The passive with modals, future and infinitive forms
This is an example of a passive form. We use the passive when it is not so important to know who the agent of the action is. Here we are not so interested in knowing who nominated Sofia Coppola for best director. Our attention is focused on the object, the person who has been nominated. So instead of saying:
The American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated Sofia Coppola for best director.
Sofia Coppola has been nominated for best director.
Note that the object of an active verb becomes the subject of a passive verb:
With modals and with infinitive forms, the passive is formed with be + past participle or have been + past participle. With future forms it is constructed with be + past participle or being + past participle.
The People is published
My curtains are being dry-cleaned
My passport has been stolen
The vase was sold
Future forms: will be / is going to be / is being / is to be + past participle
Modals: can be / could be + past participle
The prisoner will be held
indefinitely in a maximum security jail.
He will never be released
The Council House Tower Blocks in Manchester are to be knocked down
The tenants are being offered
The cinema in the High Street is going to be converted
into a dance hall.
We use these forms to talk about present and past ability or possibility in the passive voice:
Modals: must be / ought to be / should be + past participle
My professor has told me that I may be invited
to give the keynote speech at the conference this year.
The road over the mountains might be closed
if this rain turns to snow.
If you're all keen to make an early start, the meeting could be brought
forward to nine o' clock.
We use these forms to talk about necessity and advisability in the passive voice:
Modals: must've been / should've been / could've been + past participle<
You can't expect her to work if she's not well. She must be given
You're not supposed to walk on that type of floor in high heels. It shouldn't be allowed
He ought to be rewarded
for handing in all the money to the police.
Note that when we are using modals to talk about most past situations in the passive voice, be + past participle becomes have been + past participle:
Infinitives: to be / to have been + past participle
The car was clearly defective and should never have been
That necklace is no longer in the shop window so it must have been
He insisted on playing American football wearing only a T-shirt and shorts and could've been
There is sometimes little difference in meaning whether be or have been passive forms are used. On other occasions, be is more clearly associated with present time and have been is more clearly associated with past time:
Sofia Coppola is only the third woman to be nominated
for best director.
Sofia Coppola is only the third woman to have been nominated
for best director.
The prisoners are expected to be released
He is to be congratulated
on passing his exam.
He was to have been rewarded
for handing in the stolen goods until it was discovered that he was involved with the criminal gang.