English Grammar Guide

Action or Non Action Verbs?

Verbs can be described as either action or non-action verbs.
But do you know the difference between an action and a non action verb?

action verbs

An action verb is used to describe an action that is performed. Action verbs can be used in simple, perfect and progressive (continuous) tenses. Most of the verbs we use are action verbs.

For example:

action verbsRead action verbsWrite action verbsCook action verbsDrive action verbsMake action verbsDo action verbsCreate action verbsListen action verbsWatch

non-action verbs

Non-action verbs are used to describe states, senses, desires, possession, emotions and opinion.
Non-action verbs are not usually used in continuous tenses.

For example:

non-action verbsLike non-action verbsLove non-action verbsWant non-action verbsNeed non-action verbsBelieve non-action verbsRemember non-action verbsBelong non-action verbsSeem non-action verbsOwn non-action verbsSee non-action verbsTaste non-action verbsHear

verbs with continuous tenses

We can only use 'Action Verbs' with continuous tenses (for example, Present Continuous). We do not use 'Non-Action Verbs' with continuous tenses.

Look at these examples:

  • 'I am liking this pizza'
    'To like' is a state verb, not an action verb, and does not happen. It cannot be continuous. You like (or you don't like) something. "I like this pizza" is correct.

  • 'I am not believing you'
    'To believe' is a state verb, not an action verb. It cannot be continuous. You believe (or you don't believe) somebody or something. "I don't believe you" is correct.

verbs which have both action and non-action forms

Some verbs can be used as action or non-action verbs, depending on their meaning. For example:

'To think' can mean 'to believe' or 'to have an opinion'. In this sense it is a non-action verb.

  • I think he is American.... >> Not:  I am thinking he is American.

  • What do you think about my plan?... >> Not:  What are you thinking about my plan?

However, 'to think' can also mean 'to consider' and this is an action you perform. In this sense, 'to think' is an action verb.

  • I'm thinking about buying a new car. >> This means 'I am considering buying a new car' and is correct.

'To have' can be used to talk about possession and in this form is a non-action verb. In this form, the verb 'to possess' can replace 'to have'.

  • Laura has a BMW...or: Laura possesses a BMW  >> Not: Laura is having a BMW. 

  • They have a nice house   (or)    They possess a nice house   >>    Not:  They are having a nice house.