The phrase I've been loving you is not formal English.

Or so I'm told. I can't figure out what is wrong, though, please someone kindly explain.

I did google and found on WordReference the thread: Since I've been loving you/Since I've loved

The problem is I don't even understand why 'loving' (Post #3) is considered incorrect.

Spot on, Alex! The point here is that "love" is a stative verb. If you look at the British Council Learn English site here, you'll see that stative verbs are "not usually used in the continuous form, even when we are talking about temporary situations or states ..."

English is not my native language.

  • 1
    In what formal context are you writing?
    – Jim
    Jun 12, 2017 at 5:23
  • These are song lyrics. Led Zeppelin, apparently.
    – Xanne
    Jun 12, 2017 at 5:42
  • 1
    Sometime, somebody said that so-called stative verbs weren't (usually) used in the progressive. And people have been repeating that ever since. But it doesn't describe how English actually works. And your clause is a good example. I've been loving you is fine. Even I've been being you is fine. As for the definition of formal English, that is ambiguous. Jun 12, 2017 at 11:11
  • I think it really depends on what you are trying to say. Context is key here. Jun 12, 2017 at 17:18

2 Answers 2


To the extent that it's wrong, it's because others consider love to be a stative verb like be or have. To the extent you disagree, you're treating it as an active or dynamic verb.

  • How is anyone treating it like a dynamic verb? Isn't rather that the idea that stative verbs can't be in the progressive is insupportable? Or also that the whole concept of stative vs dynamic verbs needs jettisoning? I'm having a hard time seeing why this sentence is wrong: he's being a hero by not standing by doing nothing. In fact almost every single so called stative verb can be used in the progressive. Jun 12, 2017 at 11:00
  • @Clare I know with that attitude you're not likely to, but you're welcome to reverse your vote, given that I explicitly mentioned both that people like you exist who feel like special snowflakes for forming sentences like I've been loving you and I've been having my house for many years and why other people might disagree.
    – lly
    Jun 12, 2017 at 12:01
  • Even if you disagree with them, that has no bearing on my answer being correct as far as why they told him it was "incorrect".
    – lly
    Jun 12, 2017 at 12:02
  • Sorry I'm still missing something definitely. How does one determine it's a stative verb? Is it something similar to that of regular and irregular verb? It's the first time I hear about stative verb - I've been oblivious all along.
    – trashcanbin
    Jun 13, 2017 at 12:46
  • @Ily, I know with that attitude you're not likely to, and you're welcome to change your mind; doubly so since no evidence mentioned either that people exist who feel like special snowflakes for forming sentences such as I’ve been loving you or I’ve been having my house for many years Your example sentences are not comparable. Will you explain what you see as wrong with, for instance, I’ve been loving you since we met, 30 years ago? Jun 13, 2017 at 21:35

We sometimes say something like "the word 'love' is a verb". But this is at best a shorthand, at worst a misunderstanding. "Verb" is a part of a sentence, and until a word is used, it doesn't become a verb, noun or any other part of speech.

This is relevant since it is the use of the word that determines which part of speech it is. Now the word "love" when used in a sentence "I love chips" is indicating a state. In this way it differs in meaning from "I eat chips", which indicates an action. This is a semantic difference, not a grammatical one.

Now the present continuous can be formed, and it indicates a continuous or repeated action. "I am eating chips" is a continuous action. But semantically "I am loving chips" is slightly odd. It is odd in the same way that "Green ideas sleep furiously" is odd. The grammar is fine, but the meanings jar.

We interpret "I am loving chips" to mean that the state is temporary. That is an odd idea. More natural would be "I'm loving these chips", because it is understood that after they are eaten they are no longer loved.

However, in formal contexts we want to avoid this kind of semantic oddness. And we usually can, for example the word "enjoy" can be used to indicate a state or an action, and so "I am enjoying chips" doesn't cause problems.

Over time, such differences in meaning can become differences in grammar. Ancient Indo-European had different grammar for "things that are alive" and "Things that are not alive". This was based on meaning. Over time this became fixed as the grammatical genders "masculine/feminine" and "Neuter", that anyone learning French, Spanish or German (for example) will know.

So when someone writes "I have been loving you", the word "love" is coerced from its usual meaning of indicating a state, to indicating a temporary but continuous action. As such it is rather dramatic! The speaker is saying that their love is not permanent. As such it is acceptable if that is the meaning that is intended.

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