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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.

English Verbs – The Complete Guide

Lesson #30: Present continuous – passive voice

Explanation

Construction: am/is/are + being + past participle (helped, known, found)

Example verb: find (irregular)

I am being found   We are being found
You are being found You (guys) are being found
He/she/it is being found     They are being found
Context

(At university)

  • What exactly did the teacher say? Am I being told the right information here?1
  • She said that we need to concentrate on our work, because apparently, an exam is being held next week,2 and we are far behind.
  • I think we have had far too many exams this semester.3 What do you think?
  • I agree. Exams are important but I don’t view them as being necessary to be honest.
  • What do you mean exactly?
  • Well, I mean, exams are excellent to test one’s progress4 but having an excess of exams impedes the learning process in my opinion.
  • You have a good point. And, If I remember rightly, we’ve had over ten mock exams5 this semester. I feel burnt out.
  • Yes, if exams are being held every other week6 then it’s7 not going to be very beneficial, and they could also exhaust us.
Analysis
  1. Am I being told the right information here? The passive voice with the present continuous (first person) ‘am I being told’ is used here to put the focus on the action of ‘being told’.
  2. An exam is being held next week. The present continuous in the passive voice ‘is being held’ is used to put emphasis on ‘exam’.
  3. I think we have had far too many exams this semester. The present perfect ‘have had’ is used here because the experience of ‘having exams’ continues until the present moment.
  4. Exams are excellent to test one’s progress. Remember, ‘s is the possessive form. The thing being possessed is ‘progress’. For example, my brother’s friend. ‘Friend’ is being possessed, therefore ‘brother’ needs the possessive ‘’s’.
  5. We’ve had over ten mock exams. A ‘mock exam’ is an exam that’s similar to a real exam, yet it’s not the official one.
  6. If exams are being held every other week… The present continuous in the passive voice ‘are being held’ is used here to describe the action of ‘exams being held’.
  7. Then it’s. Don’t confuse ‘it’s’ with ‘its’, the latter being the possessive adjective and the former being the contraction of ‘it is’. For example, I like the dog and its toy. = possessive adjective. It’s a nice day. = contraction of ‘it is’.

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