I am arguing with friends about this question.

According to what I learned in school, there are some adjectives that cannot be used in the progressive form. I think this one is ungrammatical because angry describes an emotion, which is a temporary state on its own. Therefore, it is redundant to use it in the progressive form.

Am I correct?

  • Think about, " I was angry with him for a few years" or "jack is angry with his friend". They suggest continuous phaze of time right?
    – camelbrush
    Apr 23, 2013 at 11:07
  • @camelbrush Yes, they do. Are you a native speaker of English? If so, how does the sentence "I'm being angry" sound to you? A bit weird or absolutely weird?
    – cp_noname
    Apr 23, 2013 at 11:14
  • Forget about "angry" for a moment. How about the following? I'm just being curious here, but I'd like to know what kind of shampoo you use... Do you find "being curious" as shocking as "being angry"?
    – jub0bs
    Apr 23, 2013 at 12:44
  • I am not sure about curious. But I feel that is not as shocking as "I am being angry" What is the answer then, @Jubobs ?
    – cp_noname
    Apr 23, 2013 at 13:24

2 Answers 2


Yes, “am being ADJECTIVE sounds quite odd to a native speaker. It is not impossible, but it is very uncommon and seldom what you want.

You would virtually never say “I am being ready” or “I am being happy” instead of “I am ready” or “I am happy”.

If you really, really want a progressive aspect, then it works better with verbs like getting or becoming, depending on the adjective involved and whether these is already an existing idiom.

  • I am becoming happy.
  • I’m getting happy/happier.
  • I’m getting ready.
  • I’m getting tired.

Sometimes an adverb is enough:

  • I am still happy.
  • 3
    What about Jubobs example of "I'm just being curious here"? That sounds perfectly fine to me (but "I'm being curious." somehow does not.
    – Mitch
    Apr 23, 2013 at 14:21
  • @tchrist, thanks for your answer. And what do you think about the example Jubobs gave?
    – cp_noname
    Apr 23, 2013 at 14:38
  • 2
    I do not agree. The following does not sound odd to me at all: He's being facetious; don't pay him any attention.
    – jub0bs
    Apr 23, 2013 at 14:38
  • 1
    @Jubobs, why don't you explain your idea first, instead of asking the same question with a new example?
    – cp_noname
    Apr 23, 2013 at 15:16

I wouldn't be so sure that anger is a "temporary state on its own". Some people seem to be angry all the time!

I am being [adjective] can be used to mean that you are only displaying a certain behaviour for a limited period of time.

Contrary to @tchrist, that construction does not strike me as odd at all. In fact, it can convey nuances that the present tense simply cannot. Examples:

He's being facetious; don't pay him any attention.

Here, it's implied that his facetious behaviour, however common, will eventually come to an end. Compare that to:

He's facetious; don't pay him any attention.

The present tense here means that facetiousness is in his nature: in other words, he's always facetious.

I know I'm being overly curious here, but could you be more specific?

(meaning: I'm not usually that curious, but I find that what you said requires elaboration). Compare that to:

I know I'm curious, but could you be more specific?

(meaning: excuse me for always being curious, but I'd like to hear more about that.)

I'll concede that "I am being angry" may sound a bit odd in some contexts. However, I find the following perfectly acceptable:

While you were being angry at the kid for breaking the vase, I attempted to glue the pieces back together.

(meaning: while you were telling the kid off, ...)

  • 3
    I disagree about anger being temporary, though. It's not uncommon to hear: he's an angry man (meaning: he's very bitter, all the time).
    – jub0bs
    Apr 23, 2013 at 16:52
  • 1
    Well, we can argue about which word is preferable, but "he's an angry man" can definitely be said/written.
    – jub0bs
    Apr 23, 2013 at 16:55
  • 1
    @takwing If you agree with me, you should accept my answer :)
    – jub0bs
    Apr 23, 2013 at 17:01
  • 1
    But I have already accepted tchrist's answer. Both of you did equally well in the argument.
    – cp_noname
    Apr 23, 2013 at 17:02
  • 2
    There is another case where the progressive forms are natural: when answering a question and matching the tense in the question. Person A: “I don’t understand how you can be so calm about this. You were robbed, you should be angry!” — [Person B starts writing a letter]Person A: “Now what are you doing?!” — Person B: “I’m being angry like you told me to! I’m writing an angry letter of protest.” Feb 28, 2015 at 20:38

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