Current theories in social cognition and cognitive psychology conceptualize understanding of actions and of language describing actions as the performance of sensorimotor simulations. Although there is emerging empirical evidence for these theories, they are currently underspecified and the evidence is correspondingly coarse. Language is a sensitive tool that allows us to construe actions in myriad ways. This paper discusses several challenges that face simulation theories aimed at capturing the subtlety of language. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.