Grammar 8


Continuous Tense (4)

Here is a rule of English grammar that generally holds true:

The verb "is" (am, are, was, were, has been, will be, etc.) is a linking verb that is roughly equivalent to an = sign. HOWEVER, if the "is" word is followed by an -ing verb, then "is" turns into a helping word: It helps to form the continuous tense of the verb.

That's a pretty solid rule.

Unfortunately, every rule of English grammar has multiple exceptions.

Here is one of them:

Here, we just have to remember that the phrase "is going to be" is the future tense of "is". This phrase is always a linking verb.

Another exception is when the -ing verb is a participial adjective that is serving as the complement of the subject. For example:

Technically, if the rule stated above were always true, then all these sentences would be intransitive sentences (SV).

But clearly they are not.

The questions were confusing.


This sentence makes most sense if we think of it as

  • The questions = confusing.

rather than

  • The questions continue to confuse someone at this moment.


On the other hand:

The questions were confusing me.


This sentence only makes sense if we think of "were confusing" as one big verb—the continuous tense of the verb "to confuse".

In this sentence, "me" is the object of the verb.

We could—if we wanted—analyze why "were confusing" is a linking verb and a participial adjective in the first example, whereas the same two words form a continuous tense verb in the second example.

Yes, we could dive deep into that pit, if we were so inclined. But I don't think that's necessary, do you? Analyzing sentences is a good way to gain an understanding of what a clause is. But that's it. Once you understand, deep in your gut, what a clause is—mission accomplished. You don't need to sweat the linguistic details.

But just for fun, consider this sentence:

  • He is living.

What does it mean? Does it mean "He = alive"? If that's the case, then it's an equative sentence (S=C).

Or does it mean "He continues to live at this moment", as in "He's living his best life"? If that's the case, then it's an intransitive sentence (SV).

Isn't grammar fun?

The key point is this: Don't throw out your common sense.

Many sentences look similar, but the meaning and context of a sentence is usually more than enough to guide your analysis of the base clause.

Instructions for the Quiz

Find the base clause.