The verb, “guess,” has a few definitions. It can mean:

– to estimate or conclude without sufficient information and cannot be certain of being correct.
– to give the correct answer or make the correct judgement.
– to think or believe.

When we use “guess,” we can imply different things by using either the simple or continuous tenses.

* Please note: “I guess” is also used as an idiomatic expression by native English speakers. It has its own specific uses and cannot be used in continuous tenses. To avoid confusion, I will not include them here.

Overview
I guessI’m guessing
To give an answer or express an opinionThe act of making a guess
Exaggerate or add emphasis

I guess

Stative (event) verbs are used to indicate a state or condition, that don’t show qualities of change or progress. These are not usually used in their present participle (-ING) forms.

As a stative verb, “guess” has two definitions.

a. To give an answer with insufficient information.
  • I guessed all the answers because I didn’t study.”
  • “Can you guess how old she is?”
b. To express an opinion or belief.
  • I guess I better start walking or I’ll miss my bus.”
  • I guess he’s not going to call me back after the mix-up.”

I’m guessing

Interestingly, “guess” is considered a stative verb even though it is very common to hear it in the present continuous. In this way, it can be considered a dynamic (action) verb to indicate action or progress.

a. As a dynamic verb, “guess” refers to the action of making a guess.

This has an aspect of thinking or deliberating.

  • “Give him the answer already, he’s been guessing for 20 minutes.”
  • “I’d say she looks 30, but I’m only guessing.”
b. To express exaggeration or add emphasis.

It is true that native English speakers will often use stative verbs in continuous tenses to express exaggeration or add emphasis.

Although “guess” can be used in continuous tenses, using the present participle implies exaggeration and emphasises the speaker’s act of guessing. To me, it also implies more uncertainty, but this is not always obvious.

Compare the following:

  • I guessed all the answers because I didn’t study.”
  • I was guessing all the answers because I didn’t study.”
  • I guess she’s about 25.”
  • I’m guessing she’s about 25.”

See also: Expression: I guess


Original posts: 17 December 2020