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Present 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 present 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: am/is/are + being + past participle (noticed, helped) 

Example verb: ride

I am being ridden   We are being ridden
You are being ridden   You (guys) are being ridden
He/she/it is being ridden They are being ridden
(1) The subject is unknown. We don’t know who or what is the subject. 
  • An email is being written by our special team.
(2) We use the passive to emphasise the subject. 
  • I myself am being held captive here.
(3) We use the passive to talk about general truths. 
  • The man is always being told what to do by his sister.
(4) We can use the passive if we want to be unclear or vague about the subject.  
  • Something that we can’t define is being mishandled by an intruder.
(5) We use the passive when the subject is irrelevant. (We don’t care who or what has caused the action to be). 
  • His subject is being widely discussed by many historians all over the world.
(6) We use the passive in a more formal atmosphere like a thesis or an important piece of writing, especially scientifically speaking. 
  • Harmful chemicals are being thrown into the field every day.

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