Passive Verbs – Their Essence and Usage

Passive verb tenses are used to make reference to the time of action in a sentence. It is important to note that passive verb tense and passive voice are not the same thing, and to try to avoid confusing the two. Granted, writing in passive voice requires the writer to use passive verb tenses. But, tense refers to time and voice refers to how verbs interact with or function with regards to the subject of the sentence.

Writing in passive voice can only be accomplished with the use of passive verb tenses, and each must clearly indicate the point in time where the passive action occurs or has occurred.

Some linguists believe that there are only three verb tenses – past, present and future – with everything else being considered an aspect of the verb tense. While others believe that there are twelve verb tenses. They are:

The 12 Verb Tenses

  1. Simple Present
  2. Simple Past
  3. Simple Future
  4. Present Continuous
  5. Past Continuous
  6. Future Continuous
  7. Present Perfect
  8. Past Perfect
  9. Future Perfect
  10. Present Perfect Continuous
  11. Past Perfect Continuous
  12. Future Perfect Continuous

For the purpose of this lesson, we will agree with the latter.

What are passive verbs?

Passive verbs are used to demonstrate or describe the specific action of the subject of a sentence. Passive verbs are considered to be ‘linking verbs’ that work alongside the main verb of a sentence. With a passive verb, it is possible for the subject to remain unknown or nameless.

You should use passive verbs when you wish to:

  • Take attention away from the subject. For example:
    1. When the subject is unknown
    2. When the subject is not important or irrelevant
    3. When the subject has already been named
  • Take attention away from the specific action. For example:
    1. When you want to call attention upon the object.
    2. When the action might come across as being hostile.

Remember, linking verbs are neither passive nor active – they act as equals. The most common linking verb seen in the English language is ‘to be. Linnking verbs are used to reference or demonstrate a ‘state of being.’

The Formation of Passive Verbs

Passive verb tenses are formed by using the past participle form of a verb headed by to be or some other form of to be verb. Past participle is defined by Merriam-Webster as meaning, “a participle that typically expressed completed action, that is traditionally one of the principal parts of the verb, and that is traditionally used in English in the formation of perfect tenses in the active voice and of all tenses in the passive voice.”

On occasion, linking verbs might also be used. For most of the regular verbs, the past participle is developed by adding en or ed to the end of the verb. The way an irregular verb ends will differ based on the past participle form of the verb. Whenever you are using passive verb tense, the object of the verb will be whatever is receiving the action of the verb. The verb’s subject may not always be present n the sentence, but whenever it is included, it will typically occur later on in the sentence.

Simple Present Passive Tense

Simple present tense demonstrates whenever a current action or event is ‘habitual’ or ‘timeless fact.’ Simple present passive verb tenses are formed using ‘am’, ‘is’ or ‘are’ in conjunction with the correct past participle form of the verb.

Here are a few examples:

  1. The children are taught by finding answers in real-world play.
  2. He is beaten by the chess player from the next town over.
  3. All people are created equal.

Present Perfect Passive Tense

Present perfect tense demonstrates an action or event that occurred in the past but has some sort of relevance to present time. Present perfect passive tenses are formed using ‘has been’ or ‘have been’ and adding the past participle of the verb.

Here is an example:

  1. The piano players have been notified regarding their acceptance into the orchestra.

Present Progressive Passive Tense

Present progressive passive tense demonstrates an action or event that is either temporary or ongoing. The present progressive passive tense is formed by using ‘am being’, ‘is being’, or ‘are being’ before the past participle of the verb.

Here is an example:

WE CAN HELP YOU With Your Research Paper

Hire Writer

  1. The shoes are being manufactured in China.

Simple Past Passive Tense

Simple past passive tense demonstrates a general or characteristic event or action that has happened in the past, occasionally at a specified time. The simple past passive tense is formed using ‘was’ or ‘were’ before the participle of the verb.

Here is an example:

  1. The football players were remanded by their coach for kneeling during the playing of the national anthem.

Past Perfect Passive Tense

The past perfect tense references a particular action or event that occurred prior to a specific time in the past. Past perfect passive tense is formed by  using ‘had been’ before the past participle of the verb.

Here is an example:

  1. The children had been excited about the Christmas Party since they were first told about the plans for it.

Past Progressive Passive Tense

Past progressive passive tense is used to reference a specific event or action that is either ongoing in the past or continues over a certain period of time in the past. The past progressive passive tense is formed by using ‘was being’ or ‘were being’ before the past participle of the verb.

Here is an example:

  1. The female hockey players were being excluded from the meeting the male players had.

Simple Future Passive Tense

The simple future passive verb tense is used whenever an action is expected to occur at some point in the future. The way to form a simple future passive verb tense is to use ‘will be’ before that past participle of the verb. This can also be accomplished by using ‘am going to be’, ‘is going to be’ or ‘are going to be’, again followed by the past participle of the verb.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Justin’s grades will be made available at the end of the term.
  2. Justin’s grades are going to be made available at the end of the term.

Future Perfect Passive Tense

Future Perfect Passive tense demonstrates something that will be completed in the future before something else happens, also in the future. Future perfect passive tense is formed by using ‘will have been’ before the past participle of the verb.

Here is an example:

  1. Student test scores will be improved by better explaining formulas and focusing more on the quality of homework and study clubs.

Future Progressive Passive Tense

Future progressive passive tense is used to demonstrate an event or action that will occur – and will continue to occur – in the future. This type of construction is awkward and seldom use. However, future progressive passive tense is formed using ‘will be being’ followed by the past participle of the verb.

Here is an example:

  1. Your car will be being taken away over the summer if you do not get a job and pay for gas yourself.