A friend of mine, who's a ESL intermediate student, wrote in a letter "I wait for your answer" and I found it very weird. I know it's wrong but I can't explain what is exactly wrong. I would have said "I'm waiting for your answer".

So my question is, why is it wrong? Thanks!

  • 2
    Idiomatically, I wait for your answer is simply a non-starter (native speakers simply don't say that). But I am waiting for your answer would almost never occur except in contexts where you were (usually, rudely) demanding an immediate response in a conversation. In written communications the standard form is I await your answer (no preposition, and note that it would normally be ...your response/reply anyway). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 13 '16 at 13:43

The verb wait is a dynamic verb which is also known as action verb or activity verb and it is opposite of stative verb.

One of the biggest differences between the Simple Present tense and Present Progressive (Continuous) for a dynamic verb is the former has a habitual aspect and the latter expresses incomplete action or state in progress at a specific time.

For example, let's contrast "I run" with "I am running". The former has a habitual (repetition) aspect and could be an answer to a question, "what kind of (physical) exercise do you do". "I run" means I run habitually to stay healthy. However, the latter means I am running now which is still in progress but we expect the action to finish soon and it could be an answer to "What are you doing (now)?". There is a huge difference.

Going back to your question, "I wait for your answer" can't express your progressive action you are performing at this moment. Nobody waits for an answer habitually or repeatedly. It happens only from time to time and doesn't happen on a regular basis. Therefore, it is more appropriate to use "I am waiting for your answer".

Present tense also has other aspects and it can mean a future action when you use the verbs like leave, start and depart, etc. For further information, please read the linked Wikipedia article.


It's wrong because that would state it as a permanent action. (You don't actually wait you whole life for an answer.)
For instance, I wait for your arrival every day.

It's a temporary action, that's why you need the continuous form.

  • I don't think using a Simple Present means a permanent action. – user24743 Feb 13 '16 at 12:04
  • @Rathony Then what is the present simple used for? – Alejandro Feb 13 '16 at 12:05
  • Mainly habitual (Do you smoke? Yes I do) and historical aspects. Sometimes future aspect, too if you use the verb like start, leave, departs, etc. – user24743 Feb 13 '16 at 12:06
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    @Rathony "Permanent" is not incorrect, but it is understood with reference to the discourse context. Participants in any discourse assume a present "era" which may be longer or shorter, depending on the topic; in present-day English, the simple present is used with present reference for states or repeated events which are not expected to end within that present era. Claire always aces her exams is not understood as a "habit" or as an "eternal" fact, but as a situation which is expected to endure as long as Claire is still in school. – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 13 '16 at 12:27
  • @StoneyB I was writing my answer to this question. I understand your point. But when you say, "I smoke", I don't think it is appropriate to say it is a permanent action. Habitual or repetition would be more appropriate than permanent. – user24743 Feb 13 '16 at 12:35

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