I was reading the following sentence on the Internet and did not understand the usage of "being" in it:

They might have been being thrown away.

"They" refers to spoons here. I guess it is the passive usage.

Can someone elaborate and give more examples?

  • If it's grammatical, it's still very difficult to process, and a terribly subtle distinction from plain old 'they might have been thrown away'. – Mitch Jul 12 '11 at 19:12

It's a passive progressive: a combination of a passive (e.g. "have been thrown away") with a progressive (e.g. "are/were being thrown away").

The combination of passive and progressive isn't so common, especially in more complex cases, and you might argue that such combinations are still somewhat "marginal". Indeed, some view that the emergence of such forms is an 'ongoing change' in English (cf Mair & Leech, "Current Changes in English Syntax" in The Handbook of English Linguistics, Blackwell, p. 320).

If you Google combinations such as "would not have been being", "had not been being", you will find other examples. Tellingly, the top results are from grammar guides and linguistic articles discussing the existence of these forms rather than "real-life" examples...!

  • Do you mean that spoons are still being thrown away is also included in the meaning? – svirk Jul 12 '11 at 18:35
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    Sort of: the interpretation is similar to "It may have been the case that spoons were being thrown away". – Neil Coffey Jul 12 '11 at 18:39
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    Aaaah, the old everything-in-English-is-a-subjunctive conspiracy... – Neil Coffey Jul 12 '11 at 19:00

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