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To begin with a clarification: I'm not speaking of "wanting" as in "lacking" (e.g. a box wanting its lid.) Rather, it's about uses like this one:

Person A: I want to go with you.

Person B: Thank you for wanting to go with me.

To me, it sounds so horribly wrong to use "want" like that, but I can't figure out why. The following sounds correct, and unless I'm mistaken, is perfectly valid:

A: I believe you.

B: Thank you for believing me.

So, when is using "wanting" valid, and why is it invalid in other times?

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Why does this sound horribly wrong to you? It sounds fine to me. (I am a native speaker). –  user16269 Jul 16 '12 at 7:32
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want and believe cannot be used in progressive/continuous tense. But the -ing form is perfectly valid for the cases you have pointed out. (And as a side note, I think believing me is not correct, and it should be believing in me. –  nhahtdh Jul 16 '12 at 7:36
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@nhahtdh it should not be believing in me because that's not what person A is doing. Person A believes person B. That is, they believe person B is telling the truth. Person A is not showing faith in person B's ability. –  Matt Эллен Jul 16 '12 at 7:39
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There is nothing wrong with "Thank you for wanting..."‌​. Voting to close as gen. ref. –  J.R. Jul 16 '12 at 8:43
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ok; it's good to know it's just my own ignorance. Thanks for...wanting to help. –  Zirak Jul 16 '12 at 14:26
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closed as not a real question by J.R., jwpat7, tchrist, JSBձոգչ, kiamlaluno Aug 17 '12 at 11:53

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2 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The feeling that you mean when you want to reject a phrase like "Thank you for wanting..." is your idea of Stative Verbs.

Both "believe" and "want" belong to this group of Verbs. And they're not normally used in Continuous or Progressive tenses.

For example,

I've been believing you from the beginning. = X

I'm wanting to come over. = X

Both the example sentences in your question are correct.

The expression "Thank you for + something" is different from the Progressive.

Indeed, "for" being a preposition, it must be followed by a verb in +ing form (also called a gerund or a verb in noun form).

If you try to avoid using "want" in +ing form, you'll use another verb -- ex. "Thank you for considering..." -- but this would make your sentence say a completely different thing.

You've already accepted the use of "believe" which is of the same kind, so why not "want" as well?

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As various commentors have pointed out, there's nothing wrong with either sentence, at least grammatically. And since the OP didn't include any information about language background or education, we have no idea what kind of notions they have that might cause the reported reaction. So the following is mere speculation.

Everybody knows the phrase thank you; it's in Lesson One for non-native speakers, and it's drilled into native speakers as soon as they can talk. But it's not really meant to do anything except express the speaker's gratitude to the addressee.

  • Thank you for sending me such a lovely birthday card.
  • Thank you for the loan; I'll pay you back next week.
  • Thank you for a lovely evening.

However, there are limits to what we can thank people for. For instance, the following is odd:

  • Thank you for the sunrise, Bill.

Bill is not responsible for the sunrise. Nevertheless, one can think of situations in which this could be used. What kind of situation?

What it takes to make this sentence meaningful is some sense of gratitude on the part of the speaker, expressed to an addressee who has done something on purpose for which the speaker feels (and wishes to express) gratitude.

In other words, if Bill got up early and drove me up to Lookout Ridge so we could watch the sunrise together, it would be appropriate to thank him. Even though he didn't arrange for the sunrise, he did something to bring about the situation, and he did it on purpose.

Back to the original sentence:

Thank you for wanting to go with me.

Want is a non-volitional verb, almost by definition; i.e, you can't want something on purpose. What we want is what we want, and that's simply a fact. Consequently, some people may feel that thanking someone for such an involuntary state of affairs is somehow wrong.

One does notice, I think, that there's something odd about the sentence. But this is all speculation, as I said.

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There's nothing odd about the sentence, if it is fewed as politeness prefatory to an objection, e.g. "but on this occasion you can't." –  jwpat7 Jul 16 '12 at 16:59
    
That works; as I said, it's possible to see contexts for it. But they seem to be fewer and more elaborate than usual. –  John Lawler Jul 16 '12 at 17:39
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