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When should I use is being in English?

For example, do you say "something is changed," or "something is being changed"?

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Don't you mean "something has changed" (or something's changed ...). The tense of something is changed sounds wrong? –  StuartC Sep 9 '11 at 11:36
    
You should note that quite often in American speech, "something is changed" and "something has changed" sound almost exactly the same. –  Peter Shor Sep 9 '11 at 18:14
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4 Answers

"Is being" is used to describe an action that started in the past and continues at present. So these sentences have different meanings:

  • "Something is changed" describes the state of something; it has changed, maybe recently, maybe a long time ago.
  • "Something is being changed" describes the current event that is happening right now; it is changing.
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Is "is changed" correct? I wouldn't say it, although I'm not a native speaker. I'd say "something has changed". –  Alenanno Sep 9 '11 at 9:56
    
@Alenanno They're both correct and mean slightly different things. "Is" means that it is currently changed, "has" means that it changed in the past. However, you are right that in the VAST majority of cases you'd use "has changed". See Thursagen's answer for a good use of "is changed." –  Jeremy Sep 9 '11 at 11:35
    
@Jeremy: I disagree. Thursagen's example isn't a good example of how to use "is changed" (though I didn't downvote it). His one should more naturally be "has been changed". A more bulletproof usage would be "As a general principle, in the animal kingdom, alkaline is changed to acid. In the plant kingdom, acid is changed to alkaline". –  FumbleFingers Sep 9 '11 at 13:50
    
@Coomie: Your own explanatory text somewhat undermines your point re is changed, in that you paraphrase it as has changed (which, depending on the syntactic role assigned to changed, could also be has been changed). The form "is changed" is normally used when generically describing what happens to some mutable object/property within some process (no specific past/present/future instance being relevant). It doesn't work well for describing the current state of something specific which is now different to what it once was. –  FumbleFingers Sep 9 '11 at 14:09
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"Something is changed" would usually be used as part of a sentence looking to the future after the change: "When X is changed, we can do Y."

Used on its own, "something is changed" sounds a bit odd; we'd normally say "something is different" or "something has changed", which means the change has already taken place.

"Something is being changed" indicates the change is taking place right now; it's roughly the same as "Something is changing."

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+1 for explaining clearly how we might use "is changed." –  KitFox Sep 9 '11 at 12:49
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One of the uses is simple Present Continuous in passive voice.

My house is being painted by the workers

means exactly the same as

The workers are painting my house

Another is a bit more complicated. Is being may be used to indicate, that someone (rarely something) at the moment possess a quality that they may or may not possess in general.

My brother is being mean.

He may not be mean usually, but right now he is. I say complicated, because there are some instances, where is being is not used.

My wife is mad at me

She's not mad at me usually I hope, but she is mad now. Note, that is being is not used in this context.

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In terms of grammar, “something is being changed” is Present Continuous Passive, it means “something is changing now [by someone]”.

Next, “something is changed” is Present Simple Passive and “something has changed” is Present Perfect in passive voice. So each of this forms means exactly what the grammar tense means, but in the passive voice. The passive voice is used (I've just used Present Simple Passive =)) when we want to say that the action is performed on a subject, not a subject performs an action.

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