According to the site Study And Exam, passive constructions cannot be used with verb forms such as:

  • the present perfect continuous construction

  • the past perfect continuous construction

  • the future continuous construction

  • the future perfect continuous construction

But according to this other site, English Page, (which I think is the right one) such constructions can for sure be used in passives.

Is the first site wrong?

  • 5
    I hope you don't mind, but I've changed your references of verb tenses to verb constructions to better match our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English-language enthusiasts. That's because these constructions combining tense, mood, and aspect are not properly considered “tenses” by the professional linguistics community, even though that word is indeed often used for them in EFL literature as a simplifying, “short-hand” form. I don't want our community distracted by EFL terms lest this make it less likely that the substance of your question will get answered.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 15:10
  • @tchrist - As long as it gets my question more clear, it's totally fine :) Thank you.
    – A.Cool
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 15:15
  • 5
    Why the downvote? It's a model question: OP presents us with conflicting authorities ('authorities') and asks us for clarification. Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 15:18
  • @tchrist Very fine edit. Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 17:15

1 Answer 1


The first site is wrong:

  • He has been being treated for imbecility for almost twenty years and has not yet recovered his wits.
  • In 2007 he had been being treated for imbecility for ten years and had not yet recovered his wits.
  • He will be being treated for imbecility on Monday when you arrive, and may not be able to greet you.
  • By then he will have been being treated for imbecility for twenty years.

What is true is that these constructions are rarely needed.

  • 4
    I have a hunch—almost a formal conjecture even—that materials targeting English Language Learners will often issue short and simple commandments about what to do or not to do using sloppily broad brushstrokes that hide legitimate but uncommon uses like these because the authors are trying to break a particular usage error commonly made by EFL learners which simple “rules” like these stop them from making. Here I think they’re trying to break the pattern seen in learners of using the continuous aspect in places native speakers find unnatural in the general case albeit possible in nuanced ones.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 15:25
  • 1
    @tchrist I'd go further and call your hunch an established fact. But I wish ESL texts would stop issuing phoney 'rules' (like the n-conditionals) and treat their students like rational human beings either by a) characterizing these rules as pedagogical makeshifts, b) stating the actual rules in all their complexity, or c) ignoring the fringe constructions and leaving their students to figure them out when they encounter them every two or three hundred thousand pages. Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 15:32
  • 2
    @ohwilleke I hold no brief for their grace, but these constructions have been grammatically acceptable for 150 years (basically within 60 years of the introduction of the passive progressive at the end of the 18th century), and they are necessary in contexts where a continuative perfect must be carefully distinguished from a resultative or experiential perfect. Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 22:53
  • 1
    @ohwilleke ". . . visitors have been being undercharged for years." --The Galapagos: A Natural History, 2014. "I didn't get any kind of look at all at whoever was driving, and I didn't see if there was a passenger, either.” “So Kayla Anson could have been driving. Or she could have been being driven." --Skeleton Key, 2001. They're very rare (I said as much, twice), and it's absurd that learners should be called upon to master them; but rarity ≠ ungrammaticality. Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 23:40
  • 2
    @ohwilleke We don't fail to use them because they're ungrammatical; we fail to use them because the occasions on which they're appropriate are very very rare. Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 23:42

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