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Why aren't you allowed to say "I have been knowing her for ten years" or "It has been broadcasting for many years"? But you are allowed to say "I have been waiting for an hour".

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You can say: "The BBC has been broadcasting for many years" but not "Desert Island Discs has been broadcasting for many years"; it's "Desert Island Discs has been broadcast for many years". –  Hugo Nov 29 '11 at 13:11
    
@Hugo: Yeah, but why? OP's question begins with a Why! :) –  Kris Nov 30 '11 at 10:47
    
@Theta30: "have" is not past tense. "Have been" is present perfect. –  RegDwigнt Nov 30 '11 at 11:13
    
@Kris: Just sayin', s'all! Comments are for comments, answers are for answers :) –  Hugo Nov 30 '11 at 11:53
    
Which answer has the OP found useful? What are the views of @user101579? –  Kris Jan 2 '12 at 4:31

5 Answers 5

Knowing happens but once -- unlike waiting, you don't stretch the process of knowing someone over an extended period. It happens at a moment of time. That is why, I suppose.

You could, on the other hand, be getting to know the person better over ten years.

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+1 I think this is probably right. –  onomatomaniak Nov 29 '11 at 12:07
    
Although this is the case with "to know", the verb "to believe" (something which is often stretched over time) is similarly rarely used in the continuous form - We don't say "I'm believing in God"; and "to have" (meaning "to own") - we don't say "Jay Leno is owning a hundred cars". –  Matt Nov 30 '11 at 7:31

Many words describing senses and emotions tend not to be used in the progressive/continuous form. Although many such verbs are either so abstract as to make temporal distinction unnecessary, or relate to a single instance (as Kris points out with "know") it isn't the case with all of them.

Such verbs are called stative (or state) verbs and include: like, love, believe, have (when used to mean "to own") and taste.

There's a complete list here: http://www.perfect-english-grammar.com/stative-verbs.html

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It’s because know describes a state of mind rather than an action, and such verbs are rarely found with a progressive construction. They are generally verbs which describe perception, emotion and thinking.

Broadcast is not a good example, because, as Hugo has explained, it can take a progressive construction.

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“[Subject] has/have been [verb]ing” is a construction called the present perfect continuous.¹ It describes an ongoing or continuous action which began in the past and continued until now. As Barrie says (he calls it by another name, the progressive), this construction is typically used for actions, not states of mind.

I have been knowing her for ten years.

There is only one sense of know which describes an action, not a state of mind: the archaic (Biblical) sense “to have sexual intercourse with”.² Consequently, some of your readers will wonder if you have been having sex with her for the last ten years.

This confusion is why you should probably avoid the progressive construction in that example.

It has been broadcasting for many years.

Nothing wrong here, assuming you mean to describe the ongoing action of broadcasting. It should refer back to something which is capable of broadcasting continuously, such as a radio station.

I have been waiting for an hour.

Nothing wrong here either. This sentence describes the ongoing or continuous action of waiting.

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Note I am now uncertain about my analysis here - I shall keep the answer up for reference sake. I expect to get to the bottom of this, for now, regard it as contrarian argumentation in the spirit of Christopher Hitchens.


Who says you aren't allowed to? It looks like Standard English to me.

It isn't really precise English because it introduces an abstraction, apparently to no end. Compare your example

(1) I have been knowing her for ten years;

to

(2) I have known her for ten years.

Here, (1) introduces your relationship through the indirect construction of inhabiting a state while (2) simply affirms the relationship.

If you were to make use of the abstraction, this would be good English, e.g., in

(3) I have been knowing her for ten years, yet I never got to the point where I felt close enough to talk about the family sickness;

"knowing" is the first thing we say about a relationship that we then elaborate on. Here, the progressive -ing form is an asset.

Some examples of "been knowing"

A quick web search shows:

  1. "And my most rewarding experience has been knowing all of those students who’ve added richness to my life over the last 30 years." - (Letter to NYT)
  2. "Looking back, maybe it sounded too good to be true, but everyone knew them, and my friends went to church with them, people I've been knowing for 10 years" - (Quotation in NYT story)
  3. "The conductor Bruno Walter said that the two greatest musical experiences in his life had been knowing Ferrier and Mahler" (Comment is Free, Guardian)

These do seem to be Standard English to me. They all take plural objects, which may be a consideration, but I expect I would find examples with singular objects if I spent more time looking.

Following Hellion's doubts, I've queried the Corpus of Contemporary American English, and have seven more examples in the present continuous, consisting of quotations from newspapers and transcripts from television shows; there are certainly many more to be found:

  1. "Now I've been knowing Blanche -- who knew Marian -- my whole life. " (WaPo 2009)
  2. "We've been knowing each other since we were this big" (AP 2006)
  3. "No. I have to tell you, you know, I've been knowing this man for a long, long time, and I was absolutely amazed by his admission on television during an interview to support his statement that he wasn't drinking at all, that he is a reformed drug abuser and has been involved in rehabilitation for years and years and years. " (MSNBC, Rita Cosby, 2005)
  4. "I have been knowing him for 20 years." (Atlanta Journal Constitution, 2002)
  5. "I've been knowing him for six months. I've been dating him for two months." (Jerry Springer Show, 1997)
  6. "Yes, everybody has been knowing about, like, all of the rumors and stuff." (CNN Talkback, 1999)
  7. "His own people were turning against him, not only the reverends and deacons, but also folks he'd been knowing most his life." (Sewanee Review, 1991)

I found no examples of this construction in journalism outside of quotes, indicating that the construction is not used in formal, edited contexts. These seem to be a wealth of idiomatic informal Standard English.

In example 5, from Jerry Springer's bastion of eloquence, the two sentences make an effective parallelism between the present continuous of knowing and dating. I contend that this is not only Standard English, but an exemplar of good, effective English.

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As a native speaker of English, "been knowing" does not look like Standard English to me. It's grammatical but we don't use the verb "to know" in that way. If there is some secondary meaning to the verb "to know" beyond the usual, then it might work. But if it means "Have developed a relationship with (someone) through meeting and spending time with them; be familiar or friendly with" then "I have been knowing" sounds like something an ESL speaker would say mistakenly, instead of "I have known" –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Nov 29 '11 at 13:57
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examples 1 and 3 are past-tense "has been" + gerund "knowing", not present continuous "have been knowing". Example two is a valid sample, but being a quote is not necessarily expected to be fully grammatical or idiomatic. –  Hellion Nov 29 '11 at 21:53
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In a nutshell, then, No; it's not standard English. –  Hellion Nov 29 '11 at 22:11
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No amount of examples of this non-standard usage will make it "standard". To my mind, the Springer example is very deliberately contrasting knowing and dating on the semantic level, almost certainly in the knowledge that grammatically speaking it's not valid. Most of the rest are simply clumsy gaffes. –  FumbleFingers Nov 30 '11 at 0:13
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It may come down to what we mean by "Standard English", which obviously has no single definition or final authority. I'm sure Barrie and Matt are on the right track of the reason, and Kris is even closer. But regardless of the reason (which is largely just idiomatic, in the end), the fact is in the main we don't say it. And a few contrary examples can't change the fact that - even if we don't know why - we don't say it because it sounds wrong. That, in my book, makes it "non-standard". –  FumbleFingers Nov 30 '11 at 3:32

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