"Swimming is something I like to do"

I saw this posted on a forum for grammar, which stated that swimming is the verb and I is the subject. As the verb comes before the subject it is therefore passive.

I cannot wrap my head around this, to me, Swimming is the subject of the verb "is". I is the subject of the verb "like".

Could anyone clarify and write the sentence in the active form (assuming it is passive).


1 Answer 1


"Swimming" is the grammatical subject. It can be understood as a gerund from the verb "to swim".

The sentence is a "subject complement" sentence with the verb "is"

The complement is "something [that] I like to do" I've inserted the optional relative pronoun for clarity. The complement noun phrase is "noun-relative clause" The subject in the relative clause is "I", the verb is "like" and the object is an infinitive "to do".

Now if swimming is a gerund, what is the implied subject? Who swims? It is clear that the speaker swims, so the implied subject of "swimming" is first person "I".

There is an infinitive clause with "to do" with an unwritten subject and object, but the subject is implied to be "I" and the implied object is "swimming" You can see why we don't need to write all these implied subjects and objects. In fact it would be ungrammatical to make them explicit.

This isn't a passive sentence, it is a subject-complement sentence, with a gerund for a subject. The subject of the gerund is unwritten but implied.

This isn't a passive sentence, but it is roughly equivalent to

I like swimming.

  • Incredibly grateful for your in depth reply, can I take it that what I read is incorrect then? For your reference the website said:When a sentence is in passive voice, the subject is being acted on by the verb and the subject typically comes after the action. For example: Swimming is something I do. Here, the action is swimming. The subject is I. The sentence is in passive voice, since the person doing the action (I) is not mentioned until after the action.
    – user130067
    Feb 14, 2021 at 20:52
  • It is not passive. English passive is formed from "be + past participle". In passive sentences you need to understand that there is a "grammatical subject" and a "functional subject". But his is not a passive sentence; this is a subject-complement sentence. It would be helpful if you linked to the forum, then we could read what they wrote in context.
    – James K
    Feb 14, 2021 at 20:57
  • 1
    Sorry I forgot to link grammar.yourdictionary.com/style-and-usage/…
    – user130067
    Feb 14, 2021 at 20:59
  • 1
    Thanks. Yes I think that site is just wrong.
    – James K
    Feb 14, 2021 at 21:03
  • Thank you James K! Can we ever have a passive sentence that is formed with subject complements?
    – user130067
    Feb 14, 2021 at 21:06

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