Passive Voice

Passive Voice



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The passive of an active tense is formed by putting the verb to be into the same tense as the active verb and adding the past participle of the active verb. The subject of the active verb becomes the ‘agent’ of the passive verb. The agent is very often not mentioned. When it is mentioned it is preceded by by and placed at the end of the clause. Active: My grandfather planted this tree. Passive: This tree was planted by my grandfather.


  • Present Simple
  • Past Simple
  • Future Simple
  • Present Continuous
  • Past Continuous
  • Going to
  • Present Perfect
  • Past Perfect
  • Infinitive Modals


He delivers the letters. He delivered the letters. He will deliver the letters. He is delivering the letters. He was delivering the letters. He is going to deliver the letters. He has delivered the letters. He had delivered the letters. He has to deliver the letters. He must deliver the letters.


The letters are delivered. The letters were delivered. The letters will be delivered. The letters are being delivered. The letters are going to be delivered. The letters have been delivered. The letters had been delivered. The letters have to be delivered. The letters must be delivered.

CONTINUOUS PERFECT + S + am/is/are + Ptp – S + am/is/are + not + Ptp S + am/is/are + not *being + Ptp S + have/has + not + been + Ptp Am/ls/Are) + S + being + Ptp ? Have/Has) + S + been + Ptp ? + S + was/were + Ptp S + was/were + being + Ptp S + had + been + Ptp – S + was/were + not + Ptp S + was/were + not + being + Ptp S + had + not + been + Ptp ? was,were + S +Ptpv ? PAST S + have/has + been + Ptp ? At-nnsmre + S + Ptp ? PRESENT S + am/is/are + being + Ptp Had + S + been + Ptp + S + Will + be + Ptp FUTURE -S + will + not + be + Ptp ? Will be + Ptp ? S + V to be (am/is/are) + going to + e + Ptp GOING TO – S + V to be (am/is/are) + not + going to + be + Ptp V to be (am/is/are) + S + going to + be + Ptp ?

Short answers

To make short answers: 0 we use the verb to be (am/is/are/was/were) for Present Simple, Past Simple, Present Continuous, Past Continuous and Going To questions. 0 we use the verb have (have/has/had) for Present Perfect and Past Perfect questions. 0 we use will for Future Simple questions.


The Passive is used:

  1. when the agent (=the person who does the action) is unknown, unimportant or obvious from the context. Jane was shot. (We don’t know who shot her. This church was built in 1815. Unimportant agent) He has been arrested. (Obviously by the police)
  2. to make more polite or formal statements. The car hasn’t been cleaned. (more polite) (You haven’t cleaned the car. – less polite)
  3. when the action is more important than the agent, as in processes, instructions, events, reports, headlines, new items, and advertisements. 30 people were killed in the earthquake.
  4. to put emphasis on the agent. The new library will be opened by the Queen. 2 AGENT the preposition by and the name (by Peter) , noun (by the teacher) or pronoun (by him) at the end of the sentence.

We usually only refer to the agent when it gives us ome important information which otherwise would be missing from the sentence. Our house was designed by a famous architect.

We don’t mention the agent:

  1. if we don’t know who has done what we are talking about. Our car was stolen last night. (We don’t know who stole it)
  2. if we are not interested in who has done what we are talking about or it is not important to mention it. He has been taken to hospital. (What we are interested in is the fact that he has been taken to hospital and not who has taken him. )
  3. if it is easy to understand who did something without it being mentioned.

The murderer was arrested last night. It is not necessary to mention that he has been arrested by the police because it is self-evident. ) 4. if the subject of the active voice sentence is something like somebody, people, they, you, etc. Someone broke the window. ??”+ The window was broken.


To change a sentence from the active voice to the passive voice: 0 the object of the active voice sentence becomes the subject of the passive voice sentence. Agatha Christie wrote this book. This book was written by Agatha Christie. 0 we change the main verb of the active voice sentence into the passive voice.

The tense remains unchanged. the subject of the active voice sentence becomes the agent of the passive sentence. It is placed after the past participle and it is preceded by the preposition by. Agatha Christie wrote this book. Leslie SUBJECT took this photograph ACTIVE VERB OBJECT This photograph was taken PASSIVE VERB TIME COMPLEMENT by Leslie yesterday.


In the passive voice, we use: 0 by with the agent to refer to by whom the action is being done. The door was opened by Mr Black. (Mr Blak = agent) 0 with to refer to the instrument, object or material that was used for something to be done. The door was opened with a key. key = the object that was used) The omelette was made with eggs, cheese and peppers. (eggs, cheese and peppers = the material that was used)


When we have verbs that take two objects like, for example, give somebody something, we can convert the active sentence into a passive one in two ways: a. by making the indirect (animate) object the subject of the passive voice sentence, which is also the way that we usually prefer. b. By making the direct (inanimate) object the subject of the passive voice. Rick gave me (indirect object) this book (direct object). I was given this book by Rick. 3

This book was given to me by Rick. Some of the verbs that take two objects are: give, tell, send, show, bring, write, offer, pay, etc. When the indirect object is alone after the verb in the passive voice sentence, it needs the preposition to. If the indirect object of the active voice sentence is a personal pronoun it has to be changed into a subject pronoun to be the subject of the passive voice sentence. You She It you him her it we They them BIBLIOGRAPHY – A. J. Thomson and A. V. Martinet, A Practical English Grammar, Oxford University Press, 1986- V. Evans, Round-Up (English Grammar Practice), Longman, 1995 – M.

Carling and S. Jervis, Grammar Time 4, Longman, 2003 – S. Jervis, Grammar Time 5, Longman, 2003 – M. Carling, Grammar Time 6, Longman, 2003 EXERCISES 1 . Complete the sentences with the correct passive form of the verbs in brackets. Use the Present Simple. a. English b. The post (your name/spell)? f. My salary g. These cars who committed the crime (speak) in many countries. (deliver) at about 7 0’clock every morning. c. (the building/use) any more? d. How often (the Olympic Games(hold)? e. How (pay) every month. (not make) in Japan. h. The name of the people (not know). i. His travel expenses (not pay) by his company. 4 2.

Complete the sentences with the correct passive form of the verbs in brackets. Use b. This song e. When f. The car building i. When (not write) by John Lennon. c. (the phone/answer) by a young girl? d. The film (make) ten years ago. (tennis/invent)? (not damaged) in the accident. g. The original (pull) down in 1965. h. Where (this pot/make)? (this bridge/build)? 3. Choose the correct form of the verbs in brackets. FIAT Fiat O was started (started/was started) by a group of Italian businessmen in 1899. In 1903, Fiat, 1 (produced/was produced) 132 cars. Some of these cars (exported/were exported) by the company to the United States and Britain.

In 1920, Fiat 3 (started/was started) making cars at a new factory at Lingotto, near Turin. There was a track on the roof where the cars 500. This car 5 (tested/were tested) by technicians. In 1936, Fiat launched the Fiat (called/was called) the Topolino – the Italian name for Mickey Mouse. The company grew, and in 1963 Fiat 6 (exported/was exported) more than 300,000 vehicles. Today, Fiat is based in Turin, and its cars 7 (sold/are sold) all over the world. 4. Change the following sentences into passive sentences using the words in brackets. a. We sell tickets for all shows at the Box Office. (Tickets for all shows/sell/at the Box

Office) b. Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb. (The electric light bulb/invent/by Thomas Edison) c. Someone painted the office last week. (The office/paint/last week) d. Several people saw the accident. (The accident/see/by several people) e. Where do they make these video recorders? (Where/these video recorders/make) a. Someone built this house 200 years ago. b. A thief stole my purse. c. The police will arrest the robbers. d. They produce cars in this factory. e. They serve breakfast at eight o’clock every day. f. People throw away tones of rubbish every day. g. They make coffee in Brazil. h.

Someone tole Jim’s bike lat night. 6. Rewrite these sentences in the passive voice. a. They will build a new bridge next year. b. Brian Brody directed The Ultimate Space Adventure. c. Pierre Matte will design her costume. d. Someone found my wallet. 5 e. One of the students broke the window. f. They will deliver my computer on Monday. g. Mary invited Paul to her birthday party. h. British astronomers discovered a new planet. 7. Form the question. a. Paper is made from wood. b. The telephone was invented by Mr Bell. c. This picture was painted by Peter. d. The thieves will be arrested by the police. e. Champagne is made in France. The letters will be sent next week. g. The animals are fed three times a day. h. This article was written by Stanley. CDs are made of plastic. The party was organised by Paul. 8. Read and complete. Use Past Simple. a. The toothbrush / invent / in the 15th century. b. The first public basketball game / play / in 1892. c. The first eyeglasses / wear / in the 1200s. d. The first bicycle / ride in 1791. e. The first hot dog / eat / in the 1860s. f. The first CDS / sell / the 1980s. g. The first electric guitar / play / in 1923. h. The first computer mouse / use / 1964. 6 9. Complete with the passive. Use Present Simple. a.

This programme c. Hundreds of people (watch) by millions of people. b. Paper (make) from wood. (kill) in accidents every year. d. London (visit) by thousands of tourists every year. e. The biology class (teach) by Mr Green. f. English (speak) all over the world. g. Lunch h. Books (serve) at twelve o’clock. (write) by authors. Two men The police station where they The two men (see) breaking into a house in my street last night. (call) and they arrived very quickly. One man (catch) immediately. The other escaped, but he (find) very soon. Both men (take) to the police (question) separately by a police officer. (charge) with burglary. . Rewrite the following passage in the Passive. Somebody has stolen a bus from outside the school. Some children saw the thief. The police are searching for the bus now. They will use the children’s descriptions to catch the thief. 12. Rewrite the following passage in the Passive. Some people saw a UFO in the sky above London last night. They reported it to the police. The army sent a helicopter to look at it more closer. The UFO shot the helicopter down and killed both men in it. People have given photographs of the UFO to the police. Experts are looking at them now. 13. Rewrite the following passage in the Passive.

Someone broke into a local Jewellery shop yesterday. The owner had Just locked up the shop when a robber with a gun threatened him. The robber told him to unlock the shop and give him all the diamonds in the safe. Then the robber tied him up. The police have organized a search for the robber. They hope they will find him in a few days. Doctors are treating the owner of the shop for shock. 14. My uncle painted this picture. Someone has offered him a lot of money for it. He will deliver the painting tomorrow. When they give him the money, he will tell them the truth. He painted it one night while he was sleepwalking! 7

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