Describing people in English: BE or BEING?

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Do you know the difference between "he is nice" and "he is being nice"? This small change makes a huge difference! In this video, you'll learn how "be" and "being" can either express an overall personality, or a current behavior. The English language is full of small changes which can alter the meaning of a sentence completely. But don't worry! I'll explain how 'be' and 'being' differ from each other, and will teach you to use them correctly. You'll have a chance to see many example sentences, and we'll do some practice exercises together. By the time you finish this easy lesson, I'm sure you'll be able to score 100% on the quiz at

Hi there. My name is Emma, and in today's video I am going to teach you the difference between "be" and "being" when we are talking about people. Okay?

So, I'm going to show you some sentences. The first one: "The boy is naughty." So "naughty" is like a bad boy. And the second one: "The boy is being naughty." What is the difference in this...? These two sentences? What is...? Like, just looking at the grammar, what is something that you notice? Well, you probably notice this is the only thing that's different. "The boy is naughty.", "The boy is being naughty." Okay? Now, one of these has to do with behaviour. The other one has to do with personality. Okay? So, if we look at: "The boy is naughty." what we really are saying is the boy is usually bad. It's a part of his personality. It's his feelings. He's... He's a bad boy, it's who he is. He's a naughty boy. That's a little bit different than: "The boy is being naughty." In this case, we're just looking at a behaviour or an action. The boy is usually a good boy, maybe. Maybe he... You know, he usually does what his parents tell him to, he listens to his teachers, he's a good boy, but that one day he is acting a certain way, his actions are naughty, his behaviour is naughty. The boy is being naughty. So, again, the difference is this is more about the boy... It's his personality type, and this is usually a temporary behaviour. Okay? It's not forever; it's just right now he's acting that way, but it's not who he is. So let's look at some other examples.

"You are rude." Okay? Not you personally, but just an example. "You are rude." "Rude", for those of you who don't know, means not polite. So a person who's not polite is a rude person. Okay? If I say: "You are rude." I'm saying it's your personality. You're usually rude. You're a very rude person. It means this is who you are. Now, compare that to: "You are being rude." In this case, you're not usually a rude person; you're quite a polite person, maybe. But in this situation, your behaviour in this moment is rude. Okay? So, again, this is who you are; and this is your behaviour in a specific situation. So I'll give you an example. Okay? You know, I know someone who is always... Well, no, I don't actually know somebody. But imagine if there's somebody who's always picking their nose. We could say: "Ugh, that guy's rude. He's so rude." But if he, I guess does it once... Okay? If it's just a behaviour that happens only one time, you could say: "He's being rude." He's not always rude; it's just this one time.

Here's another example: "He is a smartass." Versus: "He is being a smartass." A smartass is a person who tries to be funny, but they do it in kind of a not nice way. So it's almost like not-nice funny. So if you think about when you were a kid, maybe there were some smartasses in your class, those were the kids who always said things that made the teacher very angry. Okay? So those people are smartassess, they purposely try to make people angry. So if you say: "He is a smartass." it just means that's his character. He's usually this way, this is how he is. If you say: "He is being a smartass." it means maybe just this one time. It's his behaviour in this moment, but it's not usual for him. It's just right now. So let's do some work on this together, let's do some examples together.

Okay, so now let's do some examples together. The first sentence I have: "I was careful when I drove." So when I drive a car, I'm careful. "I was careful when I drove." And again, "was" is the past tense for "be". Okay, so this is something I usually do, I'm a careful person, I drive very carefully. I want you to imagine this: Imagine if I'm not usually careful, but I see a police officer close to me. Okay? Maybe that might change the way I drive. So now I have a behaviour. How can I make this into a behaviour or an action that's not always true? If you said we can add something, you are right. What are we going to add? We're going to add "being", that "I was being careful when I drove."

Let's look at the next one: "Jack is stupid." Jack is a stupid person. I'm sorry if any of you are named Jack, I don't mean you; this is just an example.



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