Cognitive States

Express thinking, cognition and attitude




Cognitive States vs. Active Thinking


A static verb indicates a state. The verbs below are states of "cognition" (know, believe, think, understand, recognize, remember). They express how we passively and mentally process the world around us.  A static verb usually takes the nonprogressive verb form; however, current usage is changing, especially with like and feel.

He knows what he needs to do.

He believes he is right.

He thinks (that) he can win.

He understands the problem.

He realizes what he must do.

He recognizes the difficulties.

He remembers everything that happened.

He wants to graduate from college.

They need help to finish.

He loves her.  NOT  He is loving her.

He misses her. (feels sad without her) 

He hates living in the city.

He appreciates what you have done.

He likes attending school. not: He is liking school.

I feel strongly about this.   (believe, have an opinion)  This is a dynamic verb, rarely used in the progressive. See. Feel 


A dynamic verb expresses an activity that we take action to do. Some of the verbs (think and remember) in the progressive form are used for performing a cognitive activity. Others indicate an ongoing experience (liking, loving, hating, wanting, feeling), or a gradual change in state or experience (believe, realize, recognize, understand).                        

*He is knowing the subject. (Use learn.)

*He is believing her lies. But: He is believing in himself more now. (gradual change)

He is carefully thinking about it. (mental activity)

*He is understanding. But: He is understanding the problem better now. (gradual change)

*He is realizing the answer.  But: He is realizing what he must do.  (gradual change)

*He is recognizing you.  But: He is recognizing his faults. (gradual change)

He is often remembering  his childhood. (dynamic– mental activity)

*He is wanting to go to college. But: He has been wanting… (ongoing)

*They are needing help to finish.

*He is loving her. But: He's loving living in New York. (informal – ongoing)

*I am missing my family.   But: I am  missing my favorite pair of shoes. (Can't find them.)

~ I am hating this.  (informal – ongoing)

*I am appreciating your help. But: Our house is appreciating. (gaining in value)

~ I'm liking this.  (informal – ongoing )

~I am feeling strongly about this.  (informal – ongoing) to believe or think


*not used / ~ questionable usage; not preferred usage; requires a special context;

cognitive (adj) – the mental process of knowing, including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment.

mental (adj) – of or pertaining to the mind (Also used for those affected by mental illness or impairment)







Cognitive Processing

Changing State of Mind




Expressing Cognitive Change


Cognition is usually expressed with a nonprogressive verb; however, it can be expressed as an ongoing process (a state undergoing change) by using an infinitive phrase.

He's starting to think about finding a new job.

We are beginning to understand the problem.

They are  trying to remember what happened.

They are starting to realize what they can do.

They are continuing to appreciate their situation.


Not all, but some "cognitive" verbs can express an ongoing state by using the present perfect, which indicates an action that began in the past and continues up until the present.

He has been thinking about finding a new job.

She has been wanting to go to college.

He has been liking his new job.

We have been loving our new car. (enjoying)

She has been missing her family. (feeling homesick) 








Changing Usage

Active Experience

How are you liking your food


Expressing Experience—New vs. Traditional


The examples below have been in use since the 1980s (or earlier.) The informality could be appealing to the customer, putting the customer at ease, or it could be annoying to the customer, having to play along with this affected speech.

How are you liking your food?  (restaurants: ongoing sensory experience; enjoy)

How are you liking your new school?  (active adjustment period)

McDonald's:   I'm lovin' it!



In traditional use, like and love are not used in the progressive form. They are states of mind.  No amount of time will change whether you do or do not like or love something. Nonprogressive is the more formal usage.

How do you like your food.


How do you like your new school. (emotional response)

I love it.   (Is is someone taking action to do something or is someone experiencing something passively?) 


affected spech (adj.) – artificial or unnatural sounding







Practice 1

Changing How We Think



Present or present progressive?

  1. Select the response from the menu that best completes the sentence. 
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