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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Verb to be + verb-ed    

Verb to be + verb-ed

South Africa

Verb to be + verb-ed
Good Day All,
I īve been having a though time explaining this piece of grammar to a student of mine. Allow me to elaborate further. I initially taught my student the differences between the Active and Passive voices. The lessons were as follows:
Active and Passive Voices
1. Explanation of the Active Voice with examples. Such as - " We are going to watch a movie tonight"
2. Explanation of the Passive Voice with examples. Such as - "A movie is going to be watched by us tonight" 
Rules regarding a past verb
1. Only one past verb is allowed in one sentence on exception that: 
  • there is a conjunction between sentences OR
  • if the first sentence is in the past tense + the second sentence is in the perfect tense.  
After teaching this, my student asked me the following: There are sentences which contain the verb to be + a past verb, for example:
1. I was accepted...                 (the verb accepted functions as an adjective)
2. She was allowed...              (the verb allowed is the past participle)
3. They were educated...       (the verb educated functions as an adjective)
Fair enough, we all understand past participles, however look at this from a students perspective. Her dilemma is:
1. Only one past verb in one sentence.
2. Looking at the words above, it is essentially past verbs, therefore, how will she know if she is forming the sentence correctly if we are allowed only one past verb in a sentence. 
From a teachers perspective it sounds absurd to advise the student that:
1. Sometimes a past verb will function as an adjective. The obvious response from the student is: "When will I know this".
2. Providing a comprehensive list of the verb be + past participle (adjective) is also quite exhausting.
Did any other teacher have similar students who tend to question the grammar and syntax and their question seems valid whilst we just seemingly say to students, "This is the rule"? If so, I would love to hear about possible methods of explaining this properly to students. Any assistance will be truly appreciated :) 

28 Jun 2017      

United States

Hi, SeanAL.
Could you give us some examples of ways in which students use this incorrectly?

28 Jun 2017     

South Africa

Hi Bruce, Thank you for the reply. Essentially the confusion comes in whereby the student uses examples such as: 1. I was listened... (incorrect) 2. She was talked... (incorrect) All the "past verbs" are past participles and they are used incorrectly, however the following are past participles, and are used 1. I was allowed... (correct) I fully understand the student. I īm simply having a tough time explaining this to her as seen in the examples above. It īs rather confusing for students and I want to do my best to explain this as clearly as possible.

28 Jun 2017     


Hi, a verb can never serve as an adjective, you probably mean the use of non-finite verb forms (gerunds, infinitives, participles) , which can serve as a modifier - adjectives that are used attributively.
As for your examples, most transitive verbs do form the passive,
īI was listened to ī would be ok, if you absolutely have to use the passive. 

29 Jun 2017     

United States

Thanks, SeanAl,
Your student īs problem seems to be with the verbs in general, not just in the passive. The student can īt say "I was listened" or "She was talked" in the passive because it is incorrect to say "Someone listened me" and "Someone talked me" in the active. That is where I would begin with this student. Explain to her that the direct object of the active sentence is the subject of the passive sentence. That might help as a start.

29 Jun 2017     

Antonio Oliver

Hi SeanAl et al
I hope I īm not too late -just had some trouble uploading this PowerPoint: Passive Voice in 3 simple steps
Please have a look -it might help your students come to terms with past simple and past participle verb forms, especially if you use irregular verbs wich clearly use a different word for each!

1 Jul 2017     


I agree with what has been said above - the problem seems to be that your student is trying to use intransitive verbs in the passive, which is not possible.
to talk: intransitive --> They talk a lot.
to talk to: transitive --> They talk to their friends a lot. / Their friends are talked to a lot. (weird-sounding, but correct)
to speak: transitive (although often used without a direct object) --> She spoke English. / English was spoken.

2 Jul 2017