First of all I am sorry for asking a question which is very easy for native English speakers. But it is not for me. I know that passive is used when the person in the sentence is not important or when u don't want to describe the person knowingly. But in my sentence, I think it is imperative that I use the second one because the movie cannot play by itself/on its own. But i recently saw the first one being used. So please tell me which one is correct. Thanks in advance.

  • 1
    Both are acceptable. "Being played" would allow you to put emphasis on who is playing it or by what medium it is being played (cell phone, projector, etc.), but either is fine.
    – Yeshe
    Feb 2, 2018 at 14:39

2 Answers 2


"playing" and "being played" are active-voice and passive-voice present progressive of "play". The typical way for building active and passive sentences with this verb would be

  1. The cinema is playing the movie.
  2. Test movie is being played by the cinema.

But more often you will find the sentence

  1. The movie is playing at the cinema.

"Play" is used to describe both the action of an instrument (producing music and/or images) and the action of someone or something that causes an instrument to do the above. See for example definition 12 in Collins.

If you find it odd, think if it as if the movie is a sports team that comes to play in a stadium. Every day there may be a different team or different movie that plays. Is is not necessarily equivalent but it may help you get used to the idea.

  • Thank you so much for answering and making it as simple as possible. Feb 2, 2018 at 15:36
  • Active: 'Jill sold her car.' // Passive: 'Jill's car was sold [by Jill].' // Ergative: 'The car sold the day it was put on sale.' // Middle: 'The new model sells for $20 000.' Feb 2, 2018 at 16:33

Both are technically acceptable but not exactly interchangeable. In the somewhat rare situation when someone (typically but not necessarily in the approximate vicinity of the showing) is asking for the specific room,showing, specific print, or projection type, you might hear either expression used. In the more common occurrence, say when one is asking about where they might be able to view a movie, the expression "That movie is playing at...." is far more commonly used and and natural sounding than the passive voice. You are also more likely to encounter the passive expression in written English than spoken English; again these would be situations where the author decides to emphasize the specific details of the showing itself.

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