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Using Auxiliary Verbs as Passives

Traditional grammars define verbs as words that “describe an action or a state of being.” Auxiliary verbs are a subclass of verbs that add functional or grammatical meaning to the main verb. Auxiliary verbs differ from prototypical verbs in that auxiliary verbs perform a limited set of grammatical functions.

In grammar, a passive is a word that expresses the passive voice in the English language. The auxiliary verb that can function as the passive is the verb be, which is referred to as the passive be. Do not confuse the passive be with the copular be or the progressive be. The verb get can also function as the passive in less formal registers. For example, the following italicized auxiliary verbs function as passives:

  • The lawn is mown every Tuesday.
  • The child got served an alcoholic beverage by the clueless waiter.
  • I am driven crazy by the customers.
  • The books are shelved in the evenings.
  • Some of the articles are being proofread.
  • Will the flowers have been being watered enough?

References

Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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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