In a text I wrote as an exercise on Coursera, I've used the past perfect progressive form of the verb "to be late":

...so, we had taken an appointment and exactly in one month we were on a plane to Istanbul. Our flight was delayed, which is why by the time we landed at Ataturk Airport we had already been being late for almost half an hour. We took a taxi...

However, a couple of reviewers told me that this wording sounded strange to them. Is it grammatical? Does it sound natural? If not, how is it better to rephrase this sentence?


In the opinion of this native US English speaker, it sounds strange and unnatural. The natural way to phrase it would simply be

...we had already been late for almost half an hour.

Think about how you would phrase this if it were in the present. The progressive "We are being late"? No, we would just say "We are late." So that should suggest that the simplest answer is just "We were late" or "We had been late".

English native speakers do not usually use the progressive of to be ("I am being") unless they're using the passive voice ("I am being eaten by a bear") so any time you find yourself using it, you should stop and check if it's necessary. It almost never occurs unless the sentence is in the passive voice, because to be already indicates a state, so "to be being" sounds weird, repetitive, and non-fluent.

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    To state it slightly differently, English doesn't typically use the progressive aspect for states; it can for processes. A passive expression could be either, but when progressive, it has to be the process. That said, in the expression from OP, the simple past "we were already late" sounds more natural – eques Sep 6 '16 at 16:23

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