I’m loving it!
Is this incorrect? Should we insist that one can only say I love it?
Going by what the grammar books say, then yes, I love it is strictly the correct form. To love is a stative verb, which means it cannot be used in a continuous sense, (e.g. I love, I’ve loved and I loved are all fine, but never I’m loving or I was loving). Some other common stative verbs include to know, like, want, believe, agree, hate and understand. Try putting I’m before them and an -ing at the end and see if it sounds strange.
Yet, I’m loving… and I’m liking… have both entered into common usage, and their meaning is quite clear. They don’t create any ambiguity or confusion, so they’re ok, aren’t they? Maybe, but I still have reservations about I’m loving… Personally, part of the importance of to love being a stative verb is that it conveys a sense of permanence and longevity. We normally use the present continuous to refer to a temporary situation, e.g. I’m typing right now, or I’m staying with my parents at the moment while I look for a new flat. Can we then be loving something, or someone? Can we be loving it for a few weeks, and then change our minds? Ideally, we love something for a long time or permanently, so it should make more sense to say I love it. I’m loving it feels like cheapening a concept that’s too big, too strong to be fleeting.
But then how can we really define love? Maybe it is possible to have such a strong feeling for a such time. How about when you have that perfectly-cooked steak, or that moment when the DVD screensaver hit the corner of the screen dead on and rebounds straight back?
Maybe, but my instinct still says love‘s too strong for that. Now, I’m liking it, while also strictly incorrect according to the grammarians, is ok for me. Liking doesn’t convey the same intensity as love at all. I could easily imagine telling myself, I’m liking this Sausage and Egg McMuffin, and it would doubtless be a temporary feeling as I’m sure I wouldn’t feel the same way in the bathroom shortly afterwards.
The growth in use of I’m loving… is interesting to consider. Is it an example of a change in the way we perceive our feelings, or is it simply a catchy phrase that caught on because people heard it on TV? Maybe a bit of both and also neither. If it reflects anything, it’s probably simply that love is a complicated word (let alone feeling) in English, something I’ll ponder on more tomorrow.
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I’d like to imagine the person saying “I’m lovin’ it” is saying so as they stuff their face with french fries. They’re actively loving their current experience as it progresses. The verb kind of makes sense when you think of it that way? And I dunno, love might be a strong word, but it IS McDonalds we’re talking about. (And now I’m hungry.)
Yeah, I think that’d be the most common way to use it. I’m sure McDonald’s did a lot of research to figure out the most accurate way to describe the experience of eating their fries before choosing their slogan! It still does feel like too strong a word for that situation for me, but I suppose “I’m liking it!” isn’t going to attract many customers!
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[…] Using the present continuous to refer to feelings. Generally, we use stative verbs (which cannot be used in a continuous form) to refer to states, emotions and mental activities (e.g. I want that. I think it’s ok. I love her.), regardless of whether they are temporary or long term (e.g. I’m wanting that is not correct). Common to an extent with inform native-speaker speech, e.g. I’m liking/loving that. […]
[…] wouldn’t be surprised to hear that McDonald’s weren’t happy about a small burger chain using I’m Lovin’ it, because you assume someone was paid a fortune to come up with that slogan, and that McDonald’s […]
[…] sentence stress is slightly different between the two, with the emphasis on Isle in the former, and love in the latter. Still though, the difference is neglible, and for all intents and purposes they […]
[…] the word free is that its roots can be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European root *pri, meaning to love. This root developed into other similar words with meanings like dear and […]
[…] it struck me as an odd phrase, mainly because we tend to avoid using the verb to love in English, so using it in a phrasal verb with a fairly trivial meaning seems a little strange (at […]