I'm playing with advanced passive voice. Can you check correctness of these sentences and say what is wrong?

  1. ACTIVE: He has been putting it up the whole life.

    PASSIVE: It has been being put up the whole life.

  2. ACTIVE: We used to say it in similar situations.

    PASSIVE: It was used to be said in similar situations.

2 Answers 2


The first phrase could have been:

He's been putting up with it, his whole life.

You put up with something that is annoying, irritating, or painful. For instance, he may suffer from severe backache but because there is no cure, and the doctors cannot help him, he has no choice but to put up with the pain.

Now, why anyone would put this type of sentence in the passive voice is quite beyond me. The agent, the man, is not performing an action on his back, rather it his back that is inflicting an action.

The original phrase is however:

He has been putting it up his whole life

the passive voice equivalent is:

It has been being put up his whole life

But it sounds awkward, clumsy, unnatural and confusing. The present perfect continuous tense is rarely used in the passive voice. Compare the following phrases

  • Active 1) He wrote two books about Moriarty.
  • Passive 1) Two books about Moriarty were written by him.

  • A 2) He has written two books about Moriarty.

  • P 2) Two books about Moriarty have been written by him.

  • A 3) He has been writing a book about Moriarty all his life.

  • P 3) A book about Moriarty has been being written by him all his life.

P 3 Sounds confusing, despite it being grammatically correct. No one speaks like that and I doubt there are many examples of this type of passive construction in literature or in any type of journals (at least I hope not!)

For sentence number 2 it is exactly as @relaxing stated in his answer. The correct form is:

It used to be said in similar situations


  • Mary used to do the cooking. Active
  • The cooking used to be done by Marry. Passive

  • Joe used to drive his kids to school every day Active

  • The kids used to be driven every day to school (by Joe). Passive

The BBC has an article on the passive voice construction using the present perfect continuous

Generally, we avoid using the continuous form of the passive with the future, present perfect, past perfect and future perfect, although present continuous and past continuous are quite common and sound quite natural in the passive voice.

         Simple                             Continuous
Present: It is cleaned...                   It is being cleaned...
Past:    It was cleaned..                   It was being cleaned
Future:  It will be cleaned...              xxxx xxxx xxxx
Present Perfect: It has been cleaned...     xxxx xxxx xxxx
Past Perfect: It had been cleaned...        xxxx xxxx xxxx
Future Perfect: It will have been cleaned   xxxx xxxx xxxx

Study these further examples of use and note how we avoid using the continuous form of the passive in the final four tenses listed:

  • Mari-Lou, but relaxing said it should be avoided unless absolutely necessary, though.
    – user2793
    Mar 1, 2014 at 0:00
  • 1
    @MarryBu definitely the passive voice in the present perfect continuous is best avoided, and I understood relaxing was referring to the OP's indulgence in advanced passive constructions, it's not easy even for native speakers. There's nothing wrong with speaking or writing in the passive voice, but simplicity and clarity usually dictates that the active voice is preferred. IMO.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 1, 2014 at 0:15
  • @MarryBu It's a style issue, but you will do well to avoid passive voice unless you don't know the actor performing an action or are being told to deliberately obscure it. These examples are all awkward and will cause confusion in your readers. They show the limits where prescriptive grammar rules cease to be helpful. In any case, follow the advice of the BBC link and avoid constructions like "has been being written."
    – relaxing
    Mar 1, 2014 at 18:52
  • So, relaxing unjustly removed being from my first passive sentence.
    – mosceo
    Mar 1, 2014 at 22:06

Both are incorrect. You're adding too many instances of "to be" ("being" and "was") to the original action verb. For no. 2, the correct form is "It used to be said in similar situations." Note the parallels: "We used" ... "It used to be."

No. 1 makes the same mistake (drop "being") but both the active and passive read incorrectly, because "whole life" must be referred to with a possessive pronoun. Either say "his whole life" or "its whole life," depending on whose whole life the sentence refers to.

Note: Since you say you are playing with advanced passive voice, you are no doubt already aware that the passive voice makes your sentences less clear and harder to understand, and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

  • I thought if the verb ends with -ing you have to use being before it. Consider "You are putting it." -- "It is being put." The is and being are two forms of the verb be going together. So been being shouldn't cause any problem.
    – mosceo
    Feb 28, 2014 at 19:02
  • @Graduate - Well, "being" or any other tenses of "be." Don't double up "be" if there is already a form of "be" there. In your cases, "been" vs. "being," and "was" vs. "to be."
    – relaxing
    Feb 28, 2014 at 19:11
  • In the sentence "You are putting it." The are is a tense of be, but we double it in the passive -- "It is being put."
    – mosceo
    Feb 28, 2014 at 19:21
  • @Graduate - Aha :) In that case you make an exception because the extra "being" is combining with "put" to form the progressive aspect of putting. (Or continuous aspect but I believe the act of putting a single object is more likely to be an action performed progressively. In any case, we form them the same way in English.) So in the passive voice, "is" is the verb and "being put" is the object. When you say "It has been put up his whole life," "has" is the verb, and the extra "being" would serve no purpose.
    – relaxing
    Feb 28, 2014 at 19:42
  • How do you imagine "been put" as an object? How does it look or feel? :)
    – mosceo
    Feb 28, 2014 at 19:45

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