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Personal computers first made their appearance in the home in the 1970s, but surely few people would have been able to imagine then that the home computer could evolve into the super-fast, super-sleek machines of today. Nor could they have even thought that handheld mobile gadgets would [use constantly] by all of us, in our desperation to keep up with everything from office correspondence to world news.

The answer key to this exercise mentions only 2 correct answers–'would be being used constantly' or 'would constantly be being used' both of which sound really awkward to me and like something I'd never say. I'd prefer

Nor could they have even thought that handheld mobile gadgets would be used constantly by all of us

What is wrong with this answer? I'm sorry but to me, this sounds like the most elegant and the only possible answer yet the answer key disagrees. Any thoughts on why?

  • Note the would have been able to imagine used earlier, rather than would have imagined. However, in your defense, I think constantly reduces the need for the be being construction by covering the same aspectual ground. "be being used constantly" and "be being made constantly" both have zero hits in Ngrams. Google returns this question, its source, and two other occurrences. So I reckon it's something a lot of other people would never say. – Phil Sweet Feb 10 at 13:19
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Nor could they have even thought that handheld mobile gadgets would be being used constantly by all of us.

The passive construction (continuous or progressive aspect) be being + past participle (used) sounds awkward because it is rare to need to express such a thought. But it is perfectly grammatical and emphasises the continuous nature of the use of mobile devices every day and all through the day in a way that the simple form does not.

So while you are at liberty to think that the simple form is more elegant, you are wrong to think that it is the only possible answer.

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