Be and Continuous Tenses
The verb be can be an auxiliary verb (Marie is learning English) or a main verb (Marie is French). On this page we look at be as a main verb.
Usually we do not use main verb be with continuous tenses. For example, we say:
- London is the capital of the UK. not
London is being the capital of the UK.
- Is she beautiful? not
Is she being beautiful?
- Were you late? not
Were you being late?
Sometimes, however, we can use main verb be with a continuous tense. This is when the real sense of be is "act" or "behave". Also, the action is temporary. Compare the examples in the table below:
|be as main verb|
|simple tense||continuous tense|
|Mary is a careful person. (Mary is always careful - it's her nature.)||John is being careful. (John is acting carefully now, but maybe he is not always careful - we don't know.)|
|Is he always so stupid? (Is that his personality?)||They were being really stupid. (They were behaving really stupidly at that moment.)|
|Andrew is not usually selfish. (It is not Andrew's character to be selfish.)||Why is he being so selfish? (Why is he acting so selfishly at the moment?)|
Notice that we also make a difference between "to be sick" and "to be being sick":
- She is sick (= she is not well)
- She is being sick (= she is vomiting)
I am being
You are being
He, she, it is being
We are being
They are being