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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



I want to know what is difference between active and passive voice

Hello Mohammad Ghm,

We can think of a sentence in which we have three elements:

  1. the person or thing doing the action (the subjet)
  2. the action (the verb)
  3. the person or thing who is acted upon (the object)

For example:

The dog bit the boy.

Here, our elements are

  1. the dog
  2. bit
  3. the boy

This is active voice.


We can change the sentence so that we start with the boy - the person or thing acted upon:

The boy was bitten (by the dog).

Now we have passive voice. The object of the original sentence (the dog) is used as the subject of the verb, using [be + past participle (was bitten)]. We can include the person or thing doing the action or we can omit it if we prefer.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your examples.
Now I know the difference

Mohammad Ghm

I want to know whether the following is acceptable in voice
For grandfather John painted a fence.

Hello Poonam80,

I think the word order needs to be changed:

John painted a fence for his/my/your grandfather.



The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sir,
I have a doubt when I create this active sentence.
John fed his dog.
Which sentence is correct?

His dog was fed by John
The dog was fed by John.

Hello chandana jayamaha,

Both options are possible grammatically, but both are inherently ambiguous without any further context. The second sentence is probably better as the first implies that there is a 'he' who is not John and is the owner of the dog.



The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sir,
In passive voice, we will use BY + AGENT (the 'doer') if we want to emphasize the doer, and we can omit it if the doer of the verb is not important or not known or if we do not want to say who the doer is. Somebody said to me that "by them" is not allowed to use in passive voice. I am really confused. Could you please explain to me whether using "by them" is correct or incorrect?
Thank you so much and have a good day sir!

Hello 12nguyenhien

Your summary of agents in the passive is good. Perhaps there are some specific situations where it would not be correct, but in general, 'by them' works as an agent in a passive construction.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello dear team,
Is the following sentence true: (Teachers, like all other employees, would like to be given the opportunity and space to work and recognition in matters and administration)
Thanks a lot