Non-finite verbs can show voices as finite verbs do, but in some cases they seems to be without subject, so what are their voices? Are they just not showing voices?

For example,

“this was my first time seeing Disney Land”

“I am excited to see this”

What are the voices of these two non-finite verbs? I thought they were active but my Professor said they were not.

  • 1
    Your professor is wrong! Both your examples are active voice, where the understood (semantic) subject is the speaker (i.e. "me"). Note that most non-finite clauses have no overt subject, though they do have an understood (semantic) subject.
    – BillJ
    Nov 8, 2022 at 8:28
  • 1
    @BillJ thank you!
    – Mela Liu
    Nov 9, 2022 at 9:04

2 Answers 2


A verb structure is active when the subject of the verb is also the agent of the verb. If the subject and agent of the verb are different, the verb structure is passive.

The "agent" of a verb means the person or thing that actually does the action, regardless of the voice used to describe it.

In both your examples, "I" is both the subject and agent of "see", so they are active.

To be passive, some noun other than "I" would have to be the subject of "see":

This was Disney Land's first time being seen by me.
I am excited this is being seen (by me).

These sentences sound awful though.

  • thanks for your help! I have same opinion as yours, but my professor said that in the first example seeing does not attach to a subject because it can be replaced by a preposition. He marked me as wrong for saying this is active but he did not give me a direct answer of what voices they really are, so I am quite confused with these things:( so I wondering if there is another voices, like middle voice?
    – Mela Liu
    Nov 8, 2022 at 7:36
  • @MelaLiu What does your professor mean by "can be replaced by a preposition"? Also, are you in an English language course or an English linguistics course?
    – gotube
    Nov 8, 2022 at 20:46
  • I have no idea ahaha and when I kept asking he told me not to concern too much on tiny errors:( I am in a English linguistics course
    – Mela Liu
    Nov 9, 2022 at 9:02
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    @MelaLiu Ahah!! This site is for people learning English, not the study of Linguistics. While there's a lot of overlap between the two, they are not the same. This is one area where they're not the same because no English learner would ever need to identify whether a verb is active, passive or undetermined based on a rule of replacement with a prepositional phrase. This is strictly the domain of linguistics, so this question probably belongs on Linguistics.SE.
    – gotube
    Nov 9, 2022 at 17:19
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    Thank you so much for your information! I didn’t know this🤣I will go there to find some answers then
    – Mela Liu
    Nov 10, 2022 at 18:12

These non-finite verbs are active voice.

Gerunds/participles and infinitives don't have tense, but can have voice or aspect etc. You can say "being seen" or "to be seen".

However it would not be natural to express these in the passive voice. The implied subject is derived from the subject of the sentence. If you make the infinitive passive, you mix up the subjects. So although these are in the active voice, there is no natural way to transform them to the passive.

  • Thanks for your help! So they are really active voice? I am a bit confused because my professor said that they are not without telling me what they really are, so I start to wonder if there would be another voice that are more appropriate in this situation.
    – Mela Liu
    Nov 8, 2022 at 7:38

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