Subject I am verb is adjective: is that passive voice? e.g.

  • The question I am asking is stupid

I'm not sure because I don't know if "asking" or "is" is the verb, here.

  • Technically, you've got to subjects and two verbs here, because this is a complex sentences. The main clause is "The question is stupid", and the relative clause is "I am asking". It may be helpful to consider the two clauses separately. Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 12:06

2 Answers 2


Passive is a rule that applies to clauses, and there are two clauses in the sentence.

  1. is the main clause The question is stupid
  2. is the relative clause (which/that) I am asking, modifying the question in (1)
    (the relative pronoun which/that is deletable here, since it's not the subject).

(1) is active and intransitive; since Passive only applies to transitive clauses,
there is no passive version of this clause.

(2) is the relative clause transform of I am asking the question,
which is active and transitive. Therefore Passive can apply to it, producing

  • the question is being asked by me.

Making that back into a relative clause produces

  • that/which is being asked by me
    (the relative pronoun that/which is not deletable here, since it's the subject)

and plugging that back into the original sentence gives

  • The question that is being asked by me is stupid.

This isn't the "passive voice" of the original sentence, however;
it's just a different sentence with a passive relative clause.
It's grammatical English, but it's hard to think of a context that it would be useful for.

  • ok, not suggesting you're wrong, but i'm surprised that's two clauses, just because they aren't serial. i will have to google 'clause' again
    – user99677
    Commented Jul 1, 2018 at 22:42
  • A clause is a simple sentence of some sort. Sometimes there is only one clause. Each of the last two sentences has only one clause. That is because each has only one verb in each clause. But the preceding sentence has two verbs (is and has), and therefore two clauses. This handout with links might help. Commented Jul 1, 2018 at 22:47
  • ok, interesting that you just count the verbs minus auxs. and strange there's not more examples of dependent clauses that nestle in one independent clause, as here
    – user99677
    Commented Jul 1, 2018 at 22:58
  • 3
    I said both clauses in the original sentence are active. That means they're not passive. You asked if it was passive voice; that's why I mentioned it. You can't passivize a complex sentence -- passive only applies to clauses. So one of the two clauses could be passivized, but the other one can't, because is stupid is an intransitive verb phrase consisting of an auxiliary is and a predicate adjective stupid, with no object at all. Passive requires a transitive predicate with a direct object, so it can't apply. Commented Jul 1, 2018 at 23:25
  • 1
    I'm sorry you were confused by my answer, but I meant what I said. Passive requires an active transitive clause, or it can't apply. Passive is not a "voice"; it's a grammatical rule that can apply to certain kinds of clauses, and sometimes does. Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 15:12

No, the sentence is active:

The question I am asking is stupid.
I am asking a stupid question.

The passive version would be:

A stupid question is being asked.

Here is a longer answer.

In linguistic terms, what we call a subject in (common) grammar is an agent, and what we call an object in grammar is a patient.

In sentences in an active voice, there is a 1-1 relationship between subject and agent, and between object and patient.

But when a sentence changes to the passive voice, subject and object are said to change places. However, agent and patient do not.

In the active voice, I am both the subject and agent of the sentence; and the question is both the object and patient of the sentence.

When switching to the passive voice, the subject of the sentence becomes the question. (And, in my version, the object disappears.)

In linguistic terms, the patient remains while the agent disappears. (We no longer know who's performing the action.)

In any case, the essential point is that we don't know who is asking the question—it could be anyone.

Now, the sentence could be rephrased as:

A stupid question is being asked by me.

In this version, the linguistic agent hasn't disappeared—but in terms of grammar, me is now the object of the sentence.

Regardless, the focus of the sentence has still switched from the asker to the question.

Typically, the reason to use the passive voice is if the person or thing responsible for an action is unknown. If you know what caused something, then you normally use the active voice. (Although sometimes you really do want to place emphasis on the target of an action rather than the person or thing responsible.)

  • can't follow the reasoning, but i do think you're right. i.e. why isn't "the question" a subject being asked by me
    – user99677
    Commented Jul 1, 2018 at 21:51
  • @user3293056 I have expanded my answer to be more precise and give some more information. Commented Jul 1, 2018 at 22:11

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