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In the course of answering this question, 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
    
Ahh, good example, Neil. Thank you. Still, I can't think when the question form would work. –  KitFox May 15 '11 at 10:42
    
@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

11 Answers 11

up vote 0 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? –  KitFox 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. –  KitFox 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

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 think it's grammatically correct.

However, I would still rephrase it.

Do I need to read this 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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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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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

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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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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