Passive Verb Tense

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What do they mean?

Passive verb tenses identify the time of the action in your sentences. Make sure not to confuse passive verb tenses with the passive voice. While writing in the passive voice requires the use of passive verb tenses, tenses refer to the time of the action, and voice refers to how verbs function with respect to a sentence’s subject. Writing in the passive voice is only accomplished through the use of passive verb tenses, with each identifying when in time the passive action takes place.

How are they created?

Passive verb tenses are created by using the past participle form (expresses passive action) of a verb preceded with a “to be” verb. Sometimes linking verbs are used as well. For most regular verbs, the past participle is created by adding “en” or “ed” to the end of the verb. The ending for irregular verbs differs depending on the verb’s past participle form. When using passive tense verbs, the object of the verb is what is receiving the action of the verb. The subject of the verb is not always present in the sentence, and when it is included, it generally appears later in the sentence.

Simple present passive tense

Simple present tense signifies a current action that is habitual, a generalization or something that is a timeless fact. To create the passive form in this tense, “am,” “is” or “are” is used in conjunction with the past participle form of the verb.

Example 1: The students are taught by finding solutions to real-world problems.

Example 2: She is beaten by the runner from the school’s biggest rival.

Example 3: All citizens are considered equal under the U.S. Constitution.

Present perfect passive tense

Present perfect tense shows an action that takes place in the past but is relevant to the present or flows into the present. To create the passive form in this tense, “has been” or “have been” followed by the past participle form of the verb.

Example 4: The dancers have been notified regarding their acceptance into the program.

Present progressive passive tense

The present progressive tense shows an action that is temporary or an ongoing activity. The passive form of this verb tense is created by using “am being,” “is being” or “are being” followed by the past participle form of the verb.

Example 5: The purses are being manufactured overseas.

Simple past passive tense

The simple past tense shows a general or habitual action that occurred in the past, sometimes at a specific time. The passive form of this verb tense is created by using “was” or “were” followed by the past participle form of the verb.

Example 6: The students were reprimanded by the principal for their actions.

Past perfect passive tense

The past perfect tense signifies an action that happened prior to a certain time or prior to a separate action in the past. The passive form of this tense is created by using “had been” followed by the past participle form of the verb.

Example 7: The students had been excited about the meeting since the idea formed for it.

Past progressive passive tense

The past progressive tense signifies an action that is ongoing in the past or one that continues through a certain time in the past. The passive form of this tense is created by using “was being” or “were being” followed by the past participle form of the verb.

Example 8: The teachers were being excluded from the student meeting.

Simple future passive tense

The simple future tense notates an action that is expected to take place at some point in the future. One way the passive form of this tense is created is by using “will be” followed by the past participle form of the verb. Another way the passive form of this tense is created is by using “am going to be,” “is going to be” or “are going to be” followed by the past participle form of the verb.

Example 9: Sarah’s grades will be posted at the end of the semester.

Example 10: Sarah’s grades are going to be posted at the end of the semester.

Future perfect passive tense

The future perfect tense notates an action that is completed in the future prior to another future action or period in time. The passive form of the tense is created by using “will have been” followed by the past participle form of the verb.

Example 11: The economy will have been improved by more careful lending practices.

Future progressive passive tense

The future progressive tense identifies an action that is going to occur in the future with an emphasis on an action that is continuing. It forms an awkward construction that is rarely used, but it if formed by using “will be being” in front of the past participle of the verb.

Example 12: Your laundry will be being washed when you go home over spring break.