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Can you please tell me if there is a nuance of difference in meaning between I insist and I'm insisting? For example:

I insist that you stay in as it's really hot today.

I'm insisting that you stay in as it's really hot today.

To me, a non-native English speaker, the second sentence sounds as if the person's insisting is more persistent. I may be very well wrong. I'd like to know what impressions these two sentences give to native English speakers please.

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  • Generally agree with @JeffMorrow that it's hard to see a distinction in emphasis. Just note that when the verb is used when speaking to a third party, i.e. somebody to whom the demand isn't being made (for example, "I insist that they..." or "I'm insisting that they...") the typical practices regarding the continuous vs. non-continuous present apply.
    – cruthers
    Jul 24, 2022 at 15:15

1 Answer 1

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Non-native speakers tend to forget that English when spoken has additional tools than those available in writing. The most important is volume.

I insist

and

I am insisting

where the bolded words are stressed have identical meanings. It is not the words but rather the volume that gives emphasis in speech.

A skilled writer will recognize that present and present continuous seldom represent different degrees of emphasis. In any case, “insist” is emphatic in its very meaning. You can supply emphasis through auxiliary verbs

I must insist

or

I do insist

And of course adverbs can provide emphasis

I absolutely insist

To go back to your original question. In the rare cases where there is a difference in emphasis between present and present continuous, the present is more emphatic because present continuous is focused on the immediate instant. If, after a fight with your significant other, you say

I am loving you

you will be sending a less reassuring message of affection than

I love you

In short, tense is not the most usual way to signal emphasis.

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  • Your last example is confusing. "I am loving you" is not a "less reassuring" version of "I love you." Rather, it's not idiomatic English at all in this situation.
    – cruthers
    Jul 24, 2022 at 14:57
  • @cruthers Exactly. Absolutely no one skilled in English would use the present continuous in the situation described. It is not that it is ungrammatical. Nor is “I am loving this trip” unidiomatic. “I am loving you “ is inappropriate in the situation contemplated. In a different situation, it might be appropriate. “I am loving you more with each passing moment.” Jul 24, 2022 at 16:18
  • So, as the example purports to demonstrate different levels of emphasis (rather than whether the phrasing would be used at all), it's confusing.
    – cruthers
    Jul 24, 2022 at 17:18

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