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. 




Hi Alexander,

Perhaps I've misunderstood you, but it seems the issue here isn't the passive vs the active voice, but rather the past simple vs the present perfect. What was the context for this sentence? If, for example, it's a news report, then the present perfect would be the most logical choice here. On the other hand, if the criminal case that led to this arrest and which was already closed some time ago were the context for this sentence, then the past simple would be the correct choice. Perhaps your gut was speaking to you with such a context in mind.

Please feel free to write back if you would like any more clarification on this. Also, since you seem to be a teacher, I wanted to mention that our sister site, Teaching English, might also be a useful resource for you. There's a search box where you could, for example, look up materials on the present perfect.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,
thank you for your reply!
The problem I face with these exercises is that they are without context. Thus I took the decision to teach the passive as I would the tenses themselves (or specifically the past simple vs present perfect (which for the Dutch always forms a problem for we do not recognise a difference in meaning between the two tenses (although we do in form)).
That might have been a wrong decision though, I am not quite sure of that (although it is one that works 99% of the time).
The exercise is to choose the correct passive tense i.e. present simple passive, past simple passive, present perfect passive, past perfect passive and future passive. 
Perhaps I am saying: what is a way to distinguish between the different passive forms when context is not present or clear?
Thank you for your tip of the sister site as well. I will check it out soon!

Hi Alexander,

The distinction between the present perfect and past simple is a difficult one partly because, as you say, many languages use the same form for both, or, even when they have two similar forms, they are often used differently. There is even some variation among native speakers of English! So it's a line that is drawn in the sand in many different ways and therefore is a skill that takes a lot of practice.

That said, choosing the correct verb tense for passive verbs is no different from choosing the correct tense for active verbs, so I'd recommend you follow the same procedure that you do when teaching those. There are several pages on LearnEnglish that might be useful to you in this regard: talking about the present, talking about the past, talking about the future and some episodes in Word on the Street such as Transport and Travel 2 Language Focus. But in many cases, the context is a deciding factor in choosing between the present perfect and past simple, and it's just not possible to say which is correct or incorrect without it. The sentence you first asked about is one such case: without context, really both tenses are possible.

As a teacher, when I come across such situations, I explain to my students that both forms are possible and try to give an example of when each form would be used, as I did in my previous response to you. Aside from just skipping over such contextless sentences, that's the only thing you can do as far as I know.

I expect this isn't really the answer you were hoping for, but I do hope it helps.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Omg. I've never understood "the passive". It makes me crazy :(. In fact i failed my test for this one!

Hello everyone!
'I was trained yesterday by Jame'    Now someone ask from me,
Who trained you?
when trained you?
Are these two questions grammatically correct? I mean don't we need put was/were for this?
Thank you for your help.

Hello bimsara,

'Who trained you?' is fine.  This is an example of a subject question, where the question word simply replaces the subject (even though your sentence is a passive form).

To make a question with 'when' we need a normal question form, with an auxiliary verb:

'When were you trained?' or 'When did Jame train you?' or 'When did you train?'

To find out more about different question forms, look here.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

My one sir said that the model verbs can be used with present perect tence,present perfect continuous,simple past,past perfect,past perfect continuous but not with future tenses.Is he correct??if he is correct and I am correct then,My confusions are as follows.
A. He must have been upset yesterday, when he heard that news. ( Made with simple past tense)
B. He is not hungry. He must have just had a lunch .( Made with present perfect tense

My biggest confusion is about time expression. Both sentences have the same structures. They look the same. The first sentence is made with simple past whereas, the second sentence is made with present perfect tense. So, my question is that we can't use the word 'yesterday' with the second sentence because the second sentence is made of present perfect.Am I right? ?nd no please

Hi chhiring,

In A, the first verb (must have been) refers to something we are sure about in the the past, and is explained on our certain, probable or possible page; the second verb (heard) is simple past. In B, the first verb (is) is simple present and the second verb (must have had) is like the first one in A.

The word yesterday doesn't make sense in B, because must have just had is referring to not just today, but only a few hours in the past. Expressions that refer to a finished past time are not normally used with the present perfect.

I hope this helps you.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Are these sentences correct and the process ?

A. You must have been upset yesterday , when you heard that bad news.(made with simple past tense )
B. You must have finished your homework ,that's why
he is playing games.(made with present perfect tense)
C. He must have gone to library because when I reached there, he wasn't there.

D. You must have finished it 12pm tomorrow. Otherwise, you will be punished (made with future perfect tense)

E. You should have been working there for 3 years next year.(made with futeure perfect continuous)

Are these sentences and the process to use and make sentences with model perfect and model perfect continuous? ?
If these are correct can we do this with other model verbs like may,might,could,would,should??
If these are incorrect, could you please tell me how to use and make perfect models and perfect model continuous?
thank you.

Hi chhiring,

I've just responded to two other comments you made on the same topic. If you still have questions about these sentences after studying the pages that I recommended and analysing my answers, please feel free to ask them again - but please do so on one of the pages I mentioned rather than this one.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team