While answering a question on ux.stackexchange I find myself in the need of expressing something like this, but I'm not sure if this is even a well-formed sentence because it sounds so wrong in my head:

You could just being rickRolled without even liking the song!

I want to illustrate the precise situation when the rickRolling is happening, so in that instant "you could just being RickRolled".

Is it alright to say it like that or what's the correct form to express the same?

  • 1
    @Araucaria Thanks, I edited it. For some reason I always think "acknowledgment" as "being aware of". – Alejandro Veltri Sep 3 '15 at 15:19

Could (or any other modal) requires an infinitive complement

You could be {controlled / rickrolled}

and the progressive passive requires two BEs:

You are being controlled

or BE + GET:

You are getting rickrolled

So the modal progressive passive is

You could be being controlled
You could be getting rickrolled

  • 5
    Wow. For me this is like "Congratulations rewobs! You have just unlocked a new verb tense!". Perfect explanation. Thanks. – Alejandro Veltri Sep 3 '15 at 15:24
  • 2
    @rewobs You're only a couple hundred years late! Passive progressive didn't exist in Engish until about 1800, when it suddenly sprang up out of nowhere (or possibly out of Bristol). It appalled many grammarians at the time. – StoneyB Sep 3 '15 at 15:27
  • Haha good to know! Thanks for the enlightenment. It's the first time the need of using this appears in my head, I hope it's a sign of my expressiveness trying to expand :P. – Alejandro Veltri Sep 3 '15 at 15:35

If you don't like the awkward sound of the technically correct progressive passive be being as StoneyB's fine answer offers, then consider a slight rewording of the sentence in your question title:

You could be under someone else's control without your knowledge.

This retains the meaning you're trying to convey, without the awkwardness that apparently appalled so many grammarians when the progressive passive tense came around.

Of course, it doesn't work for your "rickrolled" example, but the preferred verb for that phrase is get, which sounds a lot less awkward than the repeated "be be".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.