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Please help me answer the following question:

I have wanted to be a doctor since I was ten
I wanted to be a doctor since I was ten
I was wanting to be a doctor since I was ten

Which one should I use?

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The first one is idiomatic.

Normally (at least in British English, I can't say about other varieties) only the perfect (have wanted) is compatible with since.

The other two are both possible, but with from the time when or from the age of rather than since; and they have slightly different meanings.

So

I have wanted to be a doctor since I was ten.

is normal, and implies that the speaker still has that want.

I wanted to be a doctor from the age of ten.

suggests that the speaker no longer has that want.

I was wanting to be a doctor from the age of ten.

focuses on the speaker's continuing desire (which may indicate that the desire was very strong), but suggests that they no longer have the desire.

A fourth possibility is

I have been wanting to be a doctor since I was ten.

Which combines the present relevance (the speaker still wants it) and the focus on the continuing desire.

But I think your first sentence is the most natural, if the desire is still there.

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  • I'd shy away from, "I have been wanting to be a doctor since I was ten," because that suggests that "being a doctor" is something quantifiable, like you can just do it and be done. "I've been wanting to try that new pizza place," and, "I've been wanting to clear that up," are two good examples. I wouldn't say I've been wanting to be something because being isn't an actionable expression such that warrants a persistent and nagging want (though it might warrant the kind of passive want that a ten-year-old has for his or her future career). :) – R Mac Nov 12 '14 at 14:41
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If you still want to be a doctor, or changed your intent a very short time ago, then this form will suffice:

I have wanted to be a doctor since I was ten

It uses the Present Perfect, allowing it to describe both your desire in the past and the fact that this desire is relevant at the moment of speech.

As a standalone sentence it would mean you are still intent on pursuing the medical career.

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