We usually write this e.g

  1. "this paragraph is taken from book" or "this paragraph has been taken from book".


  1. "this poem is written by" or "this poem has been written by"

Could you tell me which one is correct of both and why?

And why the first one of each sentence is correct, although the action of taken and written is done in the past?

2 Answers 2


The answer by user90322 does not address your question. Furthermore, it mixes up passive usage and perfect usage of the perfect participle. Intransitive verbs do not have a passive voice.

The fact that all your examples are in the passive voice is true, but also is irrelevant to your question, which is about tense.

You are correct that any sensible context for your examples must involve action in the past, perhaps the distant past.

This paragraph is taken from Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations.”

Clearly, in actual fact, the quotation was chosen and inserted at the time of writing, which may have been decades ago. But you are reading it in the present. The frame of temporal reference embraced by this usage relates to reader’s action.

This paragraph has been taken from Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations.”

Now the frame of reference is that of the writer. The decision to quote must have taken place before the actual copying, but it is a past action with relevance to the current activity of copying. The appropriate tense at that time was present perfect.

The usage of the present perfect makes complete sense when considered from the point of view of the author. We would not say Shakespeare misused the language if we found a letter dated 1601 that said “I have just talked to Ben Jonson” because the conversation did not occur in our recent past.

The usage of the present tense is of course artificial. But it does make a kind of sense. A reader is currently engaged in something like a conversation with the author being read. Once we liken the act of reading to conversation, that conversation is occurring while the reader is reading; from the reader’s perspective, that conversation is occurring now. The writer adopts the temporal framework of a future reader and so uses the present tense. It is a conceit, but a plausible one.

EDIT: I find your second example pretentious. That is a judgment about style, and we are supposed to avoid opinions.

Obviously, we can put all your examples into the past tense. That is a matter of fact. But in your first example, the present perfect was also a matter of fact when written, and I do not find the analogy of reading to a conversation in the present to be strained. The usages seem apt to me in your first pair of sentences. They do not in the second pair. Those, however, are those despised things called personal opinions.


Voice: Examine Voice of a verb ("passive" vs. "active") of English sentences [LBH 298].

  • the passive verb always has a form of "be" + past particle of main verb (298) [ie., has been; has eaten, etc.] So we know "has been" because it contains "be" is passive vs. active.

Active vs. Passive

Active When you emphasize the main ideas in your sentence, you hold the reader's attention (371). The heart of every sentence is its subject. That's why it comes first. Its predicate (verb) clearly points the reader's concentration on what the subject's action is (such as what "is" does - emphasis is on the subject in both sentences = so it's active voice.)

Passive Verbs in the passive voice (has been) state actions received by, not performed by their subject. Passive voice de-emphasizes the true actor in a sentence, the subject. Passive voice shifts emphasis to elsewhere in the sentence.

Generally, use active voice (LBH 299). Use passive when the subject is not known or not important (LBH 299/Purdue University OWL)

//In the examples, we know the subject [both "this paragraph" and "this poem" cannot be classified as unknown.

Therefore, choose 1st examples in both sentences. This is why.

Hope this helps.

Little Brown Handbook, 11th Ed. Pg. 298-299; 371. Pearson Education, Inc. 2010. Book.

Purdue University Online Writing Lab, Purdue University https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/purdue_owl.html accessed 24Feb2019. Web.

  • 1
    Both "is taken" and "has been taken" are (arguably) passive: one is present, the other present perfect.
    – Stuart F
    Jul 15, 2022 at 13:38

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .