Friday, February 1

Sense Verbs

As a human, do you know how many senses you have? ;-)

The answer is 5.

That’s right. The 5 parts of your body that you use for sensing are:

  1. Eyes

  2. Ears

  3. Skin

  4. Nose

  5. Tongue

Having 5 senses is normal among people. If you think that you have more than 5, you should worry because it’s unnatural.

Have you seen the movie “Sixth Sense?” It stars Bruce Willis and tells the story of a small boy with supernatural powers. In other words, the boy had sixth sense.

Sixth sense, also called E.S.P. (Extra Sensory Perception), is the ability to see things that are secret from most people. It also includes, like in the movies, the power to see ghosts.

all images courtesy of stock.xchng

From your 5 sense abilities, we have what we call Sense Verbs in the English language.

Now, what are Sense Verbs?

Sense Verbs are Verbs that describe someone’s feeling or perception. The most common examples are:

  1. Look 

  2. Sound 

  3. Feel 

  4. Taste 

  5. Smell 

We often use the 5 words above as Stative Verbs.

(Do you remember Stative Verbs? If you’d like a quick review, please clink this link:

Going back to our topic, when we use the 5 words above as Stative Verbs, we can’t use them in the V+ing form.

Take a look:

It looks delicious. = Ok

It is looking delicious. = X

That sounds good. = Ok

That is sounding good. = X

You smell bad. = Ok

You are smelling bad. = X

But we can also use the Verbs above as Action or Dynamic Verbs. In this sense, they can take the V+ing form.

For example,

  1. He is looking at the garden.  = Ok

  2. He is sounding the alarm. = Ok

  3. She is feeling the Braille. = Ok

  4. This is Braille, which is used by the blind to read

  5. She is tasting the wine. = Ok

  6. They are smelling the flowers. = Ok

Adjective or Adverb?

Also, when the 5 words above are used as Stative Verbs, they are followed by Adjectives, not Adverbs.


The couch feels soft. = Ok

The couch feels softly. = X

It tastes delicious. = Ok

It tastes deliciously. = X

This rule might be surprising to some learners, because in English, Verbs are often followed by Adverbs.


She drives carelessly. = Ok

We work quickly. = Ok

It swims gracefully. = Ok

This is true. But you’d better be careful when you are using Sense Verbs. Because:

Sense Verb + Adjective

Aside from this, you can also use Sense Verbs this way:

Sense Verb + like + Noun


He looks like an actor. = Ok

It sounds like a good idea. = Ok

That smells like garbage. = Ok

HOWEVER, like I said, Sense Verbs can also have the meaning of action.

When they are used as Action or Dynamic Verbs, you shouldn’t worry and you should follow the original rule in English:

Verb + Adverb

  1. He looks at the garden sadly.

  2. He sounds the alarm frantically.

  3. She feels the Braille slowly.

  4. She tastes the wine carefully.

  5. It smells the flowers happily.

Note: You can also move the Adverb inside the sentence.

Good vs. Well

Good” is an Adjective while “Well” is an Adverb.


You look good today. = Ok

I feel good. = Ok

Both Verbs above are Sense Verbs.

On the other hand,

She speaks English well. = Ok

He plays well. = Ok

Both Verbs above are Action, so we use Adverbs after them. The Adverbwell” describes “how” or manner.

But sometimes, “well” is also an Adjective. This is a special case. When “well” is an Adjective, it has a different meaning. It means healthy, or  not sick.


I feel well. = Ok

She is well. = Ok

She looks well. = Ok

Gerund vs. Simple Verb

Aside from our 5 examples above, here are other Sense Verbs:

appear, see, watch, notice, observe, hear, listen to, seem, touch, sense, etc.

Especially with the Verbssee,” “hear,” “feel,” etc., these 2 patterns are very common:

  • Sense Verb + Someone / Something + V+ing

  • Sense Verb + Someone / Something + Simple Verb (no “to”)

So we can make sentences like:

I saw him walking down the street.

I saw him enter the restaurant.

I heard the baby crying.

I heard the baby fall.

Right now you must be wondering: Why 2 forms? What’s the difference between them?

Well, here it is:

I saw him enter the restaurant.

= He did something (already finished action) and I saw the complete action from beginning to end.

I saw him walking down the street.

= He was doing something when I saw him. I saw him while he was in the middle of the action. I did not see the complete action but instead saw only a part of it.

Here are other examples:

I felt something fly past my ear.

(= a baseball ball almost hit me and I felt the complete action)

I felt a cockroach touch my leg.

(= I felt the action from start to finish)

I watched her get in the taxi.

(= I didn’t stop her. I watched her complete action)

I can feel sweat dripping under my shirt.

(= I can feel a part of the action)

I smell the cake burning!

(= I can smell it while it is burning)

I noticed her looking at me.

(= She was in the middle of her action when I noticed her)

Hope You Leaned Something!

Keep on learning !


  1. Sense Verb + Someone / Something + V+ingSense Verb + Someone / Something + Simple Verb (no “to”)

    I've been wondering what the differences between them were until I saw this article. I clearly got it, thank you! It is quite comprehensible!

  2. Hi Tetsuhiro! ;-)

    Thanks. I'm glad I could share this piece of knowledge with you.

    If there's any topic in English that you would like me to discuss, please don't hesitate to ask. Who knows? You might see it as a future lesson on my Blog.

    Good luck with your study!


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