Transitive verbs have both active and passive forms:

active   passive
The hunter killed the lion. >> The lion was killed by the hunter.
Someone has cleaned the windows >> The windows have been cleaned

The passive forms are made up of the verb be with a past participle:

  be past participle  
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The windows have been cleaned  
Lunch was being served  
The work will be finished soon
They might have been invited to the party

We sometimes use the verb get to form the passive:

Be careful with the glass. It might get broken.
Peter got hurt in a crash.

If we want to show the person or thing doing the action we use by:

She was attacked by a dangerous dog.
The money was stolen by her husband.

We can use the indirect object as the subject of a passive verb:


active   passive
I gave him a book for his birthday >> He was given a book for his birthday.
Someone sent her a cheque for a thousand euros >> She was sent a cheque for a thousand euros.

We can use phrasal verbs in the passive:


active   passive
They called off the meeting. >> The meeting was called off.
His grandmother looked after him. >> He was looked after by his grandmother.
They will send him away to school. >> He will be sent away to school.

Some verbs very frequently used in the passive are followed by the to-infinitive:


be supposed to be expected to be asked to
be scheduled to be allowed to be told to

John has been asked to make a speech at the meeting.
You are supposed to wear a uniform.
The meeting is scheduled to start at seven. 





I have a question, which I suspect is related to passive voice, but is about a past participle relative clause. Taken from a Guardian article:
"The Scream will join a select group of works that have sold for more than $100m, including Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust, which sold in 2010 for $106.5m."
Specifically, my question is about why it is acceptable to say "which sold" instead of "which was sold"?
I can think of some other examples which work, but not all verbs seem to fit this paradigm. Maybe, "the movie, which played in theaters" as opposed to "the movie, which was played in theaters" or "the program, which aired last night" (which was aired last night).
But, for instance, if we said "the man, who was nominated chairman,..." we couldn't say "the man, who nominated chairman, " with the same meaning.
Maybe this is a question about verbs? Why can something simply "sold".

Hello Jim,

The issue here is that 'sell', 'play' and 'air' are all ergative verbs, which are verbs that are both transitive and intransitive and 'whose subject when intransitive corresponds to its direct object when transitive' (see the wikipedia entry for more details). In the sentence that you found in the The Guardian, 'sold' is used intransitively, and the same is true for 'played' and 'aired' in the examples you extrapolate from that. 'nominate', unlike those other verbs, can only be used transitively, which is why you must say 'was nominated' and cannot say just 'nominated'.

So your suspicion that this is related to the passive voice is close to being correct, because only transitive verbs can be used in the passive voice. Good work!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much!

Kindly help me to change this question People say the bridge is unsafe.(change into passive)
Baraka E.
New learner

Hello kumwanya,

We generally don't do transformation exercises like this as we try to avoid doing people's homework or tests for them! I will tell you how to begin the passive sentence and you can reply with your answer, which I will comment on:

It is...


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

intransitive verbs do not have passive form and go is an intransitive why is go passive here?
i was only gone for five minute

Hello chris,

'is gone' looks like a passive form here, but is actually the verb 'be' + an adjective – many past participles such as 'gone' can also be used as adjectives. So 'I was gone' is another way of saying 'I wasn't there' or 'I was away'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

very useful

hello may you please help me put the next sentence into second conditional "She will kill me if she finds out"

Hello Lamastry,

I'm afraid we don't answer questions like this which seem to us to be from tests or homework. If we tried to do so then we'd have no time for anything else! However, if you transform the sentence yourself we'll tell you if it is OK or not.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team