9

Say you have a sentence:

The food is being processed in a factory.

The food is processed in a factory.

Both of them sounds right to me. Which one is grammatically correct? When would you use is being? Can anyone gives some examples? Thanks.

3

Both are correct. The first sentence is 'present tense', in that the word choice of 'being' means it is currently happening at this time. The second sentence is without a tense, and so it is more of a statement by itself. Both sentences sound like they are answers to a question, though.

10

Both sentences are grammatically correct, but the focus of attention is different.

The food is being processed in a factory.

This type of verb-form is known as the passive present progressive tense. We do not know who or perhaps we consider it unimportant to mention who the agent of the action, to process, is. However, the rules for when and how to use the present progressive are the same for the active verb-forms.

If we were to change the sentence into an active one we would need to specify who does the act of processing the food. Presumably, this is carried out by hired factory workers. So, we could re-write the sentence as:

Factory workers are processing the food

Both the active and passive sentence have the same meaning, the act of processing the food is ongoing in the present. It is a continuous action performed at the moment of speaking. The difference is in the subject of each sentence. In the first sentence, the subject is the food while in the second, our attention is drawn to the factory workers.

food processing

Which sentence would be more appropriate to describe the image above? Often it is a question of personal preference. In this particular instance, both the active and passive sentences are suitable.

All this preamble to explain when and why we might prefer to use the passive tense, and in order to answer your other questions; When would you use *is being*? Can anyone gives some examples?

Examples:

  • (Active) "I am making your coffee."
    The emphasis of the sentence is on me, the person making the coffee for you.

  • (Passive) "Coffee is being made."
    The emphasis is shifted onto the coffee, we don't know who is making the coffee and maybe we don't care. All we do know is that coffee will be ready soon.

  • (Active) "The construction workers are building a new bridge."
    Our focus is on the workers who are doing the action.

  • (Passive) "A new bridge is being built."
    The focus is switched to the end result of that action; i.e. the new bridge.

N.B If the subject of the passive sentence is plural, we have to change the verb accordingly.

"Two bridges are being rebuilt after the devastating floods of November."

An example of a similar sentence can be seen here.

5

The food is being processed in a factory.
The food is processed in a factory.

Short answer: Both sentences state a simple fact, but the first sentence implies the action is ongoing – perhaps even as we speak.


Longer answer: The meaning of such short sentences can shift depending on the context. Let's start by analyzing:

The food is being processed in a factory.

Suppose you and I are going to start a new company that sells granola. We might have this dialog:

How will we roll the oats and mix in the nuts?
The food is being processed in a factory.

Essentially, this means:

The plan is for our food to be processed in a factory.

and we might have just as easily said:

The food will be processed in a factory.


Or, after the operation gets underway, we might be answering a question from a potential customer:

Where are you guys processing your granola?
The food is being processed in a factory.

Essentially, this means:

As of right now, we are processing our granola in a factory.

where "as of right now" could mean "at this very moment" (if the factory is open), or "as of this month" (if we are planning to move the operation next month). However, but we could have just as easily answered with:

The food is processed in a factory.


Most verb tenses have a fairly straightforward "textbook" meaning, but in context, those usages can be bent, and the dividing lines can be blurry.

As a closing example, I'll ask two questions – but which is the correct one?

  • Does that make sense?
  • Did that make sense?
4

You use being to indicate something that is still going on (it has not completed yet)

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