This is from a half-remembered class about -ing forms.


Category A

  • I'm knowing that.
  • I'm needing it.
  • I'm wanting this.
  • I'm hating you.

as against

Category B

  • I'm going there.
  • I'm seeing this.
  • I'm calling him.

My professor called the Category A sentences incorrect, unlike Category B. He said verbs like know, need, want and hate cannot be used like this in the present continuous. They should only be used in the present simple (I know this and so on). I'm half-sure he had a term for what these verbs were called.

Can anyone confirm whether he was right? (Why? Or why not?) And does anyone know the term to describe these verbs?

The term depends on the word's meaning, I guess, and has nothing to do with its function in the sentence. That's why I've phrased them all as transitive verbs with one object.

Apologies if this is a duplicate. I tried to dig, but seeing as I can't recall the term, I wasn't successful.

PS - I don't want the answer to focus on the word love. He put love in category A and called McDonald's tagline (I'm loving it) incorrect. Although he admitted that the I'm loving form is more prevalent than it used to be and considered acceptable among native speakers. Personally, I'm loving you sounds odd to me. (Not as add as I'm hating you, though. I guess the McD tagline has popularised the construct, even if it didn't originate it, and love is in a grey area now.)

  • 1
    Your teacher seems to be pointing out the Active verbs (go, see, call), which can be used in the Progressive construction (don't call it a tense; it's a construction and occurs with these verbs in both tenses), as distinguished from the Stative verbs (know, need, want, hate), which can't be used in the Progressive construction. The progressive is for extending the time focus for an action; states are continuous and already have an extended time focus. That's the general rule, though there are exceptions, which refer to active senses of normally stative verbs. May 5, 2015 at 14:14
  • @JohnLawler: Thank you, Sir. Mind copying-pasting it to an answer post so I can accept it? The prominence of an accepted answer would help others who see this post.
    – Tushar Raj
    May 5, 2015 at 14:45

3 Answers 3


To answer the actual question, ignoring the alleged grammaticality or ungrammaticality of your examples for a moment, the terms you are looking for are stative vs. dynamic verbs. You can search the site for discussions of particular verbs. We have a dedicated question on the McDonald's slogan, too.


Very informal response, but, he's wrong :-).

He appears to be arguing that words conveying concepts which are based on purely mental constructs are not valid except in simple present tense.

Consider: I want a diamond ring / old Teddy Bear / Rocket launcher ... .
I want it now and I wanted it each morning when I saw it in a shop window when I got off a bus. Every day for the last 3 months.

I point it out to a friend.
"I want this". Valid.
"I have been wanting this ever since I saw it month's ago". Valid.
"Here, let me show you the rocket launcher of my dreams"
- lead them to windows. Point.
"I'm wanting this".

You convey more than "I want this". You convey a sense of continuous want, or continuous wanting. The message conveyed is different than plain "I want this".
It essentially conveys. "I wish to show you the item that I mentioned a moment ago - this is what I have been & [am|still are] wanting". "I'm wanting" adequately provides the same sense. [Present continuous ...? ?? ??? :-) ]

  • I recognize there may be specific use cases where it wouldn't sound that odd, but I'm asking about general cases. You can't deny the difference between I see this and I'm seeing this isn't the same as that between I want this and I'm wanting this
    – Tushar Raj
    May 5, 2015 at 9:39
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    I can, I think. I think I can. This stuff is hard for any man! I may be wrong. How would I know?. Ah, what a complex row to hoe! May 5, 2015 at 9:56
  • @Area51DetectiveFiction More seriously: The fact that SOME general use cases are not valid does not per se disprove a propositin re linguistic correctness. That fact that there are only vanishingly few may. But in this case you could build a large number of instances where such uses were valid and natural and many more which were valid albeit somewhat forced. That being so, I wot he's wrong. I may be, though :-). May 5, 2015 at 9:58
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    Many verbs have either stative or active senses, depending on context. Using them in the progressive forces an active reading. And it's not about tense; continuous is not a tense. May 5, 2015 at 14:16

Your teacher was right. Any verb ending in "-ing" means that it is in the present tense, so "I am going to Scarborough" means that you are en route, will arrive and then will no longer be going.

The phrase "I am really liking this music" means that you like it at the moment and afterwards won't like it any more. Unless you have the ability to predict the future, this seems a little uncertain and so the standard "I really like this music" covers it, which means that you do like it at present, and as to whether you do or not in the future is anybody's guess...

  • No, that's not true, I"m afraid. Tense is marked by the inflection on the first auxiliary verb, and the first auxiliary verb never ends in -ing. May 5, 2015 at 14:10
  • i.e., what tense is, "I was going to Scarborough" ?
    – user98990
    May 5, 2015 at 15:59
  • "Are you going to Scarborough Fair?" -> Future if eg tomorrow. Present if en route Arguably lazy for "are you going to go" or even "Are you going to be going to ... ?" <- Now there's an interesting combination :-). | "We were going to ..." - was present tense when we were doing it. May 6, 2015 at 3:33

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