Tag Archives: passive voice

have been being – present perfect continuous – passive voice

Thanks to Carlos Julio Salazar for this question

Is this correct in English? –

My mum has been being treated by the same doctor for four years

The answer is yes, but it’s the kind of sentence that nobody would use in reality. It’s too long, too heavy. So what we should say instead? Using the present perfect simple seems perfectly fine to me:

My mum has been treated by the same doctor for four years

Because we have included the time, ‘for four years’ we understand that the action is not finished. If you really want to use the continuous, you should reformulate with another verb – “been being” just doesn’t sound right.

My mum has been receiving treatment from the same doctor for four years

Or why not use the active voice:
The same doctor has been treating my mum for four years

Conclusion: there are many things that might be correctly grammatically speaking, but they are necessarily the best way to communicate!

I was born – passive voice

In this video, Brian explains the uses of the passive voice in an interesting way. How are passive sentences made?
Active voice
someone stole my bag. In this sentence, ‘someone’ is the subject, and ‘bag’ is the object.
But the most important information in the sentence is about the bag, not someone, so we can move the object and make it the subject:

My bag was stolen

the examples in the video are as follows:

My wallet was stolen. (we don’t know who stole it)

I was born in 1980. (everybody knows that your mother gave birth to your)

My camera was manufactured in Japan (nobody is interested in who made it)

That’s the book which was stolen. (the subject is ‘book’, because it’s the main information, like the other three examples)

What’s interesting for French speakers is the phrase, ‘I was born in 1980’. Many of my learners have difficulty with this because they would say ‘je suis né en 1980′.
First of all, the French verb naître does not have the same meaning as ‘to bear’ in English, of which ‘born’ is the past participle. to bear should be translated ‘donner naissance’. although ‘to give birth’ is more common in English.

An active sentence would be thus:

my mother bore me (gave birth to me) in 1980

which of course is ridiculous, because everyone knows that only your mother can give birth to you! That’s why we use the passive voice, because I become the subject of the phrase, not my mother.

The second point to note, is that this phrase ‘I was born’ refers to my birth, which was in the past. ‘Je suis né’ is not a passive voice, it’s the ‘passé composé’ with the auxiliary ‘être’.

This example illustrates why it is important to know what native speakers really say, but not so important to know why. Every language has expressions and structures that don’t seem logical to speakers of other languages, but if you get blocked trying to find word-for-word translations, you won’t make much progress!