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  
English is spoken all over the world
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. 




suppose my friend said something at that time to me. After 2-3 days i said his wording to 3rd person.
eg. "i will arrange the passes for you for the pub".(Actually he didn't)
how would i say it to 3rd person
he told me that he will arrange the passes for the pub or he would arrange.
my doubt is i would say that thing in past or present to the 3rd person.
plz respond ASAP.

Hello tagrapankaj,

'he would arrange' would the correct form here, as you are referring to a speech event in the past which referred to a time after that past time.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

I want to know if these sentences are correct.

1) The cake is covered with cream.
2) She is dressed in a chef uniform.

Do they sound right?

Hello greyish,

Yes, those sound right to me. Good work!

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

I cannot quite get a perfect answer to this question. Please look at the words in parentheses in the sentence below. Can you explain the grammar of these 4 words (in parenthesis). Here's the sentence and thank you in advance:

Email is a prime example; in the past a letter 'had to be sent' using the postal system and to send a letter and receive a response back could take two weeks or a month.

'had to be sent' is perfect past aspect in passive voice. Aspect is an interesting thing because it marks the time of an event's completion relative to the time of utterance. One easy way to clarify/test if a sentence is passive voice is find a hidden "by." In that sentence you can say, "In the past a letter had to be sent by me..." You may find it interesting to look up transitive and intransitive verbs, also.

Hello jwfltd56d,

I think you mean apostrophes rather than parentheses! Our main role here at LearnEnglish is to help users with our material and, while we're happy to try to help users with other questions about English when we have time, we don't provide a service for answering questions from elsewhere (other sites, homework, tests etc.) - if we tried to do so then we would not have time for anything else.

I can tell you that the construction is 'have to' (obligation) plus a passive infinitive form. You can use the grammar section to look up these forms and learn about them.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi LearnEnglish Team,

Could you help me understand why the passive form is preferred in the following sentence?

'We are often faced with different and competing explanations for things that happen to us and around us.'

I think the passive form doesn't sound natural in that sentence. May I know is there any difference if we do not use the passive form 'we are often faced with', instead we use 'we often face'?

Thank you.

Rhetorically you are hiding the agent of the verb, which is something unknown or hidden anyway, something like "by life" or "by the gods" and so forth.

Hello Danielle,

There is no real difference in meaning between 'we face' or 'we are faced with'. I, too, prefer your formulation, but the other one is also correct, and, I suspect, more common.  You might find it useful to search for the two forms in a concordancer to see how they have been used in different sources, but if you prefer one form over the other, I'd just go ahead and use the one you prefer.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team