Please bear with me. It's been a long time since I looked up grammatical concepts.

The sentence is:

I can quite clearly see the bewildered looks you will be having on your faces on reading this. An entirely natural reaction.

(Implying I can imagine the reader's look of bewilderment on reading what I have written previously.)

A commentator has mentioned that the reason this sentence is odd because 'have' is stative and can't take a 'progressive' (ing) form.

I found the following information on where 'progressives' can be used: http://goo.gl/arxla)

Progressive forms include a form of “To be” plus a present participle (an -ing ending). Frodesen and Eyring** categorize progressive verbs according to the following functions:

  • to describe actions already in progress at the moment "in focus" within the sentence, as in

“I was doing my homework when my brother broke into my room, crying.” or “I will be graduating from college about the same time that you enter high school.”

  • to describe actions at the moment of focus in contrast to habitual actions, as in

“We usually buy the most inexpensive car we can find, but this time we're buying a luxury sedan.”

  • to express repeated actions, as in

“My grandfather is forever retelling the same story about his adventures in Rangoon.”

  • to describe temporary situations in contrast to permanent states, as in

“Jeffrey goes to the University of Connecticut, but this summer he is taking courses at the community college.”

  • to express uncompleted actions, as in

“Harvey and Mark are working on their deck.”

*Kolln suggests that we think of the difference between stative and dynamic in terms of "willed" and "nonwilled" qualities. Consider the difference between a so-called dynamic adjective (or subject complement) and a stative adjective (or subject complement): "I am silly" OR "I am being silly" versus "I am tall." I have chosen to be silly; I have no choice about being tall. Thus "tall" is said to be a stative (or an "inert") quality, and we cannot say "I am being tall"; "silly," on the other hand, is dynamic so we can use progressive verb forms in conjunction with that quality.

The same applies to verbs. Two plus two equals four. Equals is inert, stative, and cannot take the progressive; there is no choice, no volition in the matter. (We would not say, "Two plus two is equalling four.") In the same way, nouns and pronouns can be said to exhibit willed and unwilled characteristics. Thus, "She is being a good worker" (because she chooses to be so), but we would say "She is (not is being) an Olympic athlete" (because once she becomes an athlete she no longer "wills it").

First, cannot 'the look you will have' be interpreted as a 'choice' or a 'willed' quality, similar to what is mentioned in the last part of the text I've quoted? [Also, 'owning a bike' and 'loving it' @ http://goo.gl/XBzpU ]

Secondly, does not 'have' in the example I have given above, fit at least one of the three situations marked in bold?


The sentence is probably grammatical in Indian English, but in standard American or British English it should be:

I can clearly see the bewildered look you will have on your face after reading this—an entirely natural reaction.

First, you're talking to a single reader, unless the text is being broadcast on some kind of public screen with many viewers, but even so, use the singular "you": it's more personal.

Second, British and American speakers don't use the future progressive form in this kind of sentence.

Third, it might be better to say "I can imagine the bewildered look". "I can clearly see" is only factually incorrect but probably okay for the humor you're trying to achieve. This is a matter of style and personal preference, not grammar.

  • 1
    In the USA, I can just see (often with stressed see) is common for this situation. And, in general, possessive have, being stative, can't take the progressive at all, though that rule is not always observed in Indian English (I am having egg on my face, isn't it?) – John Lawler Mar 28 '13 at 14:27
  • 'will be having a look on your face' works for me here (doesn't sound out of the ordinary) but I'd be more likely to say 'will have a look'. 'I am having egg on my face' is certainly an Indianism, but 'I am having eggs for breakfast' is not particularly regional. – Mitch Mar 28 '13 at 15:04
  • @Mitch: "I'm having (= eating) eggs for breakfast" isn't an example of "possessive have", but "I am having (= there is) egg on my face" is. – user21497 Mar 28 '13 at 16:15
  • @Mitch: I should have said "I'm having (= eating) eggs for breakfast" isn't an example of "possessive have", but "I am having (= I have) egg on my face" is. "There is egg on my face" is existential, not possessive. Sorry for the error. – user21497 Mar 28 '13 at 23:46
  • I haven't heard anyone, Indian or otherwise, say "I am having egg on my face." That just doesn't make any sense to me. I have added the two reasons why I felt it would be reasonable to say 'will be having' in this context. Your thoughts would be appreciated. – Soulz Mar 30 '13 at 2:45

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