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The Present Progressive Passive of English Verbs

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

Formation of the Present Progressive Passive

Just like most other verb forms in English, the present progressive passive is periphrastic. Periphrasis refers to 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 progressive passive are formed by the present tense form of the verb be plus the present particle being followed by a past participle (regular or irregular). Only transitive verbs (verbs that can take objects) and verbs with verb phrase complements may be conjugated into the passive voice. The verb phrase patterns for the present progressive passive are as follows:

  • first person singular – am + being + past participle – I am being pranked.
  • second person singular – are + being + past participle – Are you being influenced by your brother?
  • third person singular – is + being + past participle – The package is being delivered tomorrow.
  • first person plural – are + being + past participle – We are being fed something disgusting.
  • second person plural – are + being + past participle – You are being cut from the team.
  • third person plural – are + being + past participle – Both plays are being performed this Saturday.

Like with the simple present passive and simple past passive, some Englishes also allow for the present progressive passive to be formed by the present tense form of the verb be plus the present participle getting followed by a past participle. The verb phrase patterns for the simple present passive with the auxiliary verb get are as follows:

  • first person singular – am + getting + past participle – Am I getting chosen for the committee?
  • second person singular – are + getting + past participle – You are getting removed from the mailing list.
  • third person singular – is + getting + past participle – My book is getting published soon.
  • first person plural – are + getting + past participle – We are always getting forgotten by the Dean.
  • second person plural – are + getting + past participle – You are getting painted for my art project.
  • third person plural – are + getting + past participle – The old computers are getting replaced by new ones.

As with the simple present passive, the present tense of the verb be is irregular in all persons and numbers.

Uses of the Present Progressive Passive

Like the present progressive in the active voice, the present progressive passive expresses ongoing or incomplete actions or states in the present or near future. Also like the present progressive active, the present progressive passive occurs most often in sentences that express (1) actions happening now, (2) extended actions in progress, (3) actions happing in the near future, (4) repetitive and irritating actions, and (5) actions occurring for a limited time. For example:

  • The car is being washed by my husband.
  • Football is not being played this year.
  • We are constantly being bugged by the neighbors.
  • The furniture is being moved this weekend.

The main difference grammatically and semantically between the present progressive in the active voice and the present progressive in the passive voice is that the present progressive passive allows a speaker to move an object of an active sentence into the subject position. For example, the use of the active voice in Rabbits are destroying my garden means that the subject is the noun phrase Rabbits and the direct object is the noun phrase my garden. By changing the same sentence into the passive voice — My garden is being destroyed by rabbits — the original direct object my garden moves into the subject position. The passive voice therefore allows the speaker to emphasize the object from an active sentence and/or to de-emphasize the subject from an active sentence.

The following visual illustrates the uses of the progressive aspects of English verbs:

Progressive of English Verbs

The present progressive passive expresses ongoing or incomplete actions or states in the present or near future 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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