"Being" is usually seen in continuous passive sentences. such as:

"A letter is being written."

But what does it mean when it's used in an active sentence? For example:

"You are being stubborn."

What is the difference with a simple "you are stubborn."

  • 1
    You are stubborn means the person in question is usually stubborn— like it's a trait of theirs. You are being stubborn points out to the fact that the person in question is acting stubborn at some particular time. It may not be true of the person in other instances.
    – user126190
    Dec 23, 2020 at 7:54
  • You are.../You be... - works like present indefinite; You are being....like present continuous. Its' like 'You write...' becoming 'You are writing'.
    – Ram Pillai
    Dec 23, 2020 at 12:16

2 Answers 2


From CGEL, 2.43 p.74

[…] some verbs cannot normally be used with the progressive aspect (eg: *He is knowing English) and therefore belong to the stative rather than the dynamic category (cf 4.29). There are also exceptions in the other direction among nouns and adjectives. For instance, a child may be well-behaved one minute and a nuisance or naughty the next. Although adjectives are primarily stative in meaning (tall, red, old), some, such as naughty or insolent, can resemble verbs in referring to transitory conditions of behaviour or activity. This is reflected in the possibility of their cooccurrence with the progressive aspect of the verb BE:

  • He is being a nuisance again.
  • He is being a nuisance again.

The difference is meaning either permanent or temporary behavior.

"You are stubborn" indicates a general personality trait. It means that the person in question is always stubborn. Like "They are very polite" or "He is really condescending".

"You are being stubborn" just says the person is behaving in a stubborn way at that moment in time and doesn't mean they are always stubborn.

A: "I still think we should go with the other option"
B: "Now you're just being stubborn"

This works in the past tense as well. "You were just being stubborn" means the person was acting stubbornly at a specific moment in time. The exact moment is usually inferred from the context:

"Did you really like her presentation or were you just being polite?"

The first one is not as common in the past tense. "You were stubborn" wouldn't make much sense in most cases, as personality traits are not easily 'unlearned'.

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