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Those will be the people that we could describe as being elite.

(Here I use elite for the adjective, but I'm interested in the general case with any other. For example "...as being attractive.")

Do I need being here? Can I just remove it and use the construction as [adjective]? In this case it would become—"...could describe as elite." What's the difference?

  • elite can be a noun. – Stan Mar 5 '14 at 16:28
  • @Stan: elite is not a mass noun, so it should be "as being the elite." I still can't say I'm elite" when elite is a noun. – Graduate Mar 5 '14 at 16:33
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    Instinctively, I expect a noun after describe as. If it's not a noun, then it should be a verb-ing. However, because in English, you can use an adjective as a noun too, so it might be passable, but it might be better to quote the adjective, i.e. ... describe as "elite", and because elite can be either a noun or an adjective, I would say it's safer to say ... describe as elites. – Damkerng T. Mar 5 '14 at 17:14
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    @DamkerngT. . . . describe as elite is fine. It wouldn't usually be written with quotation marks. Try searching for describe as *.[jj] in COCA, then click the top check mark to check all the examples and click "context". You'll see about a hundred examples, none of which use quotes. – snailcar Mar 6 '14 at 8:09
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Yes, you may omit the being in almost all circumstances, and it has no effect on the meaning.

The only situation I can think of in which you must use being is when you are describing a temporary behavior rather than enduring quality, just as you distinguish “John is being a jerk” from “John is a jerk”.

And the only situation I can think of in which you should not use being is when the complement is an active participle:

okThe accident victim was described as walking with her head down.
The accident victim was described as being walking with her head down.

A little playing with Google Ngrams suggests that in the early 19th century the two versions were in pretty much free variation, but incidence of the being version has steadily declined since then to 5%-10% of the incidence of the version without being.

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Agree with Damkerng and I too expect a noun after describe as.

Nevertheless, if you use being, it suggests a little bit of their efforts of being that!. In other words, whenever we describe someone being something, we consider that they have actually maintained themselves (positive or negative) with their own efforts (remember, we often use you are so kind. Thanks for being you.)

Those will be the people that we could describe as being elite (as elite) both means same but adding being, here in this case, is adding some appreciation to those people for maintaining themselves that way.)

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