I'm uncertain whether this sentence is in the active or passive voice.

“There have been many inventions”

Can someone help to understand the grammar behind this? If it is passive, I'm expecting the PP or the verb. If it is present perfect continuous, then, it should have the suffix '-ing'.

In the past 100 years, there have been many inventions such as antibiotics, aeroplanes, and computers.

The part I'm particularly unclear about is; ‘there have been many inventions such as...’

Please explain which tense and voice this phrase is written in. When it is used, and its grammatical construction.

  • Please could you explain which part of the sentence you do not understand.
    – WS2
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 5:51
  • There are (present simple), there were (past simple), there have been (present perfect), there had been (past perfect) - all these are active voice forms. {GrammAr, not grammEr; prsent perfect continuous, not present perfect continuEs} Commented May 10, 2018 at 10:04
  • As you say, this is not continous, because there is no -ing. (As a side note, there is no such thing as "present perfect continues", and there is no such thing as "grammer". There is a present perfect continous, and grammar, respectively. Also, "shades" means "sunglasses". I wouldn't use a pair of those to clear doubts, if anything they make you see less clearly.)
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 11:17
  • @mahmudkoya Thank you for correcting my spelling.
    – ever alian
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 12:06
  • 1
    @everalian ...have been. It is the present perfect of the verb "to be".
    – WS2
    Commented May 12, 2018 at 18:05

1 Answer 1


It seems the confusion here centers around the verb to be, which sometimes serves as an auxiliary verb and other times is the main verb.

When it's an auxiliary verb, the main verb will follow. As you pointed out, to be is used in passive voice structures (in which case the main verb should be in the past participle form), and in continuous tenses (in which case the main verb should be in the present participle, or -ing, form). However, in your example, we see no main verb that follows 'been'.

In any verb construction, the last word is the main verb while the rest are auxiliary verbs (or adverbs). Your verb construction is "have been", so 'have' is the auxiliary verb and 'been' is the main verb. Since to be is not an auxiliary verb in this case, your sentence is neither passive nor continuous.

In their comment, mahmud koya correctly identifies "have been" as present perfect (simple) in the active voice. The present perfect uses 'have' before the main verb in the past participle form: 'been'.

In conclusion, it seems you considered to be only as an auxiliary verb, which left you wondering about the missing main verb. But remember that to be isn't always an auxiliary verb, but can be the main verb, as it is in "there have been many inventions ..." Therefore, you have an active sentence in the present perfect tense.

  • Yes. The confusion here was, unable to find the verb actually. Sometimes suddenly get confused with simple grammar also. Thank you all.
    – ever alian
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 16:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.