As a nonnative speaker of English I was always taught in school that there are verbs that cannot be used in the continuous form, i.e. the stative verbs. However, I've seen some stative verbs used in the continuous form in American English, especially the verbs wish, feel, hope, guess, love and like. Is using these stative verbs in the continuous form wrong? If it's not, what's the difference between using them in the simple and continuous forms?

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    I’m guessing you were given a facile overgeneralization to stop you from making a certain class of error, have misremembered how it was to be applied, and are now hoping for some sort of vindication that hundreds of millions of native speakers are daily somehow doing something “wrong”. In case you haven’t yet figured it out, I’m really not liking this question all that much just now, and doubt it’ll get much loving from the rest of the community either. Whenever you catch yourself feeling that hundreds of millions of native speakers much surely be wrong, it’s time to recheck your principles.
    – tchrist
    Jul 26, 2014 at 19:02
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    What's "different" is that if you say something like "I am liking this meal" you'll sound like a speaker of Indian English, not the version used by most native speaker Anglophones. But everybody would find "I am enjoying this meal" perfectly natural. Jul 26, 2014 at 19:03
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    And Dusty Springfield is still * Wishing and hoping and thinking and praying Planning and dreaming each night of his charms*.
    – bib
    Jul 26, 2014 at 19:24
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    @user132181: You learned it backwards. When a predicate is used in a construction like imperative or continuous, that's evidence that the speaker intended it to be interpreted as active. That's not evidence that the speaker made a grammatical mistake. The speaker is in charge, not the dictionary. All the dictionary can do is give some idea of tendencies, if they notice them at all. Which many don't. This is grammar, and dictionaries are the wrong place to look for grammatical information. Most American dictionaries don't even mark mass and count nouns, and none mark pronunciation properly. Jul 26, 2014 at 20:06

1 Answer 1


Yes, the general 'rule' is that stative verbs don't have a continuous form; however, some stative verbs can also function as dynamic verbs. Let's take your examples: wish, feel, hope, guess, love and like.

  1. This Christmas, thousands of children are wishing for peace. (Here wishing has a dynamic thrust.)
  2. He was feeling my face. ([F]eeling here is examining something by touching)
  3. She was hoping that he would come back one day. (Perhaps hoping sounds odd to some here. This could be a continuous period, e.g., a month, a year, several years.)

Colloquially, like, love, and guess are sometimes used in a continuous aspect. FumbleFingers has already given an example for like.

  1. I'm guessing you didn't know. (This is found often in speech, but perhaps not in writing.)
  2. I'm loving this hamburger. (Very similar to liking but more emphatic)

In summary: to paraphrase Quirk et al. (A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language), it's not that stative verbs are incompatible with the progressive but that when they are used this way they have taken on a dynamic quality.

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