‘I’m looking forward to’ or ‘I look forward to’?

Blog reader Annemarie asks:

For a while now, I have been wondering whether I should write ‘I look forward to [doing something]’ or ‘I’m looking forward to [doing something]’. In all my English lessons, the first option was clearly the correct one. But lately, I have heard and read the second more and more often. Which should I use?

The distinction is subtle and mostly one of formality. ‘I look forward to’ is more formal, and typically the way you’d sign off in a business correspondence. It implies that you’re expecting the next action to come from the recipient of your letter or email. ‘I am looking forward to’ is less formal, and more likely to be the phrase of choice when speaking or writing to a friend. It implies you’re referring to a more definite upcoming event.

Having said that, it’s quite likely that the two phrases will become increasingly interchangeable. Or, more likely still, that ‘I’m looking forward to’ will be used more often – particularly in email, which tends to encourage a more informal tone.

So while they are grammatically different (‘I look forward [to hearing from you]’ is simple present tense, while ‘I am looking forward [to hearing from you]’ is present continuous), they are both grammatically correct.

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