Consider the sentence:

She's being obnoxious.

I know what the sentence means: she is not usually obnoxious, but she is right now.

Now, what I'm interested in is why the verb be here in the present continuous form.

My guess: her being obnoxious right now requires her to make an effort (to go against her nature, so to speak), so the stative verb be "becomes" a dynamic one.

Is my explanation correct?

  • 2
    She could be obnoxious normally and the statement merely pointing out that such a condition continues currently.
    – Robusto
    Aug 7, 2015 at 12:07
  • @Robusto, then why use the progressive? According to your logic, the simple is fine here too.
    – user132181
    Aug 7, 2015 at 12:22
  • I'm just pointing out that it is another possible meaning. And it is.
    – Robusto
    Aug 7, 2015 at 12:30
  • @Robusto's point is that She is being obnoxious, just like He is going to the dentist this Friday, says nothing about whether she is obnoxious generally or he generally goes to the dentist on Fridays.
    – Drew
    Aug 8, 2015 at 2:36

2 Answers 2


"Be" is usually a stative verb, which means it isn't normally used in the progressive. So these are stative: "She is obnoxious", because she is generally unpleasant, it's her nature. "My brother is tall", because it's the way nature made him, he's always tall.

However, "be" is dynamic when it is used in the sense of "behaving", and therefore can be progressive. "She is being obnoxious" means "she is behaving obnoxiously at the moment".


To say that someone "is being ________" means that the person is acting __________ in the current situation.

She's being difficult.

He's being obnoxious.

They're playing hard-to-get.

It is not a habitual or typical state but a currently ongoing behavior and thus the continuous makes sense.

That it could be their character showing itself yet again is not ruled out. She could always be difficult, but that's not the point of the statement. In any case, there's no sense that the person must go against their nature.

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