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Is ‘love’ continuous or not?

A TV ad about a food company uses the phrase: I’m loving it! how can I explain the use of the verb ‘I love’ in the Present Continuous? According to the British English Grammar, some verbs such as ‘I love’ have no continuous form.

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As is usualy the case, grammar might just not keep up with the actual language spoken by people today. On the other hand: one of the basic usages for present continuous is 'an ongoing action around now'. If I'm eating at that food company at a certain time, I'm loving it at that time. That feeling goes away after a while though, that's for sure. So it fits perfectly. One other possible explaination is that the copywriter was aiming for an other possble usage: gradual development (like in 'It's getting dark'). In this case one may say that the loving gradualy develops and then goes away. Then again, chances are the copywriter in question didn't care about the grammar of it at all...

LowB February 1, 2006, 10:44pm

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You are right that 'to love' does not have a continuous form in English. I teach grammar, and I discussed this ad with my students. Even if you are in the act of eating a gigantic hamburger and it is very pleasing to you, it would be grammatically correct to say, “I love this hamburger!”

It is really a question of register. On the most informal, spoken level of any language, it is acceptable to use language that contains what would be grammatical, syntactical, or even pronunciation errors on another register. This company likes to make an attempt to connect with its perceived customer base by talking to them in what it perceives to be their language. I’m sure hundreds of hours of market research told them that grammar nerds aren’t exactly their base.

The same company that that mounted the "I'm lovin' it" ad is super invested in talking down to the level of the people, even if it ends up looking really stupid in the process. About three or four years ago they mounted a breakfast campaign in 'urban' areas that used the phrase "get up wit' me," which was a faux phonetic transcription of the way many African American people pronounce the word 'with.' Such racist pandering is just one example of the way they lower the quality of their ads to match the quality of their food.

fran February 7, 2006, 9:11pm

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Remember "I'd hit it?" They should've just stuck with that one.

jon February 7, 2006, 10:54pm

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I believe when it comes to ads, grammar is not necessary to be effective, whether it's spoken or written. They do not even have to be logical.
So long as they "catch" someone's attention, they do their job!
LowB's explanation is excellent, it's applicable only to the "non advertising world" though.

Unggit Tjitradjaja February 8, 2006, 7:09am

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First of all, I'm digging this topic. Secondly, the flexibility of English verb tense makes such a advertising quip so darn "hip." Although English certainly has its drawbacks in other grammatical respects, its specificity in this example cannot be matched in translations into other languages. In a McDonald's in Germany the slogan simply reads "Ich liebe es, " which could be translated as "I'm loving it" OR "I love it" OR the (in English) emphatic "I do love it." I guess that does cover the gammit, though. If your friend asks you "Are loving that shake?" OR "Love you that shake?" OR "Do you love that shake?", you've covered all the bases.

paul March 12, 2006, 3:56pm

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I am believing that the slogan "I'm loving it" was being invented by a person from India. ;-)

email March 23, 2006, 3:43pm

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I think that there clearly IS a difference in meaning between 'I love it' and 'I'm lovin' it', and I doubt many native speakers of English have any difficulty noticing and understanding it. If so, then it's useful for us to be able to exploit the language in order to express that difference in meaning.

S Onosson May 18, 2006, 12:14am

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P.S. See the discussion on 'Live or Living', and note the word 'temporary'.

S Onosson May 18, 2006, 12:16am

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How about the great hit by the Scorpions "I'm still loving you" ? Is it correct or it is so because they themselves are non-English like me ? Or could it mean "I love you now and will probally continue to love you for another while" ?. :-))

Non-English August 21, 2006, 9:20am

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When the great Scottish restaurant chain came up with this grammatical inaccuracy, I also associated it immediately with the Scorpions' hit. Never having been an expert in written or spoken English, let alone English grammar, Klaus Meine (the Scorps' vocalist and lyricist) certainly wasn't aware of this problem when he penned the words to the song. If he was, which I doubt, he must have been referring to a much more physical way of 'love' than most of us thought at the time...

However, as every language is subject to a slow metamorphosis in certain areas, we will have to accept the fact that 'love' now does have a continuous form. And finally, a mere 20-odd years later, Klaus Meine's (who infamously once proclaimed at a 'Rock-against-right' concert: Let's fight FOR racism!) faux-pas is put right by history.

What are the publishers of grammar books going to do about this? Personally, I refuse to accept this form, because I don't love it...

Hering-Pownall July 15, 2008, 12:58am

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Using stative verbs like "love" in the progressive is common in some kinds of English, for instance Indian English.

John July 16, 2008, 7:57am

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You are all idiots who are very wrong

Anonymous February 28, 2009, 7:40am

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just guessing.......... isnt it the meaning of making love to someone........ just as robbie williams is "loving angels instead"...

blackberry0406 September 14, 2009, 7:36am

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Personally, I'd give McD's a little more credit. Do you really think that they were unaware of the nonstandard nature of "I'm lovin' it"? Quite the contrary, I think they RELIED on it. If their slogan was, "I love it", there would be no response at all to the ho-hum phrase. But, "I'm lovin' it", that's a little unsettling. The listeners' ears really perk up when they hear that: "gee did I hear that right? Let me listen more carefully. Aha, yes, they're trying to be clever" and, voila, a memorable ad is born.

Also, what about the country song, "I cain't stop lovin' you"?

porsche September 14, 2009, 8:52am

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Porsche has got a very good point here. I would say that the ingenuity of the copy-writer lies in turning 'to love', a state verb, into a dynamic verb. As a dynamic verb it can be used in a continuous (progressive) tense. It then means something like 'I'm enjoying it.' But to a much higher degree: 'I'm really, really enjoying this, albeit temporarily.'

By the way: In 'I can't stop lovin' you', the word 'lovin' is not a present participle as used in a continuous tense. It's a gerund following the verb 'to stop'. The statement itself is in the present simple, not the continuous (I can't stop.) Hope that helps.

caroline.bauer September 19, 2009, 8:14am

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In my humble opinion, you're barking up the wrong tree. The 'problem' is lexical, not grammatical.

"I'm lovin' it" means nothing else than "I'm ENJOYIN' it very much".

Which works just fine in the progressive. This doesn't break a grammatical rule, it's a new meaning for the word 'love'.

zdunek December 11, 2009, 5:13am

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Whoops. Let me reformulate my post:

I completely agree with Caroline Bauer.

zdunek December 11, 2009, 5:17am

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As an English teacher I can tell you it is not a progressive verb unless it is referring to sexual content

eddy June 10, 2013, 4:32pm

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And as another English teacher, I beg to differ. From Swan's Practical English Usage - 'Note that many non-progressive verbs are occasionally used in progressive forms in order to emphasise the idea of change or development - "These days, more and more people are preferring to take early retirement" "The water's tasting better today."'

I think love is at least a borderline case. Yes, when we are talking about the emotion of love, we don't usually say 'I'm loving her so much' or 'I have been loving her ever since we first met', apart from in the meaning that eddy mentioned. But as someone has already mentioned, when we use 'love' to mean 'enjoy' (a dynamic verb), then I think we can sometimes use continuous forms to describe a temporary situation and not sound unnatural (the only criterion, as far as I'm concerned) - 'I'm really loving my job at the moment'. And from the web, 'He's loving his swimming lessons'.

I imagine that even the greatest Big Mac fans tend to enjoy the place rather than have deep emotions towards it. I think this is why McDonald's slogan, while being edgy enough to gain the attention of the traditionalists, didn't actually sound that unnatural to many of us, so we accepted it quite easily. They were playing with the language, sure, but we accepted it as possible .

In contrast, during the 2012 Euro championships, Warsaw put up banners saying (in English) - 'Feel Like At Home'. When it was pointed out that no native speaker would ever say such a thing, their publicity agency said they were simply following McDonald's example and playing with the language. But unlike the McDonald's slogan, this one was so unnatural that it was just met with mirth by expats here, and in the British press. As porsche said, McDonalds knew just what they were doing - different enough to get publicity, but not so different that the bulk of native speakers would find it particularly unnatural.

Warsaw Will June 11, 2013, 10:04am

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The exact origin of the continuous aspect in English is debatable. The theory that I find most useful is that it corresponds to the dialect German eg: "Sie war am Buegeln" = She was an-ironing. This exists in English in phrases like:
"A-hunting we wil go"; "The cocks were a-crowing"; and so on.
The "a-" prefix was, as I understand it, originally a preposition as in "asleep", "awake", "abed", and so forth. In time the prefix fell by the wayside to form the continuous aspect, but the meaning of being in the process/activity remained.
The reason I favor this explanation is that it makes sense of the so-called "present perfect continuous" - "What have you been doing? I've been hunting. (cf I've been a-hunting.) The root idea behind the continuous is still to this day about being engaged in an activity or process.
Thus if one could say:
"How's the burger, Rastus?" "I'm a-loving it"
then it would all make sense. That it does not quite - as "loving" is not really an activity unless it involves bodily movement - demonstrates the underlying meaning of the continuous.

jayles the unwoven November 17, 2015, 8:07am

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