"Want" in the progressive form

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Lun-14, Apr 5, 2018.

  1. Lun-14

    Lun-14 Banned

    Hindi
    What point were you wanting to make?


    This sentence was written by a native speaker. But I've read that "want" isn't used in the progressive form. Why then has the native speaker used the progressive form?

    In what situation it is used in progressive form and in what situation it isn't?
    Would you please guide me in this regard?


    Thanks so much!
     
  2. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Progressive forms of "want" are sometimes heard. They can "soften" a question, make it sound friendlier and less direct. It's a matter of personal style. I wouldn't say "What point were you wanting to make?" but some people would.
     
  3. Lun-14

    Lun-14 Banned

    Hindi
    Thanks
    Could you please give me an example to show this and also to show how this is different from "want"?
     
  4. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    The sentence in your post 1) is an example. It's softer than "What point did you want to make?", and much softer than "What's your point?"
     
  5. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    I suspect that this is impossible because the effect is only on the listener/reader, i.e. you. And as you do not see it, no example can make you see it.

    However, consider:
    Open the window. -> Direct order
    Can you open the window? -> Request
    Could you open the window? -Softened request.
     
  6. lingobingo

    lingobingo Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    Lun, what makes you think there’s a difference between British and American English with regard to this (as suggested by the title of the thread)?

    You may be right. I’m just curious.
     
  7. Lun-14

    Lun-14 Banned

    Hindi
    I thought AmE uses "want" in the progressive, but BrE doesn't.
     
  8. Lun-14

    Lun-14 Banned

    Hindi
    Thanks
    May I please ask in what way "want" is used in the progressive in modern BrE other than being soft, less direct?
     
  9. lingobingo

    lingobingo Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    You still haven’t said why you think that. But anyway, I don’t believe there’s any such difference.

    Many language-learning sources contend that stative verbs cannot be used in the continuous/progressive aspect. This is often true:
    The child is resembling her mother :cross: / The house is belonging to him :cross:

    But by no means is it always true, as your example in the OP shows. However, just because that example arguably works, it doesn’t mean that you can always use “wanting” in the same way:
    What point were you wanting to make? :thumbsup: / I’m wanting to buy a new car :thumbsdown:

    In other words, it’s one of the many exceptions to what’s often presented as a “rule”.
     
  10. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    If you look on Google Ngrams, you'll find that the progressive is several thousands of times rarer than the usual form, in both Britain and the US.
     
  11. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    The general assumption is that the progressive is overused in Indian English in contrast to other Englishes, and so it might be best for you not to imitate this style.

    I'd go with sound shift's point about the progressive with want to soften a statement or question. This appears to make the statement weaker for possibly the sake of politeness, and to make the request appear to be temporary?

    A to B: Do you want to see me? (Standard use, but harsh sounding)
    A to B: Did you want to see me? (Softening by the use of the past tense)
    A to B: Were you wanting to see me? (Softening by the use the past tense and the progressive)

    See also:
    Where are you wanting to use it?
     
  12. Lun-14

    Lun-14 Banned

    Hindi
    Thank you, but I'm having some difficulty understating how the first example is harsh sounding and how other two are soft sounding. They both sound normal/neutral to me. Would you please give me some other example (using "want") that show harshness and softness more clearly?
     
  13. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Yes, but native speakers very often add words in order to speak in a less direct and therefore more polite way. In addition, the progressive tenses are less immediate, and therefore less direct, because they describe ongoing action, not a sudden event. If this doesn't happen in Hindi, it will be a difficult concept to grasp.
     
  14. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    OK. Let me see if this helps. There are verbs that normally are not used with the progressive because they are used in relation to more-or-less permanent states.

    Normally, we say, 'I have a headache' (simple present because it lasts for a while, and you have no control over it). Someone, however, might complain, 'She is having one of her headaches'. The understanding is that this is not a real headache, but that she is pretending to have one: it is short term and she has control over it. The use of the progressive changes the meaning of sentence.

    Normally, 'want' is a permanent state, and is therefore not associated with the progressive. When you use it with the progressive, you are changing the meaning of 'want', so that this 'want' is short term. 'Are you wanting me?' means something like 'Are you looking for me?'
     
  15. taraa

    taraa Senior Member

    Persian
    Why is the progressive perfect in "What point were you wanting to make?" but not in "I’m wanting to buy a new car"?
     
  16. AnythingGoes Senior Member

    English - USA (Midwest/Appalachia)
    Actually, I'm wanting to buy a new car works for my American ear — but only for casual use. I can easily imagine saying I'll be wanting a new car by next summer. This conveys something like "By next summer I will be in the condition of wanting a new car." The desire for a new car will be spread over a period of time, in the future, and that's what the future progressive expresses.

    I'd discourage learners from using this construction, though. As mentioned up-thread, progressive forms are overused by some learners, and it's a sign of non-native fluency.
     
  17. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    Because it can be completed with "... when you were telling me that."

    The "progressive" is not a good name for the form of the verb - the "imperfect" is a better term: imperfect = not perfected -> not completed.
     
  18. taraa

    taraa Senior Member

    Persian
    Thank you both very much :):)
    Is the use of progressive or imperfect just for " to emphasize the idea of duration" and "to be less direct"?
     
  19. AnythingGoes Senior Member

    English - USA (Midwest/Appalachia)
    I think PaulQ was suggesting he would prefer the term "imperfect" for the tense we're discussing. I don't think anyone actually calls it that; the standard names for it are past progressive or past continuous. It has a variety of uses, which you should study and learn.
     
  20. taraa

    taraa Senior Member

    Persian
    Thank you again:):):) (But it's a stative verb)
     
  21. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    That is not an important consideration. There is no prohibition on apparently stative verbs being in the continuous form (The children are being noisy again!"). In Russian, the English continuous is similar but not identical to the "incompletive" form of the verb.

    The idea of "duration" is contained in the English continuous form, but this is because the action is continuing - i.e. it has not completed/finished.
    Not any more. The continuous form used to be known as “the imperfect”: It was called “imperfect” because the action had not been “perfected” i.e. it had not finished. However, this name also was sometimes used to include "use to verb" and the simple form, etc., when used habitually.

    OED
    Imperfect: 5. Grammar. Applied to a tense which denotes action going on but not completed; usually to the past tense of incomplete or progressive action.
    1871 H. J. Roby Gram. Latin Lang. §549 Three [tenses] denoting incomplete action; the Present, Future, and Imperfect (sometimes called respectively, present imperfect, future imperfect, past imperfect).
     
  22. taraa

    taraa Senior Member

    Persian
    Thank you very much :)
     

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