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Tom has been wanting a computer for two years. His dad has now decided to buy one for him next week.

Can I change the first sentence to

  1. Tom has wanted a computer for two years.

or

  1. Tom has often wanted a computer for two years.

or

  1. Tom has always wanted a computer for two years.
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    Options 2 and 3 aren't idiomatic, but I'm not sure exactly how to explain what it is about the implications of often and always that prevent them from being used in the same construction as for [some duration of time stretching back into the past]. There's no such problem with at least some other adverbs - for example He has secretly wanted a PC for two years. Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 12:52
  • Thank you. Does option 1 change the original meaning?
    – Stephen
    Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 13:28
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    @FumbleFingers - If you switch the order it becomes idiomatic. For [the past/last] two years Tom has often wanted a computer. It sounds even better with past/last. It does not work with always because always doesn't work with a defined time frame. Always is its own time frame. Expressed over a time frame always becomes constantly.
    – EllieK
    Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 14:07
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    @EllieK: I suppose different people might have different opinions here, but I personally don't find OP's or your examples remotely idiomatic. I might just about go along with often or always if the other adverbial element used a different preposition (during, over, throughout), as well as the past / last, but it would have to be in an unusual context where I either needed to stress the "continually" aspect (always), or call attention to the somewhat "sporadic" nature of his desires (often). It's not a very natural usage, though. Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 15:35

1 Answer 1

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  1. Yes.

  2. No. Often implies that the thought only occurred to him occasionally, so it would have to be during the past two years.

  3. No. If you say I've always wanted X, obviously it doesn't mean literally all your life, but for a very long time - so you wouldn't say it with a definite time period.

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  • Often implies that the thought only occurred to him occasionally? "Often" is much more frequent than "occasioally", in my opinion.
    – Stephen
    Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 13:26
  • I was trying to make the distinction between he has wanted one for 2 years (which means (not literally) that he has spent the whole time wishing he had one) and he has often wanted one (the thought has occurred to him from time to time "A computer would be useful for this".) Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 13:34

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