We use continuous tenses only for actions and happenings (they are eating / it is raining etc.). Some verbs (for example, know and like) are not action verbs. You cannot say “I am knowing” or “they are liking”; you can only say “I know”, “they like”.
The following verbs are not normally used in continuous tenses:
- I’m hungry. I want something to eat. (not “I’m wanting”)
- Do you understand what I mean?
- Jane doesn’t seem very happy at the moment.
When think means “believe”, do not use the continuous:
- What do you think (= believe) will happen? (not “what are you thinking”)
- You look serious. What are you thinking about? (= What is going on in your mind?)
- I’m thinking of giving up my job. (= I am considering)
When have means “possess” etc., do not use the continuous:
- We’re enjoying our holiday. We have a nice room in the hotel. (not “we’re having”)
- We’re enjoying our holiday. We’re having a great time.
See hear smell taste
We normally use the present simple (not continuous) with these verbs:
- Do you see that man over there? (not “are you seeing”)
- This room smells. Let’s open a window.
We often use can + see/hear/smell/taste:
- Listen! Can you hear something?
But you can use the continuous with see (I’m seeing) when the meaning is “having a meeting with” (especially in the future):
- I’m seeing the manager tomorrow morning.
He is selfish and He is being selfish
The present continuous of be is I am being / he is being / you are being etc.
I’m being = “I’m behaving / I’m acting”.
- I can’t understand why he’s being so selfish. He isn’t usually like that. (being selfish = behaving selfishly at the moment)
- He never thinks about other people. He is very selfish. (not “he is being”) (= he is selfish generally, not only at the moment)
We use am/is/are being to say how somebody is behaving. It is not usually possible in other sentences:
- It’s hot today. (not “it is being hot”)
- Laura is very tired. (not “is being tired”)
Look and feel
You can use the present simple or continuous when you say how somebody looks or feels now:
- You look well today. or You’re looking well today.