If I really want food right now, should I use the present continuous (I am wanting food) or the simple present (I want food)?

3 Answers 3


Since want is a stative verb (BBC Learning English website), in American and British English one would use the present simple tense.

Stative verbs describe states or conditions which continue over a period of time, so like, love, hate, want, need, hear and see would all be examples of stative verbs. These verbs are not normally used in the progressive form.

The present continuous would sound strange. I highly recommend the above link to BBC Learning English page on the topic.

To emphasize your state, you can say such things as

I really want food right now (as you wrote), or, more typically:

I'm really hungry.
I'm starving.
I'm famished.
I'm so hungry I could eat a horse. (American English)
I'm dying of hunger.
I'm very hungry.

Speakers of Indian English may use the present continuous, as they seem to use it with stative verbs more often.

  • Indian English uses expressions like "I am paining" = "I am in pain, I am hurt". So "I am wanting food" sounds like it might be used there too, but I wouldn't know. Mar 16, 2016 at 17:56
  • No, InE is it's paining. We distinguish 'it' and 'I' quite well!
    – Maulik V
    Mar 26, 2016 at 5:12

Like other verbs of internal sensation or perception (eg think, feel, see) "want" is normally used in the simple present:

I want food.

But all of them can be used in the continuous when there is a special emphasis on the immediacy:

I'll talk to you later, but right now I'm wanting food.


I'm watching him on video; I'm seeing him open the door; I'm hearing the sounds inside ...

I don't think you ever have to use this form: it is optional, to express this immediacy, this "right now"-ness.

  • There are some other type of situations that add dynamic meaning, sanctioning use of the progressive. Here are a couple examples from COCA: ① This is a story I've been wanting to tell for thirty years . . .More and more real estate agents, faced with a sluggish resale market, are wanting to work with distressed properties, said Shoemaker, who is expanding his team.
    – user230
    Mar 16, 2016 at 22:27
  • To me ...right now I'm wanting food sounds terrible; but from what I've read, the use of the present progressive is increasing. Mar 16, 2016 at 22:40

I am wanting food right now.

I want food right now.

As commonly used, the stative verb want should be in the present simple. It sounds strange to use it in the progressive, but it's not incorrect grammatically. According to Cambridge English Grammar Today, you can use the want in the progressive for indirectness or politeness. You can also do so to emphasize an ongoing or repeated process.

So you can say either I want food right now or I am wanting food right now. However, the former sentence in the present simple is preferable and more common.

The Free Dictionary also states the use of 'want' in informal English. It also states the use of want in the future progressive, the present progressive, and the past progressive in informal and formal English.

  • Why not just say: I've been hungry for hours? I may be old fashioned but even I have been wanting food sounds terrible. Mar 16, 2016 at 22:42
  • 1
    @Wyatt I agree with you, I am wanting food sounds unnatural to me. It's true, though, that there are certain kinds of situations that turn normally stative verbs into dynamic verbs, allowing the progressive. It's very difficult to come up with an adequate description, though, because not only is it changing over time, but each normally stative verb require individual description; some allow the progressive in fewer situations than others. That's why simplified answers like yours are useful for learners, who tend to overgeneralize when they learn that the progressive is sometimes possible.
    – user230
    Mar 16, 2016 at 23:40

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