I was wondering about sentences such as, for instance, "I am going to be hugged."
I assumed "hugged" is a passive verb in this context, but what about the verb "to be"? Is it considered active or passive?

I'm not asking about the sentence, but specifically about the verb "to be". I'm clear on the sentence as a whole being phrased in passive voice, and on "hugged" being a passive verb in context; but "to be", specifically, is weird to me: the aforementioned "to be" feels close in meaning to "acting the part of a person who is currently being hugged", which is quite an active interpretation of it. It feels strange to me to say that "being" something can be passive. I am actively being that something; it is me who is "doing the being", while someone else is "doing the hugging", so it seems to me as though the former should be active while the latter should be passive.


1 Answer 1


The word "hugged" is not a passive verb, but a past participle of the verb "hug". The passive voice is formed with a form of the verb "to be" and the past participle. So, the property of being passive is in the structure, not in the individual words.

"I am going to be hugged." has identical meaning to "I will be hugged."

It is the entire sentence that is passive, not was or hugged. The impression you have of an "active interpretation" is not correct.

See a review at:
eflnet.com passive voice

To form a passive sentence from an active sentence:
Move the receiver of the action from direct object position to subject position.
Insert the verb BE.
Change the verb to its past participle form.

As a side note, as far as I know, "to be" itself can't be passivized; it isn't transitive. For a copulative, it doesn't make sense:
* Sure was been about that [by me].

  • The main reason for my question is that I recently took an exam in which one of the questions was whether "to be", in a sentence with a similar structure to the one I presented, was a passive verb or an active one. Basically, I had to choose some sort of answer that relates not to the sentence but the verb itself and the verb only, and my whole assumption on the matter stems from this requirement. Would you please clarify how you'd describe, in cold, technical, linguistic terms, the "role" of "to be", specifically?
    – Shay
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 16:27
  • And thanks for this explanation; I learned my English entirely from books, series, and the Internet, so it's all based entirely on experience. This means that my understanding of anything about it is purely intuitive. I based my "passive verb" perception on another such exam in which the correct answer for a question about the part of speech of a verb similar to "hugged" was that it was a passive verb; I suppose it was "dumbed down" or something along those lines.
    – Shay
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 16:31
  • @ShyGuy A grammar book calls "be" a passive auxiliary. It carries inflection for tense and number (to agree with the passive subject). There are other passive auxiliaries too, like "get" and "become". You write pretty well for a self-taught student! Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 18:25
  • Interesting! And thank you :)
    – Shay
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 23:53

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