A Bit of Grammar: Verb Tense and Aspect

My weekly post at The Sarcastic Muse delves into some common grammatical issues I run into when I’m editing. What do you think about the tense and aspect of verbs? Is this difficult for you?

The Sarcastic Muse

timelineToday I’m going to put on my bossy grammar hat and talk about a misconception that was brought to my attention the other day during a chat with my critique group. One member asked if the verb “to stand” was passive in the sentence: “He was standing in the doorway.” Another member said yes, it is passive. And I said no, it is not.

Why isn’t it passive? It has the conjugated form of the verb ‘to be’ followed by the present participle ‘standing’ – aren’t those instances of passive voice? In short, no. Not every verb paired with some version of ‘is’,  ‘was’, ‘has been’ or ‘had been’ is passive.

What they confused for passive is actually the past progressive form of the verb. But to understand what exactly that means, I’ll have to start from the beginning.

So to start, I’ll say that verbs in English have several

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