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In the course of answering this question (which is now deleted and may be viewed only by 10K+ community members), we have evoked some dispute over whether the phrase

Am I needing to read this book?

is grammatical. I think it is correct, although not common, but others think differently. Is this a correct grammatical structure, albeit perhaps a bit odd?


EDIT: I think I should clarify further. I don’t disagree that this phrasing is unusual; in fact, that’s what I said in the other answer. What I am interested in is whether it is correct or not. I think it is because of its uncommonness that I am not certain. It might be more straightforward to ask it this way:

Is the sentence “I am needing to read this book” grammatical? If not, why not?

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It's a pity that none of the five answers so far mention the term stative verb. Have a look at the Wikipedia articles about stative vs. dynamic verbs, or this related question about the “I'm lovin' it” slogan. – RegDwigнt May 14 '11 at 8:18
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The structure per se is grammatical, but it's one of these cases where quite a specific context is usually required to make the sentence sound acceptable. For example: "I bought a chemistry book last year. I thought I wouldn't need to read it, but now I'm studying chemistry I find that I am needing to read this book more and more". – Neil Coffey May 15 '11 at 8:30
1  
@RegDwightАΑA: That said, one who was adept at English might easily say "I am needing ..." as a form of emphasis. More cowbell, anyone? – Robusto Jul 26 '12 at 0:07
    
Thirteen answers and 9,000 views seem to indicate that the question has gained a discrete amount of attention. I realize the bounty was offered by a third person, which the OP probably had little control over, but I fail to see what "new answers" this bounty might possibly attract. I'd even say this this question is a classic example of POB, and should have been closed. – Mari-Lou A Dec 19 '15 at 13:04
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Yes it's grammatical. Stative verbs ARE being used more and more in the progressive, by native speakers of American English. I am feeling left out, I am needing a break, etc. I personally don't like this usage, but there are common enough to be called grammatical. – NES Dec 20 '15 at 6:28

15 Answers 15

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I am needing to read this book

is incorrect in Standard American English in all registers (formal, informal, regional etc.). If you say this to an SAmE speaker, it will sound very strange/foreign/disfluent to them. They will interpret to mean something like "I need to read this book" which is probably what was meant.

RegDwight's comment about stative verbs seems to be a good explanation ("I am going to the store" is OK, but "I am needing... is not" because 'need' is stative (it -is- the case/expresses a state rather than a continued action (an implicit verbal aspect).

On the other hand, it seems to be acceptable phrasing in Indian English and corresponds directly to "I need to read this book".

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That makes sense. In that case, maybe a more accurate expression of "I am needing" might be "I am in need of", which obviously would not work in this sentence. Does that seem right to you? – Kit Z. Fox May 15 '11 at 0:32
    
@Kit: The expression "I am needing X" is just ungrammatical in SAmE, and so there's difficulty in figuring what its meaning should be. "I need X" and "I am in need of X" are both perfectly grammatical and almost identical semantically. So I think either would be likely replacements for "I am needing X". How does "I am in need of X" -not- work in this sentence? – Mitch May 15 '11 at 1:44
    
I was thinking "I am in need of" was more of an expression of continued action. But on second thought, that's still an expression of state. Either way, "I am in need of reading this book" really sounds wrong. – Kit Z. Fox May 15 '11 at 1:59
    
Yes, that does not sound great, but it is not as 'off' sounding as "I am needing X". – Mitch May 15 '11 at 2:02
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"I am needing…" is not common in Indian English either, though it turns up in parodies of Indian English: sounds like one of the things that Apu on The Simpsons may say, but no Indian would. (Many "…ing" constructions are common in Indian English, like "I am living in Delhi", but not "I am needing".) The only context I can imagine it is something like "I must be getting old; I am needing a magnifying glass to read the fine print these days". – ShreevatsaR Sep 10 '11 at 6:29

Contributors to the discussion of this question have pointed out that to need is a stative verb, one that expresses a state of lacking rather than some action. The present tense "I need" is an enduring present: I have discovered something I lack, I don't have it now, and the remedy is some ways into the future. This would seem to cover the time period of the progressive "I am needing", making that verb form unnecessary and perhaps unidiomatic.

I propose the hypothesis that the progressive "I am needing" is an idiomatic way of expressing urgency, carrying the aspect of the speaker being impelled to fill the need. It is accompanied by a narrative using present participles (in progressive verb tenses or present participles) to express the currency of the situation.

As evidence, I offer texts from the book-google, as mediated by the Ngram viewer. From the religious fervor of the story in Sunshine to the political maneuvering of Conor O'Brien to various pressing errands, they mostly offer stressful situations in the present tense, speaking of the time current to the narrative and requiring quick acton. (The exception is from the novel Lake Country, marked below with an *, "She is as willing to talk as I am needing to talk", which I think this is stylistic choice to make the verb forms equivalent.)

I don't find the same situation for the past progressive. More typical is this passage from The Strand Magazine from 1913:

I got up and lit my pipe, for I was needing a smoke. I heard a snore. I looked around. Tom was asleep again.

This seems less urgent, and the rest of the narrative is not couched in the past progressive as

I got up and lit my pipe, for I was needing a smoke. Having heard a snore, I looked around to find that Tom was sleeping again.

I offer the following caveats:

  • I have not included all the matches. I left out false drops (along the lines of "I got up at 3 am needing to pee" or "Here I am, needing a drink"), narratives reporting the speech of non-native speakers of English, and matches that didn't give me enough context.

  • Google books is an imperfect tool as it may not be representative.

  • I may be guilty of selection bias for a pet idea.

  • I've weighted the dice a bit in my favor, as I claim the conditions are sufficient but not necessary.


     "Father, ... I have been thinking of going with John to church to-night."
     "Then I'll go too," was the prompt reply,....
     The eldest girl, who had been listening on the stair to what was passing, now came into the room,...."But, mother," cried the girl, bursting into years, "you must not go without me, for I am needing to be saved too."
Sunshine (1873), W M Whittemore, ed.

Q: You have the privilege of having the 640 acres?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Twenty-five acres of it is all you can use in cultivation?
A: That is all I am needing to use.
Records and Briefs in Cases Decided by the Supreme Court of Minnesota (1902)

     "Straight or crooked [votes]?"
     "You may search me. But knowing Tom Gryson a little, I should put my money on the marked card."
     "Naturally," said Blount dryly. "Still, I am needing to be shown.
The Honorable Senator Sage-brush (1913), Francis Lynd

I am trying to help my son write a book of his 7 1/2 months in Chile and Argentina, and I am needing to "soak up" atmosphere, descriptions, etc., from various sources to couple with his stories, his journal, etc.
Biennial Report -- Oregon State Library (1940)

I need it urgently, because it contains my only copy of my 'Notes on the Making of a Poem', and I am needing to quote something in my Preface for the American edition of my Selected Poems. I am having, at the moment, hell with the American Anthologies....
Selected Letters 1919-1964, Dame Edith Sitwell

I am completing a thesis on the subject of "expressive intonation" and am needing to get frequency read-outs of recorded solo instrumental performances (especially of Pablo Casals, etc). I am looking for someone who has a working device or program which can do this.
The Music Researcher's Exchange -- Volume 6 (1978)

*Inside a very nice lady who looks like Dolly Parton welcomes me to sit next to her at the bar. She is as willing to talk as I am needing to talk....
Lake Country (1994), Kathleen Stocking

From his [Patrick Hilllery, Minister for Foreign Affairs] earlier discussion with Sean Lemass he fully realised the danger of taking the Northern Ireland problem to the UN. As he put it himself later, "Here I am needing to make a speech and yet trying to avoid a vote."
To laugh or to weep -- a biography of Connor Cruise O'Brien (1994), A J Jordan

My area in southern Illinois for the second time now in the last 4 years has just undergone flooding. The SBA was magnificent, working with FEMA in the approach to helping our small business that just literally were wiped out wit those floods.
     I am needing to understand, because we were able to get emergency declarations and so on and get assistance in very quickly, working with Mr. Witt and with the SBA,....
Massachusetts' Request for Disaster Funds from the SBA (1996), United States Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Small Business, Subcommittee on Government Operations

Because of my amniocentesis, I know that I am giving birth to a daughter. I wonder whether there is something I am needing to digest with regard to being a daughter, something that must be processed from my daughterhood in order that I may
Mother Mysteries (1997), M T Hansen

... I, in sceptical fashion, remain equally absorbed by my cultural assumptions. The result is that with her I am often in my "comparative-studies mode" and if I am needing to return to my silence, we end up by merely exchanging cliches.
Holding the silences: a Nepal notebook (1998), P Eckersley

I didn't like the thought of leaving him on his own. But who knows what fate lies in store.... Everything happens for a reason, says my mother, and this is probably just the kick in the pants I am needing to set me on a new vision quest.
A Celtic Childhood (2000), Bill Watkins

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Certainly an impressive and enjoyable collection of citations. – Greg Lee Dec 20 '15 at 5:23
    
The progressive aspect carries with it a built-in feature of being temporary or subject to change: I am living in NY (now, but that may change) that the simple present does not: I live in NYC (and will do indefinitely). The I am needing is just another example of this. – NES Dec 20 '15 at 7:06
    
SY: Thank you much. – deadrat Dec 20 '15 at 7:11
    
@NES The thesis here is that "am needing" is not just another example of a temporary state, but that it carries the urgency of correcting that state. – deadrat Dec 20 '15 at 7:13
    
@GregLee Kind of you to say so, but I think the only possibly impressive thing about the citations was the stubbornness in transcribing them. I'm hoping they provide support for the thesis. – deadrat Dec 20 '15 at 7:16

I would say that it's unusual, but just about possible if circumstances warrant it.

Certain verbs, such as "need", "want", "like" etc tend to be what is often termed stative. In other words, they aren't usually compatible with structures that suggest a descrete "event". So it would be odd to use the progressive, as this usually indicates an imminent or ongoing "event":

?? "I am knowing/needing the answer"

?? "I am knowing/needing the result at 2 o'clock"

whereas it would be nornal to say:

"I am studying French"

"I am meeting John at 2 o'clock"

But, if the pragmatics of the situation permit, then this pattern can be overridden in principle.

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"I need the answer", and "I need the result at 2 o'clock today" are perfectly fine, and perfectly idiomatic. I see no need to use the present continuous tense in the examples you provided. – Mari-Lou A Dec 20 '15 at 7:29

I think it's grammatically correct.

However, I would still rephrase it.

Do I need to read this book?

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It certainly is correct and, these days, not all that unusual. To my ear, it carries a plaintive connotation: "Do I really need to read that book?"

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This seems to be turning into a poll.

I will add that this does not sound like what a native English speaker would say. It does however sound like a typical construction for someone for whom English is a second language. I suspect that in India, Pakistan and Bangla Desh it is probably quite common.

That does not mean it is incorrect. In fact I cannot find any reason to crticize it from a grammatical point of view. My opinion is that it is technically correct but just unusual.

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I think this statement does not mean exactly the same as "Do I need to read this book." "Am I needing..." is the question form of the present progressive. What is the difference between "I run" and "I am am running". It is the aspect of the verb. "I am running" means you are doing it right now.

So "Am I needing to read this book" means is there a need right at this moment for me to be read this book.

It is a strange construction for sure, but I think it is subtly distinct from "Do I need to read this book."

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I am fairly certain this question, "Am I needing to read this book?" as well any sentence using the phrase "am needing to" is grammatically INCORRECT. The reason I think this is because if you type it into Microsoft Word, the grammar-checker will underline it for incorrect grammar. After right-clicking the underlined phrase and selecting the "About This Sentence" option, a section of the Word Help is brought up, with this explanation:

Certain verbs cannot be paired with forms of the verb "to be." Use the simplest form of these verbs (without the "ing") when you write about present or past action.

Instead of: Eric was preferring the opera to rock music. Consider: Eric preferred the opera to rock music.

Instead of: Jonathan is needing a break in his studies. Consider: Jonathan needs a break in his studies.

So, although it may sometimes sound alright, such as in Neil Coffey's statement, "I am needing to read this book more and more", and, in certain contexts and situations it may even communicate what you're trying to say better than the correct version would, it is still, I believe, only correct to say "I need to", and not (even though it may sound right sometimes) "I am needing". Microsoft Word Help explains it quite well, I think.

Hopefully this answer helps. :)

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Hello, Justin, if you still look in here. I'm afraid that MS Word Help is a far from complete grammar. Although it spells out a useful rule of thumb here, one cannot say that "I am needing to read this book more and more" is ungrammatical on the authority of MS Word Help alone. They miss out the frequentative sense that say "I am / keep needing to rest more and more often as the air gets thinner" is used for. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 30 '15 at 23:44

Both am needing and am wanting are very popular in Texas and parts of the south. Never heard this living in other parts of the country.

I might add that the people using these terms (in my personal experience) all have Bachelors and Masters degrees! I will chalk it up to a colloquialism.

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"Needing" can be used as a shortened adjective phrase, (only if "who", "which" or "that" is the relative pronoun) as in "Students who need help in class are common." could change to "Students needing help (misunderstanding) (wishing to go home) (daydreaming) in class are common." The fact that need, misunderstand, wish, and daydream are stative is ignored in this case. They almost function as gerunds- as activities identifying or describing the student. Another example of a shortened adjective phrase with a stative verb is "Titanic, starring (featuring) Leonardo Dicaprio, is a popular romantic movie." As I tell my students to identify stative verbs, stand up and "star" or "feature" for me. Usually they can't. But we use stative verbs with ing more and more every day here in the U.S.

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Questions about what is correct aren't answerable in any general or authoritative way. The answer can only be an expression of personal opinion or the result of some sort of survey of some group of people. If you see an answer that tries to give some sort of grammatical, semantic, or other theoretical reason, you're seeing confusion, or someone trying to fool you.

Here is my own opinion. The progressive aspect in English sounds best when it is used with a process -- an event that proceeds a little bit at a time, and has a middle state differing from an earlier state and also from a later state.

Is needing something a process? Well, sort of, maybe -- my needy state could increase and increase, until I get what I want. But needing is not a clear case of a process.

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I think that there are books on grammar that are considered authoritative sources of information. There is an entire field of study dedicated to studying various English grammars. I don't think it can be argued that this is a personal opinion. – Kit Z. Fox Dec 20 '15 at 0:46
    
@KitZ.Fox, authoritative sources of what sort of information? – Greg Lee Dec 20 '15 at 0:48
    
Of English grammar. – Kit Z. Fox Dec 20 '15 at 0:50
    
@KitZ.Fox, and what does this information on English grammar have to do with correctness? The academic study of grammar has been descriptive for a long time now. We report facts of usage, not what is correct. – Greg Lee Dec 20 '15 at 0:54

I’ve read that this is wrong. It’s simply not the way you say that in English. The right sentence would be:

Do I need to read this book?

Unfortunately I don’t have my grammar with me now, but I’ll edit this answer later on.


Update: I couldn’t find any evidence to support my theory that this is wrong, and since many native speakers said that it is correct and even used, I have to give in. I do think, however, that this shares some relation with constructions like “I’m being a student”. Would you say that this is wrong? If it is, why isn’t “I’m needing to read this book”?

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It should be "Do I need to read this book?" – kiamlaluno May 14 '11 at 18:55
    
True, it’s a typo. Thank you, @kiamlaluno! I’ll fix it. – rberaldo May 14 '11 at 19:27
    
Yes, it absolutely does share a relationship: "need" and "be" are both verbs that usually have a stative interpretation, but occasionally can be forced to have an "event" interpretation and so in such cases are marginally compatible with the progressive (see my comment on the question and my answer below). – Neil Coffey May 15 '11 at 18:51
    
In a certain context, "I'm being a student" is not out of place, for example when the speaker is playing a role. A: What are you doing with those glasses and that science text? B: I'm being a student. – RJH Dec 24 '15 at 5:54

The error is not of grammar, but usage.

One also wouldn't say "I am frying a kite." even though it is grammatically correct. (Seafood chefs possibly excepted.)

So while Neil may have given an example of appropriate usage, in the context described it is still completely wrong.

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It's a grammatical but idiomatic construction, which is perfectly acceptable in casual speech but which would never be used in writing or in formal speech unless the writer or speaker was deliberately using an otherwise unsuitably idiomatic expression for some purpose such as emphasis or humor.

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Needing is a gerund for need that means it is used as noun. So, grammatically your statement "Am I needing to read this book?" is incorrect because you are here using it as a verb. In a continuous form, need is used as need or needs and -ing is used with something that should have something done to it. In your example-

Am I going to need this book? (since the only thing you do with a book is to read it so "to read" not required)

Continuous form can also be expressed using and adverbs like constantly, always, persistently etc "Patient constantly needs blood" instead of "Patient needing blood"

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A gerund is a noun. 'needing', whatever it is in that sentence, is not acting like a noun there. – Mitch Dec 22 '15 at 14:57

protected by tchrist Mar 1 '15 at 19:25

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