When Grammar Speaks
English speakers and English students will tell you that you use the Simple Present verb tense to express routine and habitual activities, or to express known facts or permanent states, where you use the Present Continuous to express temporary actions in the moment they are happening (I’m writing this blog post now, for example.)
It’s a fairly simple lesson and a boring one at that for an English student well-beyond the present tense, but there is something a bit tricky about this topic: stative verbs. These are verbs that express just that, a state of being that stays the same rather than an action that changes.
To like and to love were included in the list of stative verbs that only can be used in the present tense. I like McDonald’s, or I don’t like McDonald’s, depending on where you stand, for example. Although it’s not as common, there are occasions when we use to like in the Present Continuous.
- How’s your new car Bill?
- “I’m loving it.”
You see Bill can say “I’m loving it,” because it’s still a new experience. Eventually, as time goes by and the new-car-smell fades away, he will have to decide if he likes his car or not and will then use the present tense.
But listen, this post isn’t intended to be a grammar lesson, and is instead to write about something interesting related to grammar and marketing. McDonald’s current slogan (first launched in September of 2003) is “I’m lovin’ it,” which is technically the Present Continuous.
Based on the hopefully not too boring grammar description above of the Present Continuous, what the slogan is really telling you is that you’re loving it only as you’re eating it, because like all actions in the Present Continuous, it will pass.
Now of course this wasn’t McDonald’s intention. Any marketer wants to instill a lasting message in its customers, perhaps more like the Spanish version, in the present tense, “Me encanta” (I love it.)
Without a doubt the temporary nature of this grammar is true for Morgan Spurlock, Director and Star of the documentary Super Size Me. He loved what he was doing for a short time, and made his point in the end about the diet.
Oh did he ever…
So in short, McDonald’s grammar choice really doesn’t give the message it wants, although many would argue it gives a more honest message.