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Past perfect continuous – passive

There are several reasons as to why we use the passive voice in English. In these notes, we’re going to focus on the past perfect continuous in the passive voice and its elaborations. Generally, we use the passive when the focus is on the action and NOT on WHO or WHAT is performing the action.

Construction: had + been + being + past participle (enjoyed, imagined) 

Example verb: speak

I had been being spoken  We had been being spoken
You had been being spoken  You (guys) had been being spoken
He/she/it had been being spoken  They had been being spoken
(1) The subject is unknown. We don’t know who or what is the subject. 
  • A flying object had been being observed for over two hours last Friday night.
  • Something really bizarre had been being shown at the show.
(2) We use the passive to emphasise the subject. 
  • My sisters were the ones who had been being employed by their boss.
  • James had been the man being subjected to all the problems.
(3) We use the passive to talk about general truths. 
  • The earth had been being spun into orbit for as long as science knows.
(4) We use the passive when we are unclear or vague about the subject. 
  • A computer virus had been being stabilised for five hours before the team operating the firewall managed to stop it from getting into the system.
(5) We use the passive when the subject is irrelevant. (We don’t care who or what has caused the action to be). 
  • Within the atmosphere, there was a strange substance that had been being mixed with oxygen.
(6) We use the passive in a more formal atmosphere like a thesis or an important piece of writing, especially scientifically speaking. 
  • During the experiment, atoms had been being smashed together with particles for a duration of thirty minutes.
  • A very old equation in set theory had been being solved at the math quiz.

English Verbs – The Complete Guide

Lesson #31: Past perfect continuous – passive

Explanation

Construction: had + been + being + past participle (spoken, translated)

Example verb: teach

I had been being taught   We had been being taught
You had been being taught You (guys) had been being taught
He/she/it had been being taught      They had been being taught
Context
  • Who had been being spoken to by the auditors last week?1
  • They spoke to us and everything went smoothly.
  • I hate being audited…
  • Don’t worry. After everything had been being searched and filed the auditor told me that everything was in order2 and we won’t have anything to worry about.3
  • That’s good news at least.
  • Yes, definitely.
  • Because last year, a friend who works for a similar company had been being audited4 for five months and it really gave him a lot of stress.
  • Yes, that’s understandable.5 These things happen. One should just relax6 and sit tight.7
  • You’re right about that.
Analysis
  1. Who had been being spoken to by the auditors last week? ‘Had been being spoken to’ is the past perfect continuous in the passive voice. This verb form in the passive is rarely used and would be considered very much uncommon. The emphasis is on ‘who’, and the passive is used to focus on the action of ‘auditing’.
  2. After everything had been being searched and filed the auditor told me that everything was in order. Again, the past perfect continuous in the passive voice is uncommon. Here ‘had been being searched’ is the past perfect continuous in the passive voice.
  3. We won’t have anything to worry about. The future simple ‘won’t have’ is used to make a promise. We can use the future simple to make promises and predictions.
  4. A friend who works for a similar company had been being audited for five months. ‘Had been being audited’ is the past perfect continuous in the passive voice being used here to describe the action of ‘being audited’.
  5. That’s understandable. ‘Understandable’ is an adjective, and it’s being used with the main auxiliary verb ‘be’. We use ‘be’ with adjectives. I.e. I am hungry, tired, sleepy, funny etc.
  6. One should just relax. In English, to talk about things in a general sense and to remain neutral you can use the pronoun ‘one’. I.e. one must behave prudent. One must be prudent. You can also you the subject pronoun ‘you’ to talk about things or people in a general sense, but it’s less neutral. I.e. you need to live well (everyone needs to live well).
  7. Sit tight. This is an expression meaning ‘be patient and wait’.

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