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Lately I have noticed that a lot of people use "wanting" in sentences, or in books, but I don't get it because my English teachers have always said to me that with verbs like "love", "like", "want" etc. we can't write the verb ending "-ing". But how it is possible that it's in book then?

Some examples:

  • She reached her hand out, wanting to touch him...

  • Not wanting to talk about it, Clary turned...

  • Actually, I’ve been wanting to ask you how...

I really want to know where I can use it and where I can't. It really drives me crazy that I don't know it.

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Well noticed. It's actually weird to me if you use it in the present continuous, for instance, "I am wanting". In these cases it sounds like good English to me. –  Henrique Ordine Apr 8 '13 at 17:49
However, "I am loving this!" would be fine (while hurtling down a zip-wire, for example). –  Andrew Leach Apr 8 '13 at 17:51
Actually, your final sentence would have been a perfectly good example of a context where Present Progressive is arguably a more "natural" choice - "It's really driving me crazy that I don't know it." –  FumbleFingers Apr 8 '13 at 18:06
@FumbleFingers But drive is not a stative verb like know or want. –  StoneyB Apr 8 '13 at 18:09
@StoneyB: I know - I'd just commented on this aspect of "acceptable usage" in respect of to want over on ELL. But at the time, that highly useful term "stative verb" hadn't occurred to me. –  FumbleFingers Apr 8 '13 at 18:14
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2 Answers

These sentences are fine, because the -ing form is used as an adjective:

"She reached her hand out, wanting to touch him..."

"Not wanting to talk about it, Clary turned..."

What your English teachers probably meant was that ordinarily we do not use these stative verbs in progressive constructions, like this:

"I am wanting to ask you how ... "
"I am liking this job very much."

But sometimes the 'state' which these verbs designate is conceived as subject to change over time; and when that is the case a progressive construction becomes acceptable. In your last example, for instance, the state is about to come to an end:

"I have been wanting to ask you how ... "

Or in this case, the state has been increasing over time:

I am liking this job more and more every day.

Jez objects that ‘native speakers might well say "I am liking this job very much."’ Perhaps so—the progressive construction has been steadily increasing its scope for 300 years now, and it is possible that the punctiliar sense on Facebook has definitively ‘unstatived’ like. But I would not expect to hear this except in a dynamic context as “I’m liking this job now”.

So I would advise Learners not to use the progressive construction. The stative sense is still built in to the word itself, and you can’t sound wrong if you use the simple present; but in some contexts you may sound wrong with the progressive.

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I don't think this advice is really very correct any more. I mean native speakers might well say "I am liking this job very much." –  Jez Apr 9 '13 at 13:54
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My first experience of hearing the "I am wanting to..." form was as a native of NE USA moving to the SE. I saw it as a colloquialism at the time, something like "I am fixing to...", but it does seem to be becoming more common elsewhere, too.

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It's been around awhile. See Shaw's Pygmalion, 1912: "I'll tell you, Governor, if you'll only let me get a word in. I'm willing to tell you. I'm wanting to tell you. I'm waiting to tell you." –  StoneyB Apr 8 '13 at 22:42
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