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Present 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 present 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: has/have + been + being + past participle (enjoyed, worked)

Example verb: watch

I have been being watched   We have been being watched  
You have been being watched     You (guys) have been being watched  
He/she/it has been being watched   They have been being watched  
(1) The subject is unknown. We don’t know who is the subject. 
  • There is a man living down there on the first floor that has been being annoyed by our loud music.
(2) We use the passive to emphasise the subject. 
  • It was he, the villain, who has been being sought after for his crimes against society.
(3) We use the passive to talk about general truths. 
  • Dogs have been being looked after by humans for thousands of years.
(4) We can use the passive if we want to be unclear or vague about the subject.  
  • We aren’t sure what it was but usually, these things have been being dealt with seriously by the justice department.
(5) We use the passive when the subject is irrelevant. (We don’t care who or what has caused the action to be). 
  • These types of anomalies have been being studied for centuries on end without any progress having been being made.
(6) We use the passive in a more formal atmosphere like a thesis or an important piece of writing, especially scientifically speaking. 
  • My scientific analysis clearly demonstrates that the stars in our solar system have been being lighted for millions of years.

English Verbs – The Complete Guide

Lesson #32: Present perfect continuous – passive

Explanation

Construction: have/has + been + being + past participle (given, told)

Example verb: handle

I have been being handled   We have been being handled
You have been being handled   You (guys) have been being handled
He/she/it has been being handled     They have been being handled
Context
  • So, what has been being done about all these issues on the fire?1
  • Not a lot has been being achieved as far as I’m concerned.2 The fire has already extended inland and is now threatening the local people.3 I feel sorry for the New Zealanders who have lost their houses.4
  • From what I read in the paper this morning, the countryside out in Christchurch has been being burnt to a stick5 by this ongoing fire.
  • I dare say, I do hope the firefighters can stop it soon.6
  • Me too.
Analysis
  1. What has been being done about all these issues on the fire? The present perfect continuous when used in the passive, is uncommon, and most people would not use it. Here, we have an example of it being used even though it’s very rarely used. ‘Had been being done’.
  2. Not a lot has been being achieved as far as I’m concerned. The present perfect continuous in the passive voice ‘has been being achieved’ is used here to show that the subject is not important.
  3. Is now threatening the local people. Here, the present continuous ‘is now threatening’ is used to show a state. We can use the present continuous or the present simple to talk about permanent or temporary states.
  4. I feel sorry for the New Zealanders who have lost their houses. ‘To feel sorry for’ is used in the present simple because it’s an emotional state.
  5. The countryside out in Christchurch has been being burnt to a stick. The expression ‘burn to a stick’ means ‘something burning excessively to the maximum point’.
  6.  I do hope the firefighters can stop it soon. The main auxiliary verb ‘do’ is used here in I do hope to give more emphasis to the phrase. ‘Do’ is used with normal verbs (not auxiliary verbs) to emphasise in English.

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