I want to ask somebody something like this : When do you want to start our conversation?

Is it correct to use present simple ? I am asking, because it doesn't happen regularly.

  • want is a state verb. It's used on simple tenses. I don't think native speakers say when are you wanting to start out conversation? Do they?
    – Schwale
    Feb 22 '16 at 14:25

There's nothing wrong with using present continuous in such contexts (OP's exact question isn't necessarily one of those situations where the continuous will always sound like "Indian English"1). Google Books claims 187 hits for When is he planning to (do it)?, and 359 hits for When does he plan to (do it)?, for example.

OP's precise question is slightly odd, but the standard principle here is the same as ever - present continuous emphasizes the present moment / current time of speaking.

Note that ordinarily, any question about what someone wants to happen in the future (or when they want it to happen) inherently focuses on that future time. So in most contexts you don't really want to use present continuous, because that's all about your current state, now.

But suppose the person asking the question is the receptionist at an argument clinic, and she's filling out your "booking form". Okay, that's a slightly far-fetched example, but I hope you see the relevance. As it happens, that receptionist actually asks Do you want to have the full argument, or were you thinking of taking the full course?, but she could quite reasonably have asked Are you wanting to have the full argument (except that this slightly clashes with were you thinking of...?).

That's to say, from the receptionist's point of view, what matters isn't the actual future time/duration of whatever you want - it's your current state (which she might need to write down, or use to direct you).

1 But note that although it's okay in many contexts to ask, say, When are you wanting to start work with us?, only speakers of Indian English would reply I am wanting to start as soon as possible.

  • Is Indian English bad qualified by using these kind of constructions?
    – Schwale
    Feb 22 '16 at 16:15
  • I'm not sure what you mean by "bad qualified". I'm in the UK, where many of my neighbours speak "Indian English" (the parents, at least - their children always speak "standard" English, and are often somewhat "ashamed" of the way their parents speak). But obviously in India itself the vast majority of people who speak Indian English rarely interact in person with native Anglophones, so they don't normally even know that their speech patterns would be considered "marked" in other linguistic communities. Feb 22 '16 at 16:24
  • I've often seen that Indian English allows weird grammar constructions. I mean by bad qualified in order to say that Indian English was considered a bad English, but now as I see your explanation, it's not taken in that way.
    – Schwale
    Feb 22 '16 at 16:30
  • You have to remember there are at least two different things we refer to as "Indian English". One reflects the fact that the relatively small number of native Anglophones in India consistently (and often knowingly) use forms that aren't standard in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, etc. The other reflects the fact that the vast majority of Indians speaking (often, quite fluent) English are actually native speakers of some other language (often, Hindi). They often consistently and unknowingly make "mistakes" caused by interference from their native tongue. Feb 22 '16 at 16:42

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .