Here's the hypothetical situation ...

Our CEO (Joe) was coming to visit our office from out of town, and he wanted to see a report that we had been preparing for him. At the time of his visit, various organizations had been working on the preparation of the report for a month, and it still wasn't finished. I don't want to say who was working on the report, so I want to refer to the preparation using the passive voice.

So, could I say ...

At the time of Joe's visit, the report had been being prepared for a month

That sounds very strange, to me.

Obviously I could avoid the problem by saying

At the time of Joe's visit, the report had been under preparation for a month

but I'm interested to know if the first version, with the passive voice, is even correct English.

  • I know you said you didn't want to say who was working on it, but you said "we" had been preparing it, implying that it was an office-wide effort. Why can't you say "At the time of Joe's visit, we had been preparing the report for a month."? Mar 12, 2016 at 10:41
  • OK. I guess I could change the "we" to "various organizations". But the real question is whether the passive voice can work in this situation.
    – bubba
    Mar 12, 2016 at 10:44
  • 4
    Grammatically speaking, you could say "the report had been being prepared for a month", yes. It does sound strange, but it's not ungrammatical. Mar 12, 2016 at 11:00
  • 1
    It's easy to find alternative ways to say this. I gave one myself. But that's not the question. I'm asking whether the phrasing with the passive voice is grammatically correct.
    – bubba
    Mar 12, 2016 at 12:02
  • 1
    It's the past perfect progressive/continuous tense in the passive voice. englishpage.com/verbpage/pastperfectcontinuous.html The PPP is rarely used in the passive, it sounds awkward and can appear confusing
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 12, 2016 at 12:12


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