Michael Swan in his "Practical English Usage" says that present passive forms can have similar meanings to present perfect passives.

The vegetables are all cut up - what shall I do? = The vegetables have been cut up
I got caught in the rain and my suit's ruined. = ...has been ruined
I think your ankle is broken. = ...has been broken
My suitcase is packed. = ... has been packed.

He states that it happens due to that fact that some verbs refer to actions that produce a finished result (to cut, to build, to pack, to close), while others do not (to push, to live, to speak, to hit, to carry).

He goes on: the past participles of finished-result verbs, and some of their passive tenses, can have two meanings. They can refer to the action, or they can describe the result (rather like adjectives).

The theatre was closed by the police on the orders of the mayor. (refers to the action of closing).
When I got there I found that the theatre was closed. (refers to the state of being shut - the result of the action).

I'm not sure I get the difference between the two groups of words mentioned above. Could anyone, please, go into more detail and explain it to me? I need more examples to feel what it really means.


2 Answers 2


If the present passive is used with a resultative verb, then the focus is on the present state. Conversely, if the perfect passive is used, there is a greater emphasis on the action that caused the present state. So in the following examples of housework, the present passive places the focus on the resultative state:

The car is washed.

The furniture is waxed.

The shoes are polished.

The clothes are ironed.

The beds are made.

The table is laid.

The perfect passive, in contrast, places greater emphasis on the action:

The car has been washed.

The furniture has been waxed.

The shoes have been polished.

The clothes have been ironed.

The beds have been made.

The table has been laid.


I can explain this difference from the standpoint of a native English speaker, but I'm afraid it won't be a very technical definition.

You asked for the difference between the feelings of the two sentences, since you have correctly determined that the different versions mean essentially the same thing. Take a look at the examples you presented and my paraphrases:

  • "The vegetables are all cut up."
    • These vegetables are cut up. That's just the way things are.
  • "The vegetables have been cut up."
    • Something happened to these vegetables that caused them to become cut up, and here they are, still cut up.

If you'd only like to communicate the present state of the object, you can use the first version. No additional information regarding the timing of the action is supplied or assumed by using this version of the verb.

Use present perfect passive if you'd like to communicate the fact that the object has existed in the specified state for some time after it received the action of the verb, while still communicating the feeling that the exact timing of the original action is unknown, ambiguous, or irrelevant.

I found an article that appears to explain the differences very well. It even comes with illustrations that show the assumed timing when using the various forms of the verb!

  • Yep, I do get all of the above, thank you for ur explanation, Oran D. Lord, but the thing is that I wanted to hear more examples with the mentioned above verbs that 'refer to actions that produce a finished result (to cut, to build, to pack, to close), while others do not (to push, to live, to speak, to hit, to carry)."
    – Yukatan
    Apr 23, 2014 at 17:15
  • and one more thing, I've got a task to build sentences from the prompts, using the verbs in italics in the correct form: active, passive or causative: The walls/not paper/ properly. The paper is coming off. The key answer offers only one answer as the correct one, using present perfect passive, i.r.: The walls haven't been papered. I'm wondering whether present simple passive,- The walls aren't papered,- is also legitimate here or not.
    – Yukatan
    Apr 23, 2014 at 17:19
  • @Yukatan Did you still need extra information regarding your last comment? Apr 24, 2014 at 19:25
  • sure:) and I wanted to hear more examples with the verbs of the two groups showing the difference in use - some verbs refer to actions that produce a finished result (to cut, to build, to pack, to close), while others do not (to push, to live, to speak, to hit, to carry). Because I can't say I do get the shades of meaning..@Oran D. Lord
    – Yukatan
    Apr 25, 2014 at 4:47

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