I know that has/have been + verb -ing makes present perfect continuous tense but here I am getting confused. If first question is grammatically correct, which tense is it in? Also, is it in passive form?

1)Has he been discharged from the hospital?

Is this question grammatically correct?

2)Is he discharged from the hospital?

closed as off-topic by Kris, MetaEd, tchrist, p.s.w.g, choster Jul 12 '13 at 20:26

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  • You're confusing two different uses of the auxiliary be, one before present participles (the "progressive" construction), and another before past participles (the "passive" construction) that involves some noun phrase rearrangement. Both can be used with the auxiliary have (the "perfect" construction -- isn't it amazing how many grammatical terms start with P?). And they can be used together, as well. See the Verb Phrase Study Guide for details of all these constructions. – John Lawler Jul 10 '13 at 16:11
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    The question is better asked on ELL. – Kris Jul 11 '13 at 8:17

The first question is grammatically correct. It is in the passive voice, and its tense is what's called the "perfect present". That is, the question asks about an event that would have taken place prior to the moment of asking.

The second question is a little trickier. While I'm not sure whether the phrasing qualifies as grammatically correct, I can say that the more natural phrasing is "Was he discharged from the hospital?"

Semantically, there is very little difference between the two valid phrasings ("was he" versus "has he been"). It could be argued that the first phrasing indicates that the event would have occurred more recently.

  • Omno, why do you use "would have occurred" rather than "would be occurred", which, differently from the former, seems grammatically correct? – user19148 Jul 10 '13 at 16:39
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    @Carlo_R. The phrasing "would be occurred" is not correct in Modern English. There are two different constructions at work here: for a past participle "x" (so x could be, for example, "eaten" or "occurred"), we can say "be x" or "have x". "Have x" is the present perfect construction, so "have eaten" means something similar to "ate". "be x", on the other hand, indicates the passive voice. "You are about to be eaten" means that something will eat you, whereas "be occurred" has no obvious meaning. – Omnomnomnom Jul 10 '13 at 16:52
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    @Carlo_R. Would be occurred is ungrammatical, because be +PPartis Passive, which applies only in transitive clauses; and occur is obligatorily intransitive; like happen, it's just an inchoative -- change of state -- marker. – John Lawler Jul 10 '13 at 16:54
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    @Carlo_R. granted, this has not always been the case with the English, and there are still rare cases in which the copula ("to be") is used as an auxiliary verb, such as in the famous quotation of the the Bhagavad Gita: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." "Am" here is not ungrammatical, but functions much in the way that "have" would. – Omnomnomnom Jul 10 '13 at 16:58
  • @John and Omno, thank you for these clear explanations. – user19148 Jul 10 '13 at 16:59

Your question shows that you're mixing up sentence tenses with sentence voices. It's a bit complicated, but let me try to explain.

I have done ... - in this sentence, to do is the verb. The tense is present perfect.

I have been ... - in this sentence, to be is the verb. The tense is also present perfect.

I have been doing ... - in this sentence, to do is the verb. The tense is present perfect continuous.

I have been being ... - this sentence is extremely unlikely, but technically speaking, to be is the verb (being). Again, the tense is present perfect continuous.

All four of the above examples are in the active voice. Simplified, this means the subject (the "I") is at the start of the sentence. A couple more active sentences are: "I ate the cake" (past simple) and "I have eaten the cake" (present perfect).

OK, so let's change the last two examples into passive voice. We get: "The cake was eaten by me" (past simple) and "The cake has been eaten by me" (present perfect). By the way, the second sentence has the same tense as in your "Has he been discharged from the hospital?" example. You'll notice there is no -ING after the word "been" here. A passive sentence doesn't say "has been eatING", but rather "has been eatEN"!

So the -ING has nothing to do with a PASSIVE sentence in the present perfect, like "The cake has been eaten...".

The -ING is only in an ACTIVE sentence, and here are two more examples: "The cake has been eating..." and "He has been discharging...". Both of these are present perfect continous, and hopefully you'll never have to experience a cake that has been eating something or a person who has been discharging something in your life.

A little thing which might help is to ask yourself whether you're looking at a verb or an adjective. The following examples cover active and passive voices, as well as present perfect and present perfect continous tenses: "She has been hungry since this morning", "She has eaten her lunch", "She has been eating snacks all day", "Her lunch has eaten her", "An anaconda has eaten her", "An anaconda has been eaten by her", "Her lunch has been finished".

If you can say which sentences are active and which are passive, as well as which are present perfect and which are present perfect continuous, and finally, if you can recognize which are verbs and which are adjectives, then you understand!

  • Thanks for explaining in depth. "She has eaten her lunch"-Present Perfect, Active "She has been eating snacks all day"- Present Perfect Progressive, Active "Her lunch has eaten her" - Present Perfect, Active "An anaconda has eaten her" - Present Perfect, Active "An anaconda has been eaten by her" - Present Perfect, Passive "Her lunch has been finished" - Present Perfect, Passive Is the sentence, "She has been hungry since this morning" in Present Perfect Progressive Tense(Active)? If it is, is it possible to use certain words without adding -ING in the Present Perfect Progressive Tense? – Esh Jul 11 '13 at 10:36
  • Tenses and voices are interdependent, you do mix-up though in a systematic way :) – Kris Jul 13 '13 at 6:55

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