tense.

  • My father owns that building. (NOT: My father is owning that building.)
  • That book belongs to me. (NOT: That book is belonging to me.)

State Verb

A state verb, also known as non-action verb, refers to the condition of someone or the state they are in.

  • The two neighbours hate the sight of each other. (NOT: The two neighbours are hating the sight of each other.)
  • She believes everything that is told to her. (NOT: She is believing everything that is told to her.)

Some state verbs when used in the continuoustense refer to feelings that last briefly.

  • We are liking what we are doing.
  • I am regretting now what I did just now.
  • We are wishing the rain stops suddenly
  • As usual, he is being provocative.

Action and State Verbs

Some verbs can be both state verb and action verbs. These verbs are used in the continuous tense when they describe an action.


  • I see you are very happy with your new glasses. (state)
  • The doctor is not seeing any more patients. (action)
  • I have two dogs, one cat and a goldfish. (state)
  • What are we having for dinner tonight? (action)
  • She thinks you are getting the wrong idea about her. (state)
  • We're thinking of quitting smoking. (action)
  • She looks gorgeous in this new dress. (state)
  • She is looking at a dress on sale. (action)

(For more on state verbs, see List 4 - Verbs: Different Verb Types.)