Are human beings getting smarter?

The title above is weird for me. in my opinion the correct is

Are human getting smarter?

  • What exactly is your question? Mar 22, 2018 at 16:16
  • I can't recognize its stracture just I know it's passive voice. Give me more examples
    – Farid S
    Mar 22, 2018 at 16:18
  • 1
    It is not the passive voice. The passive voice is made with to be + past participle, and is used to indicate when something is the target of someone else's action. This is just a question using the present progressive tense ("are getting", which is to be and the present participle).
    – stangdon
    Mar 22, 2018 at 16:32

3 Answers 3


Are human getting smarter? is grammatically incorrect English because the word human, when used to refer to human beings (people like you and me), is a countable noun. So, we need to add an s at the end of human to make it plural so that the subject (human) agrees with the verb (are) in number:

Are humans getting smarter?

That way, the tile reads fine. But the way it's written originally is absolutely fine too.

As the user stangdon pointed out in his comment, this sentence has nothing to do with the passive voice. Passive voice constructions are usually something of the form to be + past participle (e.g. I am told, The package has been delivered, etc.). In this case, what you've got here is just a question using the past progressive tense (also known under the name of the past continuous tense).


Human being is a phrase in its own right. It's a compound noun similar to other compound nouns like kitchen table, car race, car door etc.

  • The title is from active skills for reading that national geographic published
    – Farid S
    Mar 22, 2018 at 16:43
  • National Geographic is a very reputable magazine. They are very good at grammar. That's why there was no problem with the title to begin with. Mar 22, 2018 at 16:51
  • 3
    It's quite possible OP doesn't know the phrase human beings and thinks being here is the present participle of the verb be.
    – Eddie Kal
    Mar 22, 2018 at 17:07
  • Well, that's why I posted a link to an online dictionary where he can read more about it. Mar 22, 2018 at 17:08

The first example,

Are human beings getting smarter?

Is grammatically correct, and also should be acceptable in most style guides (passive voicing is only a style concern, not a grammar error). The confusion appears to be that you interpreted "beings" as a form of the verb "to be", which then looked like a passive voice construction. In actuality, this form of "being" is a noun:

  1. a living thing

so the first sentence is not related to the passive voice.

The error with the second sentence is that the singular "human" doesn't match with the plural "are". Acceptable alternatives would be:

Are humans getting smarter?

which is essentially equivalent to the first sentence, or

Is that human getting smarter?

where the singular form requires some clarification in order to identify a specific human.


Ah, I had to read this a few times to see your problem.

"Being" here is not used as a verb, but as a noun. A "being" is "something that exists". "Human" here is an adjective that modifies "being". We are not talking about all beings, that is, not about all things that exist, but only about those that are human. That is, "human being" is another way to say "person". It makes clear that we are not including non-human creatures that might be considered "persons", like beings from other planets or angels.

If we substitute "people" for "human beings", the sentence becomes, "Are people getting smarter?" Which is perfectly correct grammatically.

"Being" is also a verb. Like you could say, "John is being annoying" or "I tried being more assertive." But that's not the usage here.

(And by the way, the answer to the question is obviously "no".)


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