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The following action is occurring in the past tense:

It was then that it hit me: Maria had been wanting to commit suicide, but didn’t because we rang the bell.

It was then that it hit me: Maria wanted to commit suicide, but didn’t because we rang the bell.

Which one is correct?

EDIT:

How about:

It was then that it hit me: Maria had wanted to commit suicide, but didn’t because we rang the bell.

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  • Sorry. That was a typo.
    – wyc
    Oct 15, 2014 at 10:52

2 Answers 2

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Want is a verb that describes a state, which means that usually it cannot be used in continuous tenses; it already describes a situation that is ongoing, so using a continuous tense is superfluous.

That is why we do not write

*I had been wanting to do something.
*I am wanting to eat something.

But instead:

I wanted to do something.
I want to eat something.

These kind of verbs are called stative verbs, and the British Council has a nice page on that subject:

Some verbs are not usually used in the continuous form, even when we are talking about temporary situations or states. These are called stative verbs.
So, we say I’m sorry, I don’t understand rather than I’m not understanding.
1. Stative verbs are often verbs connected with thinking and opinions.
She doesn’t know what to do NOT She isn’t knowing what to do
2. Other stative verbs are connected with feelings and emotions
I like this song. Who sings it? NOT I’m liking this song
3. ‘see’, ‘hear’, ‘taste’, ‘smell’, ‘feel’ are verbs that describe senses.
These verbs aren’t usually used in continuous forms. They are often used with ‘can’.
It smells of smoke in here. NOT It’s smelling of smoke in here
4. Stative verbs describe things that are not actions.
Look carefully at these 2 sentences. He smells of fish.
He’s smelling the fish.
The second sentence is an action – not a state. The man wants to know if the fish is OK to eat.

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It is not an answer to your question; the following text was written by Rachel and has been copied and formatted from Azar Grammar Exchange website

Regarding the -ing form of 'want', it generally does not occur, except in the present perfect progressive and the past perfect progressive:

Oh, thanks so much! I 've been wanting the new i-Pad for a long time.

Jenny had been wanting a Kindle since her last birthday, but when she finally got one, she didn't like it; she prefers real books.

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