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Active and passive voice

Level: beginner

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.

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.

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.

Active and passive voice 1


Active and passive voice 2


Active and passive voice 3


Level: intermediate

The passive infinitive is made up of to be with a past participle:

The doors are going to be locked at ten o'clock.
You shouldn't have done that. You ought to be punished.

We sometimes use the verb get with a past participle to form the passive:

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

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.
Active and passive voice 4


Active and passive voice 5


Level: advanced

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

be supposed to be expected to be asked to be told to
be scheduled to be allowed to be invited to be ordered 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.

Active and passive voice 6


Active and passive voice 7



Hi teacher Peter,
I am confused. Some adjectives end with"-ed".
And many past participle forms end with "-ed".However, This situation confuses me. For example, this sentence
"I am excited".The word(excited) is
-adj- or past participle of passive ?

Hi Nuro,

This is an ambiguous case. The word 'excited' could be an adjective:

I am excited/happy/sad etc.

She is an excited/happy/sad person.


On the other hand, you could see it as a past participle in a passive construction:

I am excited by the plan.


It doesn't make any difference to the sentence, really; it's simply a question of terminology.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Which sentence is correct or both are? Why?
1- Many machines are made to run by electricity.
2- Many machines are made to be run by electricity.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I don't think either of those sound particulary natural, to be honest. Although I don't know the context or exactly what you intend to say, I would guess that you are looking for something like this:

Many machines are designed to run on electricity


Many machines are electrically powered



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. I'm really confused about the following sentence:
- I've got some of the cleverest students (to prepare - preparing - prepared) for the competition. They don't need preparation anymore.
I think the three forms are OK, right?
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Iman,

All three forms are possible grammatically, but they have different meanings and only one fits the context.

I've got some of the cleverest students to prepare for the competition - this means that the preparation is a future activity or obligation

I've got some of the cleverest students preparing for the competition - this means that they are currently preparing; their preparation is in progress

I've got some of the cleverest students prepared - this means that the preparation has been done and they are now ready

As your example has a context in which 'they don't need preparation anymore' I think it is clear that the third option is the correct choice.



The LearnEnglish Team

I was expected to be a human....

Hello. What is the difference between the two sentences in the two pairs?
1.a) He is having a mechanic repair the car now.
1.b) He has a mechanic repairing the car now.
2.a) He was having a mechanic repair the car yesterday.
2.b)He had a mechanic repairing the car yesterday.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

When have is used in a causitive structure it is possible to use it with continuous aspect, so all of these sentences are grammatically correct.

With the adverb 'now', there is no difference between sentences 1a and 1b. Both describe a process which is in progress; the simple and continuous forms do not change this.


The second pair of sentences have some differences, though we really need a context to be sure of the meaning. Sentence 2a describes the person's intention, but does not make it clear whether or not the repair was done. Sentence 2b tells us that the repair began, but may or may not have been completed.



The LearnEnglish Team

Would you mind explaining me these examples?
I had to turn sentence using personal and impersonal construction:
1. They thought he had been brave to do so.
1a. He was thought to have been brave to do so.
1b. It was thought that he had been brave to do so.

2.They believe he was working illegally.
2a. He is believed to have been working illegally.
2b. It is believed that he was working illegally.

I do not understand why (in 1a.) the tense is changed from past perfect to present perfect and why (in 2a) the tense is changed from past continuous to present perfect continuous.

It is written that personal construction is: subject+passive verb+ to-inf, so for this reason i thought that for example in 1a. should be 'he was thought to be brave to do so'

Thank you for your answer :)