"I have been working on a project recently" is clearly a perfectly grammatical sentence using the Perfect Continuous tense.

It is not clear whether "I have been being sick recently" is grammatically correct though. Of course, most English speakers would simply say "I have been sick lately", but does this necessarily have the same connotations as the other sentence? Perhaps "been" entails the continuous aspect, but I'm not certain.

Similarly, can I say "Starting tomorrow, I will have been being sick for two months now"?

By the way, these sentences read less awkward if you put the emphasis on the word "being", since this implicitly groups "being sick" together.

Edit: In lieu of Ham and Bacon's answer, one can replace every instance of "sick" with "confused" or some other adjective and the question remains the same.

2 Answers 2


Actually, "being sick" has the implication of 'throwing up', as in "During the entire boat trip, John was being sick," or "I was being sick all over the table". "I have been sick" means that you have been unwell, or ill, due to a disease.

They're both perfectly alright, they just mean differently.

Edit: In lieu of Rolfer's change of question:

Let's take the adjective "happy". The two examples are now "I have been happy" and "I have been being happy".

The first of the two sentences means that you were happy in times past. You might not necessarily be happy now, but you were happy before.

The second of the sentences however, meant that you have been doing some activity which occurs when you are happy, for example, Dancing, or jumping, or shouting, or singing, etc. "I have been being happy" denotes that you were doing an action associated with happiness. This can also be seen by "sick", or "angry" ('being angry' could mean stamping your foot, shouting, saying bad things, etc.).

Essentially, they mean the same thing, just stating it in a different way.

  • +1-Duly noted, question edited since I forgot that "being sick" had this implication. Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 5:12
  • I've got to accept your answer, something about the way you've phrased it has made the construction seem so natural to me now :D Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 7:14
  • Also sick in "Mark felt sick with fear" could mean "feeling nauseous and wanting to vomit." "Be sick" means "be ill" or "vomit."
    – apaderno
    Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 7:30

I think the emphasis on being turns the whole construction into an activity-denoting predicate. Consider: He's just being silly, You've been being silly for long enough, now stop! It only works when an activity reading can be "forced" out of it. I can't say much more off the top of my head, though I do remember reading a few scholarly articles about it lately, so I'll try to find those and get back to you. In case you feel like looking on your own, the relevant terms are "activity" versus "state" (or "stative").

  • +1-I like your analysis, and look forward to seeing these articles. The only problem I'm having is that "You've been silly" could have substituted in for "You've been being silly", and I'm not certain whether the connotation of the phrase actually changes. I do like how the parallelism makes one want to turn to the dark side though! Also, with respect to "activity" vs. "state", one could argue that having a property is never an "activity" per se, though again, it is tempting to say that "being" and "acting" are synonymous in the sentence you constructed. Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 3:58
  • Check this out: grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/progressive.htm. Towards the end, it suggests that we think of the difference between stative and dynamic in terms of "willed" and "nonwilled" qualities."
    – Manjima
    Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 15:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.