Verbs that are both action and state in p perfect continuous

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Verbs that are both action and state in p perfect continuous

Post by Antiguated » Tue Sep 28, 2010 5:55 pm

Hi there. I got stumped by this one today.

I have been teaching that we don't generally use state verbs with progressive tenses e.g. "I have been knowing it for 2 years" - we would use present perfect simple "I have known"

...what about this though "I have been feeling ill for a week". It seems to describe a state.

'to feel' can be a state or action verb, but if it was an action verb it would be in terms of sensing e.g. to feel a rough surface with my hands.

So is there a grammatical explanation for why we say " I have been feeling ill" or is it an 'exception'?

"I've felt ill for a week" - seems possible but not usual.

Thanks in advance!

Stephen Jones
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Post by Stephen Jones » Tue Sep 28, 2010 9:47 pm

Most state verbs can be used in the continuous:
'I'm thinking about it.'
'I'm loving it.'

The continuous aspect emphasizes the fact that something is happening in a particular period of time and thus will have a beginning and an end.
'I'm hating this movie' is putting emphasize on your feelings at this particular time whilst 'I hate this movie' is not linked to a particlar time period.

The continuous is used less commonly for state verbs because the state is normally not susceptible to change. Normally of you think something now, you're going to be thinking it in the future as well, and the same goes for loving or hating something. In the case of 'know' it is extremely unlikely that there will be a time when you 'unknow' something, so the progressive is almost never, or never, used.

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Post by JuanTwoThree » Wed Sep 29, 2010 6:34 am

Wot Stephen sed.

You have to ask yourself what 'I've been feeling ill for a week' and 'I've felt ill for a week" mean one would have said three or four days ago, which are 'I'm feeling ill' and 'I feel ill' respectively. What's the difference between these is the same question.

Although there's not much in it, the choice of the form that you would probably use with words like 'all the time' or 'whenever I see a hospital' emphasizes the feeling that you want to give that when this started and when it will finish are unimportant to you. The choice of the continuous would emphasise that you are aware that this is a temporary phenomenon.

Having said that 'Im feeling ill all the time' and 'I'm feeling ill whenever I see a hospital' do work, but again they emphasise that perhaps you want to remember when this wasn't true and you look forward to when it won't be true again. Compare 'I feel ill again' and 'I'm feeling ill again' and decide which wants to highlight that hopefully it won't last.

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Post by Antiguated » Thu Sep 30, 2010 12:32 pm

Thanks for that. So it seems the 'state verbs' thing is just a guideline to help students avoid difficult choices.

Appreciate the help...trying to learn this stuff as I go along!

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