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How normal-sounding is the slogan "I'm lovin' it" to native ears?

I know it sounded quite odd to me when I first heard it — and it still sometimes does —, but I can't even tell why. Sure, love is supposedly a stative verb, but it's being used in progressive aspect all the time without sounding weird at all (lots of songs come to mind, e.g. Loving Every Minute). It's only this particular slogan that somehow doesn't quite work for me. I would expect that to be totally on purpose — it's advertising, after all —, but Wikipedia doesn't mention any objections from native speakers (as it does with "Think Different" and "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should"). So I'm asking the native speakers of this community: does "I'm lovin' it" sound completely natural to you? Just a bit off? Completely weird? Why?

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I think the reason they used "I'm lovin' it" instead of, for example, "I love it", is that "I'm lovin' it" implies an ongoing, involved sensation, whereas "I love it" is actually sort of awkward in this situation. The point of marketing is not to be general, it's to involve the audience. And in my experience, when people say "I'm loving", they're implying that they feel very much involved in whatever they find themselves loving at that moment. – Jon Purdy Dec 10 '10 at 23:10
@Jon: Supporting your point, I think the following is completely reasonable to say: "I don't generally like McDonald's fries, but for some reason I'm loving these fries right now." – Kosmonaut Dec 11 '10 at 18:31
I am not qualified to answer, but this phrase was the subject of an entire episode of Grammar Girl: "According to the rule, “I’m loving it” is not grammatically correct because it uses a stative verb—in this case, one that conveys emotion, love—in a progressive tense." and "“I’m loving it” does sound slightly off, and that draws attention. Perhaps that’s why McDonald’s chose it". To native speakers that know grammar it should sound weird (?) – Peter Mortensen Dec 12 '10 at 9:12
@Peter: From what I've seen, Grammar Girl is not very reliable. – ShreevatsaR Dec 13 '10 at 3:27
Despite all its shortcomings, "I'm lovin' it" did much better in focus group tests than "I'm dyin' from it." – Sven Yargs Jul 21 at 9:30

10 Answers 10

up vote 9 down vote accepted

It sounds fine to me. (But I'm not actually a native speaker, and Indian English does have a reputation for using the progressive a lot.)

This is how I interpret "I'm loving it". (I've put back the 'g' because writing lovin' is too folksy for me.) I also assume "it" refers to something particular, like McDonald's or the food there. Also, I think it helps to consider the analogous sentence "I'm enjoying it".

English certainly uses stative: I love chocolate, or I enjoy classical music. This expresses your position on something. But suppose I'm at a play/concert/movie, and someone asks me what I feel, during the event. I may say "I'm enjoying it" or "I'm loving it (at this moment / so far)". This seems perfectly natural to me, though perhaps not to native speakers everywhere.

There's also a difference between "I love it" and "I'm loving it". If you love chocolate, it only says what you feel when the issue of chocolate comes up, but if you are loving McDonald's, it implies that you're there right now and/or are actively engaged in thinking about it and loving it. (Just as "I'm enjoying classical music [right now]" means more than "I enjoy classical music".) Presumably, "I'm loving it" is a subtle suggestion that you too, like the speaker of the slogan, ought to be at McDonald's right now and actually get on with the act of loving it, not merely think of it as a nice place to visit from time to time. :-)

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I am a native speaker, and find nothing objectionable (grammatically, at least) about this slogan. – Marthaª Dec 10 '10 at 20:39

Since there have been no other similar answers so far: I am a native English speaker and it sounds perfectly natural to me. Cheesy, but natural in terms of grammar.

EDIT: @Martha expressed the same sentiment, but as a comment rather than an answer. If I had seen that, I would have left a comment as well. It amounts to more or less the same thing though.

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No worries - I posted my opinion as a comment mostly out of laziness. :) – Marthaª Dec 11 '10 at 7:16

It does sound a bit odd, but it implies that you love some experience that continues over a passage of time, rather than an explicit thing. "I love the McDonald's cheeseburger" is something you can say while you are not presently eating one, and you are expressing love for an object. "I'm loving the McDonald's cheeseburger" implies that you are currently eating one and you are feeling this "love" throughout the experience.

It might be McDonald's way of marketing themselves as offering an experience in addition to selling food.

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Great observation. – Kosmonaut Dec 11 '10 at 18:32
Thanks for saying in better words what I seem to have obscured in my answer! – ShreevatsaR Dec 11 '10 at 19:11

Apparently I found this expression in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Valley of Fear. Here an official detective – Alec MacDonald, a Scotchman – uses it while describing his joy at listening to Sherlock Holmes. The lines are as follows:

"Ay, that's remarkable," said the inspector thoughtfully. "Talk away, Mr. Holmes. I'm just loving it. It's fine!"

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It is a very common expression. Nowadays it's not at the bleeding edge of hipness (really, it never was) and the McDonald's campaign slogan has made it rather impossible for a person of intelligence to use sans irony. It is a bland and inoffensive attempt at pastel folksiness, the sort of thing that a minor politician or Boy Scout leader or pastor would say if trying to flirt with the edges of propriety.

Really, it is nothing more than a blunted trope: a dog humping the leg of vernacular expression.

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It sounds naff and gives off the impression of being grammatically incorrect, regardless of whether it actually is.

Firstly there are the two abbreviations and the use of such a short and broad determiner "it", might as well count as a third contraction. So the sentence sounds very terse and somewhat devoid of meaning. Even with context, the question "Loving what exactly?" tends to be in my mind.

The front section I'm lovin', even expanded I am loving, sounds wrong in itself. There are plenty of uses without "it" in current use e.g. "I'm loving this new song". But should it not be "I love"? The attempt to make it progressive with "I am" seems to be what grates, it seems alright when the subject is implied, as in your song title.

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What does "naff" mean? – nohat Dec 10 '10 at 22:47
@nohat: Possibly a separate question in itself as it is quite interesting, originally Polari. In this sense, corny, unfashionable, etc. – Orbling Dec 10 '10 at 22:49
...and probably not at all realted to Pinky's "narf!" – T.E.D. Sep 14 '11 at 19:23
Using -in' isn't an abbreviation, it just represents a different pronunciation. There's no /g/ sound that's omitted, after all. – guifa Nov 20 at 5:34

As a native speaker, I can tell you that even thought it should probably sound weird to me, it absolutely does not. However, I can't even read the phrase without hearing "ba da da DA daahhh" in my head.

"Think Different," on the other hand, is nigh upsetting, so I'd say my ears are about tuned like those of the rest of the American folks.

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"...I cant even read the phrase without hearing..." The marketing folks so own you. :-) – T.E.D. Sep 14 '11 at 19:25

These days (in the USA at least) if you want to sound informal and hip, what "media consultants" will tell you to do is drop your g's from your -ing words. It supposedly makes you sound informal and folksy, in a non-geograpically localized way. Thus you are liable to hear things like that a lot from large corporations (eg: McDonalds) and politicians.

It's sad, really. Downright embarrasin' sometimes.

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In my opinion,the difference between state verbs and dynamic verbs (often ‘action verbs’) is not always convenient. We should oppose resultative states to processes that lead to state.

For instance, "I've got a car" is the resultative state of "I've bought a car", "I've borrowed a car" or "I've taken my car" (so we can go on a ride); "I have a car" means "I own a car" because I've bought it or I've come to be in its possession by other means.

HAVE, which is considered a state verb or a stative verb, is actually the end result of HAVE BOUGHT or HAVE GOT, that is the result of a prior operation (buy a car / get a car).

As GET is a verb of obtention, you can get or obtain a result at the end of the operation. Once you've obtained a result, you've got it or you have it.

The result of obtention can be possession or ownership:

"I've got a car" (present perfect) and "I have a car" (present simple) are very close in meaning: this means that the present simple can be viewed as a synthesis of the present perfect.

Similarly there is little difference between "I've understood" and "I understand": if you've understood, it means you understand. In colloquial English, you can say "Get it?" (Do you understand?) and "Got it!" (I have understood).

You can't normally say "I'm having a car" or "I'm understanding" because the progressive doesn't fit the idea of perfective which is inferred in the end result.

On the other hand, you can say "I'm having a sandwich" because HAVE works here as a verb of action and more precisely as a verb of process (I'm eating a sandwich). The end result would be "I've eaten / I've had a sandwich".

You can say "I'm learning my lesson" but you can't say "I'm knowing my lesson": "I know my lesson" is equivalent to "I've learned my lesson" and is the end result of "I'm learning my lesson".

"I like chocolate" is a perfective present which means something like "I've come to the conclusion that chocolate is good / enjoyable". But you can say "Are you liking your stay / your vacation so far?" because the progressive infers that it's not a perfective / definitive / end state : "so far" means that some of the process has been accomplished but not the whole process. The present progressive is actually a form of present imperfect.

As far as "I'm lovin' it" (the commercial phrase by Mcdonald's), it suggests or makes believe that you're HERE and NOW, as if you were at the McDonald's in the place, enjoying your burger, as you are eating it, and that you are also enjoying your fries, your coke, the happy meal, the toys, the environment,and using your imagination, the whole thing in every single thing that McDonald's has to offer to its customers.

Much in the same way, you can say "I'm having fun (so far)", "I'm enjoying myself" or "I'm loving every minute of it", which means that your loving it is not over. You're going through a process but you're not through with it.

Ask yourself this question: why would HAVE and ENJOY be sometimes acceptable in the present progressive and not LIKE or LOVE? You can say "What do you think?" or "What are you thinking?", "What do you say to a cup of tea?" or "What are you saying?". Is it just a question of state and action verbs?

Why would THINK be a state verb at times and an action verb at others? Is thinking a state of mind or an action? I think therefore I am (state?) / I'm thinking therefore I'm doing (action?).

In my opinion, "I'm thinking" means you're going through a process of thoughts whereas 'I think" means you have (you've got) a thought or an opinion. THINK is not a state verb nor an action verb. Would you say that "a thought" is a state noun or an action noun? I would say that a thought is the result or the output of what I've thought.

It has to do with motion and the end of motion (or the result of motion); the process is being carried out (I'm thinking) or carried out (I think) / Either you consider the process that leads to state or the state itself as the result of the motion that led to it.

You can say "I've done my homework" or "I'm through with my homework": The notion of motion through space and time is carried out by the preposition THROUGH. The time / tense issue is not just a question of verbs (I'm done with it / I'm through with it), and it is obvious that the perfective aspect is not just a question of "present perfect", as opposed to a "present simple" or a present progressive", which is actually a "present imperfect".

The -ING form also appears after a preposition: - Thank you for coming - I'm looking forward to meeting you.

Originally, "He is hunting" (present progressive) comes from "He is a-hunting", the "a" being a reduction of the preposition ON (he is on hunting).

Now there are a lot of nouns of activity which take the ING ending: hunting, reading, swimming, hiking, biking, horse-riding, (etc), and "swimming" could be considered as an adjective in a "swimming contest".

You may wonder what is the difference between "I swim" and "I'm swimming", but you may also wonder about the difference between 'Let's go swimming" and "Let's go for a swim", or "I like swimming" and "I like to swim".

Do you remember this song by ZZ Top, “Give me all your lovin'?” What would be the difference with "Give me all your love"?

It seems to me that there is a process of activity, or a frame of activity within which you can go through:

Gimme all your lovin'
All your hugs and kisses too
Give me all your lovin'
Don't let up until we're through

The adverb THROUGH is relevant of "going through' an activity (don't let up until we're through).

Now if you say "It's raining", "He's being a fool", "Your transaction is being processed" or "I'm lovin' it" it's about the same idea: a transaction leads from a state to another and therefore carries through an action (TRANS means THROUGH in latin).

The ING form is a progressive form within a frame of activity which considers an ending point from a starting point: 'if it is raining' it means 'it started raining' and 'it will be raining for some time' before 'it stops raining'. There's a sort of travelling to point B from point A.

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Mind you that some linguists argue that the progressive form is just a possible effect of "BE + ING": – user68188 Oct 12 at 4:15
I don't think this is a bad answer, actually I think this type of answer (summarised) is ideal for ELL English Language Learners. BUT for this question its length is disproportionate, it is like a treatise on how to use the present progressive in general. Totally unnecessary, and not what the OP (original poster) was asking. – Mari-Lou A Oct 17 at 5:53
One last thing, an answer as long as yours, which is nevertheless clear, and well explained, cut up in pieces, could probably answer at least ten questions in the archives, and be upvoted. I want to apologize for the drastic edit, but hopefully looking through the (slightly) condensed version, you'll see the post has actually benefitted. – Mari-Lou A Oct 17 at 6:11
The thing is that you can't explain "I"m lovin' it" if you don't have a general theory on the "present progressive" and how it fits into the tenses of English. But like I said a lot of linguists think that there is no "present progressive" meaning something like "in progress, in the course of action". Think of this: – user68188 Oct 20 at 6:43
Yes, although the OP is perfectly aware of the grammar behind PP, he only wanted to know if the slogan sounded peculiar to native speakers. Bear in mind the question was asked nearly five years ago, it was one of the first questions on this site – Mari-Lou A Oct 20 at 7:22

I'm not a native speaker but, if I may, I'd like to share the way the "I love/I'm lovin'" problem is explained by teachers in my country (Poland). First, love is a stative verb and "I'm loving" form is incorrect. On the other hand, we can use Present Contin. instead of Present Simple to show annoyance, exaggerate like here "You are always wearing my favourite dress!" instead of just stating fact "You always wear my dress". So, if one says "I'm lovin' it ! " it sounds odd, thus catches attention and that is exactly what a commercial needs ! Bad or lame grammar works well in advertising :)) Plus, "You are alwyas wearing my dress!" means (?) "and now, and now, and now! Agrrrh!" - both "always and everytime, every now, so to speak" expressing irritation breaking the grammar rule. Languages are alive and change every now and then, even a commercial can make an impact on the English grammar. So that's the voice from the outside .....

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