Is it okay to use "to start" in passive voice , if not how can we make it sound more natural?

For example :

The question was started to be asked among scientists.

What I mean is that some people started to ask a question.

More context could be

After the doctors revealed the King suffers from Alzheimer's, the question of "if he is still eligible to be king" was started to be asked secretly among his servers.

  • try "began to be asked"
    – mstorkson
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 14:15

2 Answers 2


were starting to be asked

Seems more appropriate to me

If you use

questions ... were starting to be asked

This sounds natural, although it may be wrong, but if you use

question ... was starting to be asked

It sounds slightly awkward IMO

Maybe a rephrase would be better

After the doctors revealed that the King suffers from Alzheimer's, questions surrounding his eligibility to be king started to arise among his servers.

  • Thank you very much. I did not expect that I will see this interesting answer. It is interesting because in the structure you suggest, which is common, "questions" is the subject and object of the sentence at the same time and it is structured in active voice although it conveys a passive voice, IMO, as far as I know. Secondly, as you said "question was starting to be asked" is almost not used at all. Only 5 result showed up on the Internet while "questions are.." are apparently used commonly.How could you explain that please?
    – Mrt
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 13:24
  • I am sorry if I bother you with grammar questions. I wrote down my comment question here under your answer but it is not especially for you. It is just a reaction related to your answer and is asked other people who is interested in this question.
    – Mrt
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 13:29
  • I'm really not sure, I think if it is a single question then you would say 'the question... was starting to be asked', although most of the time people don't ask the exact same question, especially when it is a question that is asked in gossip and rumor situations, so it would be questions about something, rather than an exact question. If you look at a hiring process, though, someone may interview candidates with the same question every time. They question of ... always arises in their interviews Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 13:38

It seems grammatically OK to use "start" in the passive voice, as in your examples, but it sounds awkward. Better style is to use the active voice, or remove the "start to X" and just use the passive of X itself:

The question was asked


questions were asked.

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