- For Teachers
Some English textbooks give verbs such as "like" and "want" as examples of state verbs, which are verbs that cannot be used in progressive tenses.
However, I frequently see US movies where native English speakers say things like "You're liking it, huh?" "I'm wanting [something]." etc. Or maybe you know the TV commercial saying "I'm loving it".
How do you explain that discrepancy? The textbooks are focused on British English -- are those uses an American-English-only thing?
And more importantly, how can you mark their tests when they object to progressive form being considered a mistake and they back it up with evidence (films showing native speakers using it commonly)?
The textbooks seem to do a great disservice.
It doesn't do a disservice. It tells you what is grammatically correct. But neither you nor anyone else is under a duty to follow the rules of grammar.
There's no such thing as "real English." Whether a certain way of speaking is acceptable or not depends on the context. The sentences you mentioned are acceptable in certain contexts (e.g., when hanging out with friends), but not in others (e.g., in a job interview).
Well, they do disservice in the sense that they present the rules as rules for neutral English. However, it is not neutral, it is formal (judging from your post). They fail to mention that the rules are not followed in informal style. That's a great disservice. They present the rules as universal and the only correct.
In response to your original question, there are exceptions to the rule, but not many; e.g., the TV ad-line I'm lovin' it!, the acceptability of which has been debated by many native speakers over the years, but whether it's acceptable English or not is neither here nor there because its intended purpose is to sell hamburgers, not to teach English. It a slogan, call it artistic license. As for I'm liking it and I'm wanting <something>, there is a pattern there: both are similar in meaning to 'I'm lovin' it.' Speakers don't always follow the rules, but learners need to, at first, which doesn't mean they shouldn't be exposed to the exceptions. They need those too. Be a responsible educator: give your students everything they might need to navigate their way around a given language, even if you don't have all the answers.
I'm not a teacher
You can use the progressive with some state verbs to emphasise a particular meaning e.g.:
(1) I'm understanding poetry more and more. - I perceive that this process is really going on, I make conscious steps, put some effort in it (the phrase "more and more" is very characteristic here, you could do the same with "gradually").
(2) I think he's liking me more and more. - progress is perceptible
(3) I'm realising it more and more.
(4) Now after the semester I'm hating it more and more.
(5) Now, with discovering of new documents, we're knowing more and more about the period.
(6) What are you wanting? - for example in a situation where a group of people can't make up their mind about what to order in a restaurant.
With verbs see and hear it's a bit different because they do have their "progressive brothers", namely, look and listen, which suggest that the processes are controlled. However, you can still use 'see' and 'hear' in the progressive e.g.
(7) I'm seeing double.
(8) I'm seeing things. - you're inventing these things, they're not there (that's how it's perceived by others)
(9) I'm hearing voices.
Here the mind of the person speaking is producing those "things" and "voices". It's no automatic perception but rather something abnormal. We cannot control this process but we can be aware that it's in progress.
However: (10) I'm seeing a doctor tonight means I was responsible for making the appointment.
Now let's imagine you've gone to Australia and somebody asks you there: (11) How are you liking it here? It means: how has your opinion changed over time? No spontaneous expression is expected but observations concerning the change. Another way to paraphrase that would be, "have you progressed in your appreciation of this country?"
You can also use the progressive with verbs like like and love to emphasise this liking/ loving is perceptible to others:
(12) She is loving every bit of attention she is getting. (Let's say she's the mum of the year, people are congratulating her, and it's physically visible how she's loving it, maybe she's blushing, smiling etc.)
(13) He's loving every bit of his victory! Look at him.
(14) They are liking every single moment of it! - they like it and it shows
(15)Thinking of the beliefs you believe in, you are believing.
(16)We are believing! Because we see our prayers answered. - the results are perceptible
(17)They're placing more value on things that are mattering less (and less).
You're translating for an English guy in a business meeting. He wants to close the deal but the other party seems rather reluctant to do so, and he finally asks you: (18) What are they wanting? (which means the people are inventing artificial obstacles)
(19) You're being nice. - you're behaving in a nice way OR normally you're not like that, but now you are and it's surprising.
(20) They royal visit is not being a success. - the visit's not over yet but so far it's not very successful.
(20) I'm forgetting something. - uttered upon walking out of the room; you realise you're in the middle of the process. Normally we can't follow the pace of it but sometimes you can get the sensation that indeed in the very moment you're forgetting about something, it becomes perceptible for a split second.
Last edited by nyota; 20-Apr-2011 at 17:42.
♥♦♣♠ NOT A TEACHER ♥♦♣♠
I still remember watching a documentary on English TV. A woman was pursuing her own investigation of something I can't remember now. While on the phone, after giving her name and reason for calling, she went like I'm wanting to... . To me, her use of the present continuous with want was merely emphatic.
Nothing much to add after nyota's very useful post, except to say that in the early posts in this thread there seemed to be some misunderstanding about 'state verbs' and 'rules'.
'State' (or 'stative') is a useful label for verbs which generally denote states rather than processes, events or actions, and are generally not used in progressive forms. Some verbs are used with both stative and dynamic senses, and some verbs usually presented as stative are naturally and correctly used in progressive forms, as nyota showed.
With the third person -s ending in the present simple of lexical verbs we have 'grammar as fact'. Speakers who do not use the ending with the third person, or who do use it with other persons will be considered by many speakers to be uneducated. However, using a stative verb in a progressive form is sometimes a matter of 'grammar as choice'. In some contexts, it is natural and acceptable.
To tell learners initially that stative verbs are not generally used in progressive forms is sound advice. To present this as a rule is asking for trouble later.