active and passive voice


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. 




Hello!Sir Kirk or Peter……
Are there passive voice constructions for present perfect continuous tense,past perfect continuous tense?If there are,can u explain me with examples?

Hello miranda,

It's certainly possible to generate a passive construction in a perfect continuous tense (e.g. 'The room has (or: had) been being painted', but these sound awkward enough that people would generally avoid using them. Most of the time, most people would probably prefer an active sentence; if the subject is unknown, then you could use indeterminate 'they' as a subject, e.g. 'They've been painting'.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter,
I really DO NOT want to investigate something special in English or a specific way to cram pieces of grammar in my sentences,it was just a question needed a reliable answer.If it bothers you,I am sorry.BUT I thought teachers should be more kind as well as patient with foreign student who don't know what is what in English,and also, the tone of saying words ,sometimes, might devastate all the inspiration someone has to learn.

Best wishes

Hello misam,

We often get questions that ask for answers that are quite unnatural, or even not correct, and I think this is what Peter was referring to. In addition, most current language methodology, which we are all trained in, places an emphasis on learning how to use a language rather than perform syntactic transformations of the sort your question seemed to require. We recognise that there are many different methods and everyone learns differently, but our purpose here at LearnEnglish is to help users make use of the site, which is set up to help you to learn how to use the site to improve your ability to use English. For this reason, this sort of question isn't really the kind of question we answer regularly. We're happy to help with that sort of question from time to time, but not regularly, especially from the same user.

We certainly apologise if your feelings were hurt – it was not at all our intention. 

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

would you please change the following sentence into passive one.Since the time is not mentioned in the sentence, present perfect must be used and ''could" can not be used.
this is the sentence:
scientists have been able to found some ways to treat cancer.

thanks in advance
best wishes

Hi misam,

What do you think? Change the subject ('some ways to treat cancer') into the subject and transform the verb as explained above. Here it would probably be best to ignore the verb 'to be able to' and just use the main verb 'find'. We'll be happy to correct any mistakes in your version.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk,
thanks for your warm and friendly response.
yes i definitely meant what you you mean we can not change "be able to" into passive voice at all?
for example,in the sentence"one day scientists might be able to find a way to treat cancer."
i show the ability and possibility of an action in future by using 'might' along with 'be able to', but by what you said, i think you mean that this sentence does NOT have passive voice
like"a way to treat cancer might be able to be found one day".
my question is,if the passive sentence mentioned is not correct,is there any way to show 'ability' and 'possibility' in passive voice without using adverbs.i am aware that this sentence can be said like this,
"probably,a way to treat cancer could be found one day."

your sincerely

Hello misam,

As Kirk said, it is not possible to use 'be able to' in a passive form. This is because 'be able to' does not have an object. Grammatically, 'able' is an adjective and the costruction is [be + adjective + to infinitive]. The verb which follows (i.e. the infinitive form) may be transitive and have an object. If so, we can make this verb passive by using a passive infinitive ('to be done') but I cannot think of a single example which would sound natural in English.

To show ability and possibility with passive voice we would usually use 'could', as you suggest. I don't really understand why you're investigating in this way, however. Language is a tool for communication. If there is something you wish to say, then say it. Searching for 'a way to say x using passive voice' does not really tally with the way language works. A better question to ask is 'How to I effectively express x?' If passive voice is appropriate then use passive voice; if not, then do not. I'm not sure why you would impose passive voice as a requirement and then search for a way to do it - that will tend to lead to unnatural language even if it is not incorrect.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Sir Kirk!

''The workers will have dug a new well by the end of this month.''

How should I change this sentence to passive?

Hello mirandafrost1009,

You need to take the direct object of the sentence ('a new well') and make it the subject of the verb in the same time but in a passive form (by adding the verb 'be') in the new sentence. The verb 'will have dug' above comes from the verb 'dig' and is used in the future perfect. Then, if you want to include the subject of the original sentence ('the workers'), you can include it in the passive sentence after the word 'by'. The adverbial phrase 'by the end of this month' should remain unchanged in your new sentence.

There I've described all the basic steps you need to follow to make the passive sentence. Now why don't you try it – post your answer here and we'll confirm or correct it.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team