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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.

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