I should be sleeping. Is "sleeping" used as adjective?


3 Answers 3


"be sleeping" is the bare infinitive (present) in progessive form of the verb to sleep after a modal verb.

  • An infinitive is non-finite by definition; it has no tense and therefore cannot be marked "present".
    – user230
    Jul 1, 2015 at 13:46
  • What about infinitive perfect?
    – rogermue
    Jul 1, 2015 at 13:50

No, "sleeping" is a verb in this sentence, the same as in the sentence:

I am sleeping.

In this sentence, however, "sleeping" is an adjective:

The sleeping owl had awoken.


Sleeping would be the verb. Just like it would be in this sentence "He is sleeping".

  • 2
    Right. ("should" and "be" as used here are modal verbs. They are auxiliary; "sleeping" is the main verb.) Jun 29, 2015 at 9:58
  • Be is not a modal auxiliary.
    – user230
    Jul 1, 2015 at 13:44
  • @snailboat then what part of speech is that?
    – Tab
    Jul 2, 2015 at 15:51
  • @Tab When be is an auxiliary, it's a non-modal auxiliary. The English modal auxiliaries are can, may, will, shall, must, ought, need, and dare, and the non-modal auxiliaries are be, have, do, and for some speakers, use. See The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, pages 92 and 108.
    – user230
    Jul 2, 2015 at 15:58
  • @snailboat okay, but is it primary auxiliary in that sentence?
    – Tab
    Jul 3, 2015 at 8:25

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