Being is an important word in English.
You will find it in many different situations, especially in written English.
Learning how to use this word will help you to write with better style and clarity.
So, in this lesson, I will teach you the four main uses of “being” including in the
passive voice, as a gerund, in participle clauses, and in continuous tenses.
There are exercises later in the lesson to help you practice, and there’s also some
So, let’s start.
The first use of “being” is to talk about a person’s temporary behavior.
Here’s an example: I went to visit a friend of mine one time.
He’s married and has a son who’s about seven or eight years old.
When I went to their house, the boy was busy playing video games, so he didn’t say “hi”
to me, he didn’t want to talk, he just wanted to keep playing.
So, his mother said this to him: “Sam, you are being rude to our guest.”
(Come here and say hi to him.)
Notice that she said, “you are being rude” not “you are rude”.
If she had said “You’re rude”, that would mean “You’re a rude person.
But here, she’s saying “you’re normally a good, polite kid.
But right now, you’re being rude.”
So, that’s a temporary behavior, and she wants him to change that.
So, the kid put away his video game controller; he came and said “Hi, how are you?” and
we had a nice little chat.
Now, here, we see the present continuous tense because this is exactly what Sam’s mother
said, in her own words.
But if you want to report it indirectly, you can use the past continuous tense: “Sam’s
mother told him that he was being rude to the guest.”
So, “you are being” changes to “he was being”.
When talking about the present, we say, “I am”, “you/we/they are”, “he/she/it
is”, and for the past, “I was, He/She/It was” and “You/We/They were”.
Here’s another example.
This is a conversation between a husband and wife.
The wife says, “The kitchen faucet has been dripping for a week now.
Why don’t you do something about it?”
“Dripping” means that water is falling off in drops.
Usually when that happens, it makes an annoying, unpleasant sound.
The husband says: “Yeah, yeah, I’ll take care of it.”
And the wife responds: “It’s driving me nuts.”
(that’s an idiom, it means it’s really irritating to me, I’m going mad because
“Don’t be so lazy.
Fix that faucet.”
Now, this underlined sentence can be improved using “being”.
Can you rewrite that sentence?
Well, she can say: “Quit being so lazy and fix that faucet.”
That’s a very common thing to say.
“Stop being so lazy” would also be correct.
At this point, the husband might ask: “Are you saying I’m a lazy guy?” to which the
wife would reply: “No, I’m just saying right now, you’re BEING lazy.
So, could you please stop being lazy and fix the faucet?”
Here are some more common sentences: Quit being such a baby.
(If a friend of yours is always whining and complaining) You’re just being silly.
Why is she being so stubborn?
(“stubborn” means she won’t change her mind, she wants to have things her way) Stop
Learn to think positively.
That waiter was being a real jerk, so we got up and left the restaurant.
“Jerk” is a slang term for someone who is rude.
In all these sentences, you see that “being” talks about a person’s temporary behavior.
That’s the first use.
The second use of “being” is as a gerund, that means a verb form that acts as a noun.
Here’s a conversation I had recently with a young student of mine named Rahul: Rahul
asked: “Teacher, what did you want to be when you were a child?”
I said: “As a child, I first wanted to be a pilot.
But as a teenager, I dreamt of being a rock star.”
Rock star means a famous singer of rock music.
“Of course, I ended up becoming a teacher.”
Ended up means that’s what finally happened.
Rahul asked: “Do you like being a teacher?”
I replied: “Being a teacher is a lot of hard work, but I believe it’s much more
rewarding than being a celebrity.”
“Rewarding” means “satisfying”.
A celebrity is a famous person.
“Of course, I wouldn’t mind being famous.
But fame is certainly no substitute for fulfilment.”
We see a lot of “beings” here.
They are all gerunds.
The first is “as a teenager, I dreamt of being a rock star”.
Here, “being a rock star” means my dream was the life of a rock star.
I said that a gerund is a verb form that acts as a noun, so this gerund is used in the place
of the noun “life”.
And then Rahul asks, “Do you like being a teacher?”
That is “Do you like the job of a teacher?”
And I say, “Being a teacher” that is “the job of a teacher is a lot of hard work, but
I believe it’s much more rewarding than being a celebrity”, than the “life of
a celebrity” again.
So, I’m saying that the job of a teacher is more fulfilling than the fancy life of
“Of course, I wouldn’t mind being famous”, that is, “I wouldn’t mind having fame.
But that fame is no substitute for fulfilment.”
So, then I asked Rahul: “What do you want to become?”
He said, “I want to be an aerospace engineer.
I have a LOT of studying to do.”
So, I reminded him, “OK, but being a good student doesn’t mean you have to study all
It’s good to get out in nature or go hang out with your friends once in a while.”
So, this is the second use of “being” – as a gerund.
The third and a very common use is in the passive voice.
I remember when I went on vacation with my family one time, we checked into our hotel,
but the room wasn’t ready yet.
The receptionist said this to me: “Your room is being prepared, sir.
It’ll be ready in just a few minutes.”
As it turned out, they took almost an hour, for which time, we had to wait in the lobby.
But look at that first sentence: “Your room is being prepared.”
This is the same as saying “Our housekeeping staff are preparing your room right now.”
This is an active voice sentence.
Of course, the focus doesn’t need to be on the staff (on the room attendants who are
doing the cleaning); the room itself is the important thing here.
And so, the receptionist said, “Your room is being prepared.”
That’s a better sentence.
Now, looking back at the experience, I can say, “We had to wait in the lobby for close
to an hour because our room was being prepared.”
This is another passive voice sentence, but it’s in the past continuous tense.
So “is being” has changed to “was being”.
One more example.
I read this one in a novel recently: “As they were driving home late that night, Shirley
leaned in towards her sister (who was behind the wheel)” the wheel is the steering wheel,
so behind the wheel means her sister was driving, “and whispered, “I think we are being
So, maybe she saw another car in the rearview mirror and that car had been following them
for a while.
This sentence means the same thing as in the active voice: “I think somebody is following
Now, let’s convert this to the past tense.
“Shirley told her sister that she thought they” and then how would you finish this
“She thought they were being followed.”
– “are being” has become “were being”.
So, using “being” in the passive voice is simply a matter of choosing “am/is/are/was
or were” and then putting “being” after it followed by the main verb like “prepare”
or “follow” in the past participle (or V3) form.
We’ll see more examples in the exercise later.
The final use of “being” is in participle clauses.
Don’t worry if you don’t know what that means.
Take this example: “I’m afraid of heights.
So, I try to avoid going up tall buildings.”
There’s a little clue for us here: notice the verb “am” in “I am afraid”: this
is a form of the verb “be”.
So, we can actually connect these two sentences in a better way: “Being afraid of heights,
I try to avoid going up tall buildings.”
That first part “Being afraid of heights” is called a participle clause; in this example,
think of it like saying “because I’m afraid of heights.”.
The participle clause makes your writing look more compact and stylish.
OK, here’s another one, said by a different person: “I’m not afraid of heights.
So, I have no problem going up to the top floors of tall buildings or even climbing
Can you rewrite this with “being”?
Well, you can say, “Not being afraid of heights, I have no problem going up to the
top floors and so on.”
Here’s another example: “Mr. Adams, who is an avid reader, maintains a huge personal
library of books and periodicals on various subjects.”
An avid reader is someone who loves books and reads a lot.
How can we rewrite this with “being”?
Well: “Mr. Adams, being an avid reader, maintains a huge personal library of books
Notice how the relative clause with “who” interrupts the sentence to give information
about the noun Mr. Adams.
In the same way, the participle clause with “being” comes in the middle of the sentence
and gives information.
But the advantage with this is that you can move it to the beginning of the sentence:
“Being an avid reader, Mr. Adams maintains a huge personal library.”
It means the same thing as the original sentence.
Now, you might be thinking, in the first example: “Being afraid of heights...” can we move
that participle clause to the middle of the sentence?
Well, you can say, “I, being afraid of heights, try to avoid tall buildings.”
– grammatically, it’s OK, but it doesn’t sound very natural in this case.
So, we’re just going to leave it like that.
OK, if you’re ready, let’s now do some practice exercises.
Alright we've looked at the four main uses of being and now we're going to try to put
that into practice I have 13 exercises for you here in each one I'm going to give you
a sentence and I want you to rewrite that using being right here's the first one all
fruits and vegetables need to be washed thoroughly before we eat them I want you to rewrite this
underlined part using being so how would you do it
you can say all fruits and vegetables need to be washed thoroughly before being eaten
now you can say before being eaten by us but that's not necessary this is a passive voice
construction and this is a much better sentence all right let's move on to exercise number
two you're going to need a couple of vocabulary items for this one the first is socialize
to socialize means to spend time with other people talking in a friendly way like how
you would do in a party when you mingle with a lot of people an extrovert is a confident
person who enjoys social situations the opposite is introvert a person that doesn't like to
mingle with others someone who likes to be by themselves all alone all right so here's
the sentence I love socializing meeting new people and doing group activities that's because
I'm an extrovert so rewrite this part using being okay here's the answer being an extrovert
I love socializing meeting new people and doing group activities so you see that I've
brought this sentence over here to the beginning as a participle clause using being okay exercise
number three this is the only vocabulary item you'll need for this to micromanage means
to control every little detail of an employee's work and it's usually used in a negative sense
like when a manager or a boss tries to control every little thing that a worker does and
not allowing them to work independently okay here's the sentence as a boss you have to
let your team members work independently most people don't like it when you micromanage
them so how can you rewrite this we can say as a boss you have to let your
team members work independently most people don't like being micromanaged I haven't said
being micromanaged by their boss because that's understood so writing it in the passive voice
like this allows us to leave out that unnecessary information okay we move on to exercise number
four we're going to need some vocabulary for this show up is a phrasal verb and it means
to arrive at a place or event and join other people so here's the sentence Francis showed
up to the party even though he wasn't invited now you'll have to rewrite this using despite
and being so how can you do that here's the answer Francis showed up to the party despite
not being invited so the meaning here is that Frances was not invited his friends did not
invite him to the party but still he came to the party now you might be thinking at
least some of you might be thinking do we need to say even though he hadn't been invited
and here do we need to say despite not having been invited those are correct but you don't
really need the past perfect tense here because the meaning is clear in both of these sentences
and these are actually simpler so I like keeping them like this and that this of course is
in my opinion this is better because it uses despite and being and it's a shorter sentence
all right let's move on to number five now here's the sentence how long does milk last
after you open it the question here is how long does it take for milk to spoil how long
is milk good for after you open the container so how would you rewrite this the answer how
long does milk last after being opened this is just like the first sentence fruits and
vegetables need to be washed before being eaten so this is also a sentence which changes
this clause to a passive voice clause alright number six it's hard to find and retain committed
volunteers because nobody wants to work when they are not paid so how would you change
this the answer it's hard to find and retain committed volunteers because nobody wants
to work without being paid alright we move on to exercise number seven some workers are
repainting my house so I'm staying at my sister's for a couple of weeks at my sister's means
at my sister's place how would you rewrite it well here's the answer my house is being
repainted so I'm staying at my sister's for a couple of weeks and you can tell just by
reading this first sentence that it sounds very unnatural so this is a classic case where
you need the passive voice this is the passive voice and the agent some workers the people
who are doing the action are not mentioned because that's really just unnecessary information
so my house is being repainted so I'm staying at my sister's for a couple of weeks number
eight we’re oing to need some vocabulary for this okay the first item is burglar a
burglar is a criminal who enters a building illegally to steal things to tiptoe means
to walk quietly on your toes with your heels raised so if these are your feet so when you
walk like this so that other people can't hear you a hallway is a passage inside a building
with rooms on either side so you'll see doors on either side of the hallway all right here's
our sentence the burglar tiptoed across the hallway he was careful not to wake the residents
how can we rewrite it alright here's the answer the burglar tiptoed across the hallway being
careful not to wake the residents so being helps us to nicely combine the two sentences
here okay exercise number nine authorities are telling locals to stay indoors and avoid
the sun as much as possible until the heat wave has ended heat wave means a period where
there's an abnormally high heat to the point where people's health can be affected so how
can we write this with being here's the answer locals are being told to stay indoors and
avoid the sun as much as possible until the heat wave has ended notice that we have left
out authorities here locals are being told to stay indoors because it's understood that
it's the government or government authorities who tell people to stay indoors all right
let's move on to exercise 10 we have an idiom in the vocabulary section here to shoot from
the hip means to speak directly without thinking even if what you say offends people where
this idiom comes from is if you've ever seen a Western or cowboy movie where a cowboy would
have a gun on their hip and just pull it out and shoot it without aiming carefully so that's
where this comes from if you shoot from the hip and that means you're a person who talks
openly honestly and directly without thinking now if you're diplomatic and that means you're
speaking without upsetting or offending others you're speaking carefully especially when
you have to convey a negative message like when you have to say no or refuse something
all right so here's the sentence Jody is a good worker but she tends to shoot from the
hip she's not very good at saying things in a diplomatic manner how would you rewrite
it okay here's the answer Joe he's a good worker but she tends to shoot from the hip
she's not very good at being diplomatic so being allows us to nicely shorten this entire
clause into just two words all right exercise 11 we need a couple of vocabulary items here
tax evasion this is actually tax evasion is a noun to evade taxes is a verb tax evasion
is the act of illegally avoiding paying taxes like when you hide your income from the government
repercussions are bad effects caused by an action like tax evasion so here's the sentence
this is going to be a little challenging too many people believe they can avoid paying
their taxes and not yet caught however the short term reward just isn't worth the legal
repercussions if one is found guilty of tax evasion you need to rewrite two clauses here
using being so stop the video and think about it then continue all right here's the answer
– too many people believe they can avoid paying their taxes without being caught however
the short-term reward just isn't worth the legal repercussions of being found guilty
of tax evasion did you get that one right or all right we move on to exercise number
12 for this you'll need to know the word entrepreneur an entrepreneur is a person who starts his
or her own business here's the sentence I decided to quit my job and start my own business
because I hate it when other people tell me what to do running the business on my own
was hard at first but now that I'm used to it I'm enjoying the lifestyle of an entrepreneur
and I wouldn't dream of going back to work for someone else how would you rewrite it
here's the answer I decided to quit my job and start my own business because I hate being
told what to do by other people running the business on my own was hard was hard at first
but now that I'm used to it I'm enjoying being an entrepreneur and I wouldn't dream of going
back to work for someone else did you get that one alright let's move on to the final
exercise number 13 for this you'll need to know the word cryptocurrency cryptocurrency
is electronic money that's used for buying and selling online and that's not produced
by the government the most popular cryptocurrency is Bitcoin you may have heard of it alright
here's the sentence you notice that I haven't underlined anything here that's because I
want you to decide where you can use being in this final exercise some monetary experts
argue that criminals are using crypto currencies such as Bitcoin in underground markets for
illegal transactions and that these crypto currencies should therefore be banned if you
rewrite this correctly you will get a much more a much cleaner much shorter and a much
nicer looking sentence so try it out okay here's the answer some monetary experts argue
that crypto currencies such as Bitcoin are being used in underground markets for illegal
transactions and should therefore be banned look at how much more compact this sentence
is that's because this first part criminals are using crypto currencies in underground
markets I've changed that to a passive voice sentence some monetary experts argue that
crypto currencies are being used in underground markets so there's no mention of criminals
here because that's understood if somebody is using say Bitcoin for illegal activity
clearly that person is a criminal the other advantage is notice that in this sentence
we have these crypto currencies should therefore be banned but here I've simply said and should
therefore be banned because the subject is clear the subject is crypto currencies in
the original sentence if you remove this part now there's a problem when you say and should
therefore be banned there are two nouns here there's criminals and then there's crypto
currencies are you saying the criminals should be banned or the crypto currencies should
be banned your reader would understand because we don't really ban criminals we know the
government arrests criminals so they think about it and say yeah it's the crypto currencies
that should be banned but to avoid that confusion you need to you know put this part here but
in this sentence in the passive voice sentence there's no mention of criminals so there's
no confusion so being helps us to produce a much nicer sentence here alright I hope
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