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I had a disagreement with someone about the sentence below.

"The homework has been completed".

A friend said there aren't two auxiliaries but as I see it, there are three verbs: has, been, completed. 'Completed' is clearly the main verb. Are 'has' and 'been' considered to be two separate auxiliary verbs? Or are they treated as one?

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  • Yes, has and been are both auxiliary verbs. Has is the (3rd person singular present tense) auxiliary verb for the Perfect construction, and been is the perfect passive participle (the form that's required for the Perfect) of the auxiliary verb be, which is the auxiliary verb for the Passive construction, followed by the p.p.p. completed of the main verb, which is the verb form required for the Passive. See the Verb Phrase guide for further details – John Lawler Oct 23 '20 at 21:32
  • That's not a record, btw. You can get two more auxiliaries in the verb chain, with a modal and a Progressive: The homework must have been being written last night when we called. – John Lawler Oct 23 '20 at 21:34
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"The homework has been completed"

There are two auxiliary verbs but they are auxiliary to different verbs!

  1. The verb "to be" forms the passive voice in English. This is an auxiliary verb that affects the verb "to complete". Thus the active verb "to complete" has the passive form "to be completed"

  2. The verb "to have" forms the present perfect in English. In this particular case, the verb "to have" is an auxiliary of the verb "to be".

Thus:

"to have been completed" is the present perfect passive (infinitive) of the verb "to complete".

In this case, "have" is auxiliary to "been" and "been" is auxiliary to "completed".

Does that explain it?

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