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The Present Perfect Passive of English Verbs

The passive is a grammatical voice that allows a speaker to move an object of a sentence in the active voice into the subject position of the passive sentence. The present perfect passive is an English verb form that refers to verbs in the present tense, perfect aspect, indicative mood, and passive voice.

Formation of the Present Perfect Passive

The present perfect is a periphrastic verb form, which means a “phrase of two or more words that perform a single grammatical function that would otherwise be expressed by the inflection of a single word.” Verbs in the present perfect passive are formed by the present tense form of the verb have plus the past participle been followed by a past participle (regular or irregular). Note that as with all passive constructions, only transitive verbs (verbs that can take objects) and verbs with verb phrase complements may be conjugated in the passive voice. The verb phrase patterns for the present perfect passive are as follows:

  • first person singular – have + been + past participle – I have been stung by a bee.
  • second person singular – have + been + past participle – You have been charged with a crime.
  • third person singular – has + been + past participle – The garbage has already been collected.
  • first person plural – have + been + past participle – We have been forced to retire.
  • second person plural – have + been + past participle – Have you been refused service?
  • third person plural – have + been + past participle – The spies have been recognized by the enemy!

As with other passive constructions, some Englishes also allow for the present perfect passive to be formed by the present tense form of the verb have plus the past participle gotten followed by a past participle. The use of get as a passive auxiliary requires the addition of the do operator in interrogative sentences. The verb phrase patterns for the present perfect passive with the auxiliary verb get are as follows:

  • first person singular – have + gotten + past participle – I have gotten considered for the job.
  • second person singular – have + gotten + past participle – Have you gotten attacked by marmots?
  • third person singular – has + gotten + past participle – The other team has gotten kicked in the butt.
  • first person plural – have + gotten + past participle – We have gotten marked for death.
  • second person plural – have + gotten + past participle – Have you ever gotten fired from a job?
  • third person plural – have + gotten + past participle – My coworkers have gotten recognized for their achievements.

Notice that the present tense of the verb have is regular in all persons and numbers except for the third person singular.

Uses of the Present Perfect Passive

Similar to the present perfect in the active voice, the present perfect passive expresses and emphasizes a previous action or event that began in the past and continued up to the present and whose consequences have implications for the present. Also like the present perfect active, the present perfect passive occurs most often in sentences that express (1) experiences and accomplishments, (2) changes over time, (3) incomplete actions with expected ends, (4) continuous actions with starting points in the past, (5) past actions with present results, and (6) multiple actions at different times. For example:

  • All the cookies have been eaten.
  • My homework has been turned in already.
  • Language has been studied for many years.
  • My toes have been broken many times.

The main difference between the present perfect in the active voice and the present perfect in the passive voice in terms of grammar and semantics is that the present perfect passive allows for an object of an active sentence to move into the subject position of a passive sentence. For example, the use of the active voice in The neighbors have stolen vegetables from my garden means that the subject is the noun phrase The neighbors and the direct object is the noun phrase vegetables. By changing the same sentence into the passive voice — Vegetables have been stolen from my garden by the neighbors — the original direct object vegetables moves into the subject position. By using the passive voice, a speaker can emphasize an object from an active sentence and/or de-emphasize the subject from an active sentence.

The following visual illustrates the uses of the perfect aspect of English verbs:

Perfect Aspect of English Verbs

The present perfect passive expresses and emphasizes previous actions with present implications that began in the past and continued up to the present while moving an object from an active sentence into the subject position.

References

Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Kilby, David. 1984. Descriptive syntax and the English verb. Dover, New Hampshire: Croom Helm.
Leech, Geoffrey N. 2004. Meaning and the English verb. Harlow, English: Pearson Longman.

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