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



Hello, I would like to ask if I can say 'I am said to be/to have been good at smth', meaning 'They say I am/have been good at it?
All the best, Oleg

Hello Oleg,

Grammatically the sentence is fine. However, the construction 'said to be' is rarely used about oneself. 'People say that I...' is more common, I would say.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, Peter.

Could you please help me?
Scientists had ten students (move - moving) into a house with a garden.
Are both of them correct? If so, Is there a difference in meaning?
Thank you.

Hi Ahmed Imam,

Both are indeed possibly correct, though the second one is quite unusual. The first one is a causative structure -- follow the link to see more examples of this. The second could possibly be used to describe, for example, a stage in some kind of social science experiment, but again, this would be quite unusual and perhaps best expressed another way.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Is it also possible to use the form "moved" or it is 100% wrong?
Scientists had ten students (moved) into a house with a garden.
Thank you.

Hi again Ahmed Imam

Yes, that is also possible, though it has a slightly different meaning. It's not completely specific in this way, but 'Scientists had ten students move into a house' suggests that students agreed to move into the house. 'Scientists had ten students moved into a house', on the other hand, suggests that the students may not have had a choice in the matter -- they sound more like objects at the disposition of the scientists than people with choices.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Dear LearnEnglish Team,
I am confused with where to put the "by xxx" in the following sentences.

1. The circus boss pays money to the driver.
A: Money is paid by the circus boss to the driver.
B: Money is paid to the driver by the circus boss.

2. Helen's mum invites us to Helen's birthday party every year.
A: We are invited to Helen's birthday party by Helen's mum every year.
B. We are invited by Helen's mum to Helen's birthday party every year.

What are the rules to follow in deciding its position?

Many thanks,

Hello Siuyang,

The most common position for the by-phrase is at the end of the sentence, so the most natural options would be as follows:

Money is paid to the driver by the circus boss.

We are invited to Helen's birthday party every year by Helen's mum.


Sometimes putting the by-phrase at the end separates it too far from the verb, and then we prefer to move it earlier. Thus the second sentence might also be:

We are invited to Helen's birthday party by Helen's mum every year.


It is possible to put the by-phrase in other positions, as in your examples, when we want to emphasise it for some reason. For example, if it were surprising or important for some reason that it is Helen's mum who invites us then we might say:

We are invited by Helen's mum to Helen's birthday party every year.


I hope that helps to clarify it for you.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Peter.

Thanks very much for your very clear explanation.