I've come across the following paragraph in the coursebook called "Prepare" level4 (CEFR level B1) by Helen Chilton CUP (2015):

Jess is a great friend. She's always smiling and she's never miserable. She really makes me laugh.

According to Michael Swan in his "Practical English Usage' third edition 'always' with progressive is 'used to talk about things which happen very often (perhaps more often than expected), and which are unexpected or unplanned".

According to E.A. Istomina and A.S. Saakyan in their "English Grammar" the present progressive is used to express "actions generally characterising the person denoted by the subject, bringing out the person's typical traits. Such sentences are emotionally coloured, expressing irritation, disapproval, praise, etc. In such sentences the adverbials 'always' or 'constantly' are obligatory: You're always showing off'. She's constantly complaining that she has so much to do.'

I cannot grasp what is so unexpected about the girl being cheerful. I cannot see anything in the context which would make me infer that it is an emotionally coloured sentence.The choice of the tense seems really unusual to me here.

Can anyone elaborate, please?

3 Answers 3


The expression

She is always smiling

is not necessarily Present Continuous tense. Smiling is not only the Present Participle of the verb smile, but can be a gerund or a noun. But in this case it can be understood as an adjective. An example of smiling as an adjective is "You can read happiness on his smiling face".

I think that in this particular instance it is used as an adjective.

She is always smiling, content and cheerful, and never miserable.

All bold words in the previous sentence are adjectives.

  • could you refer me to the source where I can find more examples of using the word 'smiling' as an adjective? I mean authentic sources or grammar books. @Victor Bazarov
    – Yukatan
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 21:20
  • the only reference to the word 'smiling' as an adjective I could find was '(often as adjective smiling) literary (Especially of landscape) have a bright or pleasing aspect: smiling groves and terraces' in Oxforddictionaries
    – Yukatan
    Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 21:22
  • @Yukatan : Just do a proper search: google.com/search?q=%22adjective+smiling%22, you're going to find plenty. Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 21:59

It could be said that "she always smiles" ,but it will indicate only the usual behavior of her, nothing grate about.

but it has been said like "she's always smiling" to get focus on this sentence than usual. it could be used to indicate unexpected behavior or to praise her.

it depends how you take this sentence, but considering the context he is trying to praise her.


If we use present continuous with some state verbs like, love , like , look, etc, we are emphasizing that a situation is for a period of time around the present.

To me when you say:

> She's always smiling and she's never miserable.

you are emphasizing that she is smiling every time you are spending time with her and not just mechanically all the times in a day.

  • Your answer is incoherent. You speak of the present perfect, but then go on to give examples of present continuous and simple.
    – fev
    Commented Dec 28, 2020 at 10:17
  • It was a gaffe. What I meant, was "present continuous" Commented Dec 28, 2020 at 11:34

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