In sentence:

A growing set of on-line applications are generating data that can be viewed as...

What are the words be viewed? For me they sound like passive voice (be viewed by someone), but that cannot be as this sentence is already active. So in which situations I can use be + p.p.?

  • "can" can be followed by an infinitive active (I can do it) or an infinitive passive (It can be done).
    – rogermue
    Oct 12, 2015 at 13:33

1 Answer 1


Can be viewed is indeed passive. Its use here is correct, because this verbgroup heads a distinct clause: a subordinate relative clause which modifies data. This construction unites two distinct propositions:

  1. A growing set of on-line applications are generating data.
  2. These data can be viewed as ...
  • I see. So in this situation there is an exception in forming passive voice (because there is no conjugation of the verb to be). Can you please provide me some link from which I can learn how to distinguish such situations? Or what I need to search to find this? Thanks
    – chao
    Aug 26, 2014 at 14:10
  • @chao I don't understand what you mean either by an 'exception' here or by 'no conjugation of the verb to be'. Could you explain in more detail what unusual circumstance you see here? Aug 26, 2014 at 14:12
  • Aha, OK. I've learned that passive voice is always formed by conjugating to be - e.g. Data are stolen. So, I don't understand why in this situation is be. Of course that be viewed sounds normal to me, but I don't have grammar background for that, so I would like to know if this is some special form of passive or what?
    – chao
    Aug 26, 2014 at 14:18
  • @chao Ah ... in this case the verb group is headed by the modal verb can. A MODAL always followed by an infinitive (in this case, be), just as auxiliary HAVE is always followed by a past participle and auxiliary BE is followed by a past participle (for the passive) or a present participle (for the progressive). (The all-caps verbforms here represent "whatever form of this verb is used in the particular situation".) Aug 26, 2014 at 14:31

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