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. 




Could you please tell me whether those 2 sentences are both correct? if both are correct, what are the differences in meaning between the two?
1. Johh had been asked to make a speech at the meeting.
2. John was asked to make a speech at the meeting.

Hello SooTW,

Yes, both sentences are correct. The difference is a question of verb form: sentence 1 is an example of the past perfect passive, which sentence 2 is an example of the past simple. The difference, and which would be appropriate, is dependent on the context in which they are used. To see which contexts each would be used in see the appropriate pages in our verbs section. After you've read those we'll be happy to answer any specific questions you have.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

hi Peter. Thanks for your prompt reply.
I had read the verbs section you referred above (not sure if I should use "have" and "had" here. Please correct me if I make grammatical mistakes in my question.)
But I am still quite not sure if I get the correct idea. Please correct me if I am wrong.
IF the context is something like "John was very good at speaking" then connect the sentence with "so he had been asked to make a speech at the meeting". However, if it is "John is very good at speaking", then proceed with "so he was asked to make a speech at the meeting". Am I on the right track?
Please help me. Thanks


Hi SooTW,

These are actions are not located in different times. Being very good at speaking is something which is always true as it is a characteristic, not an action. Therefore it does not happen before or after another event; it is just a permanent state. We would use the past simple for this:

John was very good at speaking so he was asked to make a speech at the meeting.

If we make it an action then we can use different forms. For example:

John had given a very good talk last week so he was asked to make a speech at the meeting.

[past perfect > past simple; the past perfect is earlier than the past simple and influences it]

John gave a very good talk last week so he has been asked to make a speech at the meeting.

[past simple > present perfect; the past simple is earlier than the present perfect and influences it]

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

can you please change this sentence in to passive voice
Tell him not to walk in the sun
Play with good girls

Please also explain how you changed the sentence

Hello Prettytarteel,

This looks like it could be homework – it'd be better for you to do it! But I'll give you a few hints.

Only transitive verbs can be used in the passive voice. In your first sentence, 'tell' is transitive but 'walk' is not. In any case, both sentences are essentially imperative forms (i.e. commands). Commands are neither active nor passive, so changing them to the passive is problematic.

I hope this helps you.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello experts,
Is it mandatory to use the preposition [ to,by or from] with verbs when they are used passively? For example : The data for the study are abstracted from hospital records.
The bail out package was offered to Greece by the donor countries.
She is married to a wealthy industrialist. Do there any exception to this rule?

Hello Syam Kumar,

The prepositions here are more to do with the verb than the active or passive voice. For example, we can make the sentences active voice and still have the prepositions:

We abstracted the data for the study from our hospital records.

The donor countries offered the bailout package to Greece.

The last example is not really a passive form, but an adjective. You can use 'marry' as a verb but it is an action - getting married - not the state of being married.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

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?