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:

The following verbs are not normally used in continuous tenses. - English Grammar - Present Continuous and Present Simple - Part 2

  • I’m hungry. I want something to eat. (not “I’m wanting”)
I’m hungry. I want something to eat. - English Grammar - Present Continuous and Present Simple - Part 2
I’m hungry. I want something to eat.

 

  • Do you understand what I mean?
Do you understand what I mean? - English Grammar - Present continuous and present simple - Part 2
Do you understand what I mean?

 

  • Jane doesn’t seem very happy at the moment.
Jane doesn’t seem very happy at the moment. - English Grammar - Present continuous and present simple - Part 2
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”)
What do you think (= believe) will happen? - English Grammar - Present continuous and present simple - Part 2
What do you think will happen?

 

but

  • You look serious. What are you thinking about? (= What is going on in your mind?)
You look serious. What are you thinking about? - English Grammar - Present continuous and present simple - Part 2
You look serious. What are you thinking about?

 

  • I’m thinking of giving up my job. (= I am considering)
I’m thinking of giving up my job. - English Grammar - Present continuous and present simple - Part 2
I’m thinking of giving up my job.

 

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 have a nice room in the hotel. - English Grammar - Present continuous and present simple - Part 2
We’re enjoying our holiday. We have a nice room in the hotel.

 

but

  • We’re enjoying our holiday. We’re having a great time.
We’re enjoying our holiday. We’re having a great time. - English Grammar - Present continuous and present simple - Part 2
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”)
Do you see that man over there? - English Grammar - Present continuous and present simple - Part 2
Do you see that man over there?

 

  • This room smells. Let’s open a window.
This room smells. Let’s open a window. - English Grammar - Present continuous and present simple - Part 2
This room smells. Let’s open a window.

 

We often use can + see/hear/smell/taste:

  • Listen! Can you hear something?
Listen! Can you hear something? - English Grammar - Present continuous and present simple - Part 2
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.
I’m seeing the manager tomorrow morning. - English Grammar - Present continuous and present simple - Part 2
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”.

Compare:

  • I can’t understand why he’s being so selfish. He isn’t usually like that. (being selfish = behaving selfishly at the moment)
I can’t understand why he’s being so selfish. He isn’t usually like that. - English Grammar - Present continuous and present simple - Part 2
I can’t understand why he’s being so selfish. He isn’t usually like that.

 

but

  • He never thinks about other people. He is very selfish. (not “he is being”) (= he is selfish generally, not only at the moment)
He never thinks about other people. He is very selfish. - English Grammar - Present continuous and present simple - Part 2
He never thinks about other people. He is very selfish.

 

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”)
It’s hot today. - English Grammar - Present continuous and present simple - Part 2
It’s hot today.

 

  • Laura is very tired. (not “is being tired”)
Laura is very tired. - English Grammar - Present continuous and present simple - Part 2
Laura is very 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.
You look well today. or You’re looking well today. - English Grammar - Present continuous and present simple - Part 2
You look well today. or You’re looking well today.