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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



When to use Passive Voice?

Hello Sir
Thank you very much for giving me clear answer to my last question under active voice and passive voice. The sentence given below I have copied from a website. ' What is grown in these fields? The verb 'grown' is transitive or intransitive. I would like to know whether the above question is passive or not?. For example if I write: 1)'What is grown in these fields by farmers? Is it right to say:2) 'What do farmers grow in these fields?
What I would like to know from you? Is the question one passive and the question two is the active voice of it?
Please let me know.
Thank you.

Hi Lal,

Many English verbs can be used both transitively and intransitively, and 'grow' is one of them -- this is what [I] or [T] or [I or T] means after each dictionary entry (follow the link to see what I mean). 

Yes, in 1, 'grow' is transitive -- any verb in the passive must be transitive, as intransitive verbs aren't used in the passive voice. And yes, 2 is the closest version of 1 in the active voice.

Good work!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

"What class does he read in?" - What is the passive voice of the active voice? Is it possible to transfer it into passive? Explain, please.

Hello Ataur Rahman,

Passive voice is only possible when we have a transitive verb, meaning a verb which has a direct object. Your sentence does not contain such a verb and so no passive is possible.

A more natural way to say this, I think, would be to use 'study' instead of 'read', or to simply say 'What class is he in?' Neither of these sentences have passive forms either.



The LearnEnglish Team

Can this sentence be changed into passive:

Flowers have grown all over the field.

Hello Mansoor Banglani,

'Grow' here is an intransitive verb (it has no object) and so no passive voice is possible.



The LearnEnglish Team

I wanted to know If we can turn the following sentences into the passive :

(i) I wanted to do that a week ago.
(ii) What will he think, if we are late again?

It is taught that intransitive verbs have no passive counterparts.In the dictionary entries for 'want' and 'think' both are described as being transitive and intransitive. I, therefore, cannot decide whether 'want to' (in sentence 1) and 'think' (in the main clause of sentence 2) can be used in the passive or not.
Please, help me out.
Thank you in advance!

Hi Prap,

Neither 'want' nor 'think' are intransitive verbs because they can both take an object ('I want some tea', 'I think thoughts'). That said, it is a bit unusual to use them passively. You can say 'This child is wanted' or 'It is thought that', but these are not used in a general context as an alternative to the active voice.

You could make the second clause of (i) passive and get a natural-sounding sentence: 'I wanted that to be done a week ago'. A passive version of (ii) ('What will be thought if we are late again?'), however, is very strange indeed, precisely because this kind of question is focusing on the person who does the thinking, and that person is de-emphasised in the passive voice.

I hope this helps.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team