I am having trouble understanding the grammar structure of the following sentence:

He was done eating.

My problem is trying to explain why the passive form is followed by an ing form. I do not know the name of this structure. Can anyone explain why? I'm looking for the grammar rule.


1 Answer 1


There are various constructions with related meanings.

be done with (someone or something): To be finished with someone or something; to                              cease being involved or dealing with someone or something.

  • I've been working on this essay for hours now, so I'm just going to write the conclusion and be done with it.
  • That group has been a really negative influence in my life, so I've decided that I'm done with them altogether.
  • You've hurt me for the last time, Brandon — I'm done with you!

be done: To be finished ... [passive; possibly stative (arguably adjectival) but probably                     transformational]

  • The roast is still cooking? Sheesh, when is it gonna be done?

be done (+ ing-clause): To be finished or have completed something.

  • I hope you're done writing that paper because class starts in three minutes.
  • You're done cleaning your room already?

[Farlex Dictionary of Idioms; amended]

'He was done eating' (an alternative is 'He was finished eating', and another, 'He was through eating' [informal] argues for adjectival use) is of the third type listed. One could argue that this is the be-pluperfect, with 'He was finished eating' = 'He had finished eating'. Compare 'I am come' = 'I have come' (largely poetic nowadays).

  • Of course, it's an idiom. Things can be so simple.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 28 at 16:43

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