What is the difference in meaning between the following two sentences?

(1) I am completely honest with you right now.

(2) I am being completely honest with you right now.

  • Are these sentences you've made up yourself or ones you've found somewhere? I don't believe the first one is actually correct, use wise. The form "I am completely ____ with you" is generally fine but I don't think we can use it for "honest".
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 0:57
  • @Catija, care to explain why you wouldn't use it for honest? If someone were to say "I am completely honest with you" leaving aside right now, I'd assume they are always honest with me. On the other hand, "I am being completely honest with you" would simply express in that precise moment. Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 1:18
  • @NicholasJ. Maybe it's the "completely". It just sounds odd. I'd say "I'm always honest with you"...
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 1:21
  • @Catija it sounds pretty normal to me. Even I've said things such as "I haven't been completely honest with you", not sure if it only sounds odd to you because of it being present tense, but I'd really see no problem with it. Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 1:24
  • @NicholasJ. Ok. It wasn't an answer... Clearly we disagree. You're also ignoring the rest of the sentence which is half of what sounds odd.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 1:26

1 Answer 1


Verbs like be and know and see, which express a state are far less likely to be cast in the progressive than verbs which express an action or event. The primary effect of the progressive construction is to "recategorize" an event or action as a continuing state, so its use with stative verbs is superfluous.

When stative verbs are cast in the progressive it usually signals one of two things: either the "state" is regarded as temporary and likely to end soon, or the verb has been recategorized semantically: it has a different sense in the progressive.

In the case of be, both these changes take place with the progressive: be is understood in the sense behave, and the behavior expressed is understood to be temporary rather than a permanent characteristic. For instance,

Brian is a jerk means that Brian is always a jerk, but
Brian is being a jerk means that right now Brian is behaving like a jerk.

So it is one thing to say I am completely honest with you—this is the ordinary stative use of be and implies that I am always completely honest with you. It is a permanent aspect of my character. But I am completely honest with you right now is odd and jarring, because bare am and right now imply two different time scopes.

But saying I am being completely honest with you right now is idiomatic. This says that even if I may not always be completely honest with you or with other people, what I am saying and doing right now—my current behavior—is in fact completely honest.

And in fact the only reason I would say this would be if you gave some indication that you believed I was not being honest with you.

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