Here is an exercise from English Grammar in Use.

  1. You're usually very patient, so why _________ so unreasonable about waiting ten more minutes? are you

The answer key says "are you being". Why the answer "are you" is incorrect ?

  1. Why isn't Steve at work today? He ______ ill. is being

The answer key says "is". I think Steve is still ill when the speaker ask this question. Can I use "is being" ?

  • The simple present would be interpreted as the enduring present, i.e., as an ongoing attitude of unreasonableness, but this is clearly an out-of-the-ordinary singular event happening now. So we use the progressive form. I can't think when "is being ill" is idiomatic. But in any case, the enduring present is appropriate for an illness likely to be ongoing.
    – deadrat
    Mar 6, 2016 at 8:13

2 Answers 2


The main differences between are and are being, or is and is being, are volition and duration; are being means roughly, "are currently choosing to be (and could easily choose to stop being)".

So, "why are you being so unreasonable?" means roughly, "why are you choosing to be so unreasonable right now"; and ?"he is being ill" would mean roughly "he's choosing to be ill right now".

What's more, even if you really do mean that someone is (somehow) choosing to be ill, this is a very odd thing to say, so you would want to be explicit; you wouldn't just suggest it by saying "he is being ill".

  • Hi, ruakh. I really like your explanation. But nobody chooses to be ill. I think it is better to use deadrat's comment as it seems to be the right answer to this question.
    – user24743
    Mar 6, 2016 at 8:26
  • @Rathony: I'm not sure what part of my answer makes you think that people choose to be ill.
    – ruakh
    Mar 6, 2016 at 16:19
  • You mentioned quote, "he is being ill" would mean roughly "he's choosing to be ill right now". unquote. I can understand what you mean, but it is a little confusing.
    – user24743
    Mar 6, 2016 at 16:56
  • @Rathony: The OP is already aware that "he is being ill" is incorrect, and is trying to understand why it's incorrect. The reason it's incorrect is that it would mean roughly "he's choosing to be ill right now".
    – ruakh
    Mar 6, 2016 at 17:06
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    @Rathony: I've read deadrat's comment. (I'd read it before even posting my answer.) I don't know what you want from me. If you disagree with my answer, and would rather have an answer that is copied-and-pasted from deadrat's comment, then please copy-and-paste deadrat's comment into a new answer of your own, and leave me out of it.
    – ruakh
    Mar 6, 2016 at 17:10

In every situation you choose how to react. Now you react in this way, then change your mind and react in the other way. You can't do the same with illness. You can't be ill at this moment and then change your state of health.

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