Normally, we don't use continuous tenses with "to be" verb.

For example, we say "she is beautiful", not "she is being beautiful".

However, the dictionary says

To be 6 [linking verb] to behave in a particular way

He was just being rude.

Don’t be silly.

You’d better be careful.

So, when "to be" means "to behave in a particular way", we can use continuous tenses with it.

However, I don't know in which situations and with which adjectives we can use "to be" in continuous forms

For example, can we say?

-"She is being silly/stubborn/friendly"

-"you are being naughty/bad/spoiled" (talk to a boy)

If yes, then what is the difference between?

-"She is being silly/stubborn/friendly" vs "She is silly/stubborn/friendly"

-"you are being naughty/bad/spoiled" vs "you are naughty/bad/spoiled"

1 Answer 1


you are being naughty/bad/spoiled

This is saying that you are misbehaving. Making a choice to behave in a naughty/bad/spoiled way.

you are naughty/bad/spoiled

This says that it's your nature to be naughty/bad/spoiled, not a chosen behavior.

In practice, of course the distinction is not necessarily obvious --- how can we know whether someone is choosing to behave badly or whether it is their unalterable nature to be that way?

  • Do we use it with positive adjectives like "friendly", "nice"... Is "she is being nice /friendly..." correct?
    – Tom
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 4:16
  • 1
    Yes, we can. She is friendly = she's a naturally friendly person. She is being friendly = she is making a special effort to be kind or welcoming to someone on a particular occasion. Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 9:41

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