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Are these all adjectives tired, selected, hired?

  1. He has been tired to study.
  2. He has been selected as an entertainer at the party.
  3. The job I had been hired to do was no longer needed.

Or, these are verbs?

  • The first is non grammatical--you could say "too tired to study" but not just "tired to study". It would be an adjective in that case. The second is a verb in a present perfect passive construction. The third is a verb in a past perfect passive construction. – Kitkat Jul 29 at 20:23
  • Present = They select him; Present perfect = They have selected him; Past = They selected him; Past perfect = They had selected him; Passive (present) = He is selected by them; Present perfect passive = He has been selected by them; Passive (simple past) = He was selected by them; Past perfect passive = He had been selected by them; – Kitkat Jul 29 at 20:29
  • A good way to tell (usually) if something is a passive verb vs an adjective: see if you can add "by them" to the end. "I had been hired by them" makes sense (verb in passive). "He has been tired by them" does not (adjective). – Kitkat Jul 29 at 20:32
  • Thanks, but I don't see 'by them'. I mean I am not using 'by' at all. How are they still passive construction? – user963241 Jul 30 at 5:39
  • @Kitkat: I think your comments should be rewritten into an answer. – sharur Jul 30 at 7:36
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  1. He has been tired to study.

This is currently ungrammatical. It could be rewritten as either:

a. He has been too tired to study.

Meaning, he cannot study because he is overly tired. Tired in this case is acting as an adjective, and the present perfect form of "to be" ("has been") is the verb. (see Note 3)

Or:

b. He has been tired by study.

Meaning, the act of studying has tired him. Tired in this case is a verb.

  1. He has been selected as an entertainer at the party.

'Selected' is a verb here, in the same form as sentence 1b above. This form is called the present perfect passive.

  1. The job [that] I had been hired to do was no longer needed.

'Hired' is a verb here. This form is called the past perfect passive. (see Note 4)


Let's look first at what "passive" means. This is what's called a "voice". A verb in English can have active or passive voice. Active voice tends to mean the subject of the sentence is the one doing the action of the verb. Passive voice tends to mean the subject of the sentence is being acted on, by someone or something else.

Active:

The committee selected him as an entertainer.

Passive:

He was selected as an entertainer by the committee.

He was selected as an entertainer.

You'll notice the "actor" (the committee, who is the one selecting) in the second passive example can be dropped. The sentence is passive either way. Passive sentences will be of the form "to be" + past tense verb ("is selected", "was dropped", "has been driven", etc). The form of "to be" determines the tense, but you can have passive sentences in any tense.

(Note: an idiomatic way of telling if a sentence is passive is seeing if you could add the phrase "by me"/"by them"/"by zombies" to the end, assuming there's not already a "by [actor]" construction in the sentence. If the result after adding "by me" is still grammatical, the sentence is in passive voice. This may not be useful in all cases, but can be a quick check if unsure.)


Now let's look at the past and present perfect tenses. ("Perfect" is technically called an aspect, but it's likely easier to think of it as part of the tense.)

Present perfect tense is formed by "has/have" + the past tense of the verb. This is in past perfect tense:

The committee has selected him.

He has been selected by the committee.

Though both are present perfect, the first is in active voice and the second in passive.

Past perfect tense is formed by "had" + the past tense of the verb. This is in past perfect tense:

They had hired me to do a job.

I had been hired [by them] to do a job.

Though both are past perfect, the first is in active voice and the second in passive.


Note 1: With thanks to sharur!

Note 2: A helpful reference guide to voices and tense.

Note 3: There can be some debate about whether words like "tired" which are formed from the past participle of verbs ("to tire") are adjectives or passive verbs when used in a sentence like "He was tired." In essence they are both/context dependent, and we can decide how to interpret them. You can look up "participle adjectives" to find more.

Note 4: Note that "[that] I had been hired to do" is an adjective clause modifying the subject "job", not a part of the main structure of the sentence, which could be changed to "The job was no longer needed" if the clause was removed. I consider only the clause here.

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