What is the difference in term of meaning between these: The order has shipped, that means you will receive it soon and it is shipped. Does it mean the same thing ?

2 Answers 2


Let's start by cleaning up your terminology:

  1. Present perfect passive: The order has been shipped.
  2. Present perfect active: The order has shipped.
  3. Present passive: The order is shipped.

These all have essentially the same meaning: somebody has packaged your order and put it in the mail or on a truck to be delivered to you.

The important difference between them is that

  • in 1, the verb ship is transitive. The order is the 'Patient' of the verb, the entity which undergoes the action. Its ordinary active-voice form would require that the 'Agent', the entity which performs the action, be named and act as Subject of the sentence, with the Patient, the order, acting as Direct Object:

    Agent/SubjectWe  VbPrPfActhave shipped  Patient/DirObjthe order.

    When this sentence is cast in the passive voice with a BE+PaPpl construction, the Patient becomes the Subject and the Agent is omitted or expressed with a by phrase:

    Patient/SubjectThe order  VbPrPfPasshas been shipped  (Agent/PrepPhrby us).

  • in 2, the verb ship is intransitive. It is in effect a different verb, which represents shipping as an action performed by the Subject, and there is no Patient.

    Agent/SubjectThe order  VbPrPfActivehas shipped.

    This sort of construction, in which the Patient of the action is 'transformed' into its Agent, is sometimes called middle voice, because it expresses a semantic relationship between the verb and the Subject which lies somewhere 'between' active and passive voice. It is fairly common with verbs like wash and shave, where it has a reflexive sense: John shaves (himself), Cathy washed (herself); it also occurs idiomatically with verbs like cook and drive:

    A stew was cooking on the stove.
    Toyota's new suspension drives very well.

  • in 3, the verb has the form of a simple present passive; but I think most native speakers would understand this as a predication: the Subject, the order acts as the 'Topic', the verb is the copula is, and shipped is an adjectival Predicate Complement describing the status of the order.

    Topic/SubjectThe order  VbPrCopulais  PredComp{shipped / delayed / pending / in transit / complete}.

In this context, there's really no reason to prefer any of these over the others. In other contexts, however, your choice might be significant. These two sentences, for instance, have quite different meanings:

The new Toyota drives well. This is a statement about the quality of the car.
John drives the new Toyota well. This is a statement about John's ability as a driver.

  • Is it possible to say "the order is shipped tomorrow" if this has been scheduled? @StoneyB
    – Kinzle B
    Apr 11, 2015 at 14:47
  • 1
    @KinzleB Not in a main clause, though it may occur in a subordinate clause (I'll call you when the order is shipped tomorrow). We'd use a simple or progressive present (ships / is shipping), a future modal (will ship), or a marked infinitival idiom (is {going / supposed / expected } to ship, is to be shipped). Apr 11, 2015 at 14:54

OP's two examples...

1: The order has shipped, [so] you will receive it soon
2: The order is shipped, [so] you will receive it soon

Both mean exactly the same thing, but idiomatically most native speakers would usually say...

3: The order has been shipped, so you will receive it soon

Note - in #1 shipped is a true "verb" usage, describing something that the order "did" (syntactically, it *"caused itself to be" sent), whereas #2 is more an "adjectival" usage (the "status" of the order is sent, as opposed to, say, high priority, or overdue).

Thus, although both #1 and #2 are "valid" (and by no means uncommon), they're both at least slightly unusual (#1 because "active intransitive" it shipped is less common than either passive it was shipped or transitive we shipped it, and #2 because it sounds as if the speaker is simply reading the "status" column from a Sales Ledger database).

If we consider the same constructions with, say, cancelled (so you won't receive it), it should be clear that #1 doesn't work (nobody thinks an order can cancel itself), but #2 and #3 are okay. On the other hand, with expired (of a repeat order that ships weekly until a defined expiry date, say), #2 just about works as a "readout of order status column", but #3 is unacceptable.

TL;DR: Customers probably tend to think in terms of What has happened to my order?, for which #3 is the expected reply format. Sales operatives are more likely to think in terms of What phase in the sales process has this order reached?" (#1), or *What is the status of the order?" (#2).

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