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How to identify whether sentence is passive voice or in simple present tense? I.e. does it mean habitual or repeated action or just simple passive tense?

This table is cleaned by John

Meanings

  1. Conveys status that table is cleaned because John has cleaned the table. (Passive)
  2. Every day this table is cleaned by John. (Present Tense)

Similarly for past tense sentence

This table was cleaned by John

Meanings

  1. Conveys status that table was cleaned because John had cleaned the table.(Passive)

  2. In the past every day this table was cleaned by John. (Past Tense)

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    Whether a sentence is in the passive or active voice has nothing to do with what tense the verb is in. You seem to imply that a simple present cannot be a passive voice, but there is no reason for that assumption.
    – oerkelens
    Jan 6, 2015 at 12:24
  • Oerkelens. I am unable to understand it. plz explain it in example
    – user4084
    Jan 6, 2015 at 17:36
  • OK. But simple past tense also use to tell truth. e.g. Q) Who built the Taj Mahal? Ans) Taj Mahal is built by Shahajahan
    – user4084
    Jan 6, 2015 at 17:49
  • Example of what? Past tense active: I did the work. Past tense passive: the work was done. Present tense active: I do the work. Present tense passive: the work is done by me. Main point: passive/active is completely separate from present/past, voice has nothing to do tense.
    – oerkelens
    Jan 6, 2015 at 21:04

1 Answer 1

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When I, with my AmE ear, hear this phrase:

This table is cleaned by John.

I understand it to mean that the table is one that John cleans on a regular basis. Cleaning the table is his responsibility. When the verb is in the simple present tense, that is the only meaning.

However, some ambiguity does fill the vacuum when the tense shifts to simple past:

This table was cleaned by John.

It could mean that the table is one John cleaned on a regular basis. The table was his responsibility. Or it could mean no more than that John cleared a mess from the table. Context would resolve the ambiguity.

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  • Thanks Romano, if someone asked me "who cleaned this table". and if I say "This table is cleaned by Jhon" is it correct?
    – user4084
    Jan 6, 2015 at 17:33
  • And if it is correct then "This table was cleaned by Jhon" to say past thing is also correct.
    – user4084
    Jan 6, 2015 at 17:35
  • Who cleaned this table? John cleaned this table or if someone insists that you use the passive: This table was cleaned by John. Strictly speaking, to say that the table is cleaned by John does not answer the question "Who cleaned this table?" Jan 6, 2015 at 17:40
  • OK. But simple past tense also use to tell truth. e.g. Q) Who built the Taj Mahal? Ans) Taj Mahal is built by Shahajahan
    – user4084
    Jan 6, 2015 at 17:49
  • Your sentence "Taj Mahal is built by Shahajahan" is ungrammatical in two ways. In English, an article is required there: "The Taj Mahal". And "is built" is not "simple past tense" but is a combination of present-tense "is" with the past-participle "built". That is not idiomatic English. "Was built" would be correct. Jan 6, 2015 at 17:56

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