You are here

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



Hello there,

Hope all is well.

I found a few questions in a book where they ask to change a sentence from Passive Voice to Active Voice. They are confusing me a bit as they look like they are already in active form.

1. The maid is sweeping the broken glass pieces.
2. The police have solved most of the crimes this year.
3. Only a few of us attended the spiritual talk.
4. The gardener sweeps and mops the hall once a week.

Appreciate the help :-)

Hello again AllyEnglish,

Yes, you are right -- those sentences are all written in the active voice already. Perhaps they got the instructions backwards.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you. They had me really confused :-)


I'm stuck on something basic on passive and active. For present simple the active voice says 'I call' and the passive says 'I am called'. If I use the example I call her (active) and the passive I am called by her, the meaning changes. Can you explain how 'I a called' is the passive for 'I call'? thank you

If you maintain the subject and just change its active or passive form the meaning definitely changes "I call" "I am called".

We need to recombine the grammar subject.

Active voice (AV), Passive voice (PV)

AV: "I call"
correct PV: "Someone is called by me"


I call her. (AV)
She is called by me. (PV)

PV: "I am called"
AV: "Someone calls me"

Hello sarahmh,

I'm afraid I'm not completely certain I understand your question, but I'll try to explain this.

When we change an active verb form into the passive without changing any other feature of the verb (person, number, tense, etc.), there is a change in meaning. Roughly speaking, the subject of the active verb becomes the object of the passive verb. 

In terms of the form, where a passive form always has a form of the verb 'be' in the appropriate tense (in your example, 'am') and a past participle form of the verb that carries the meaning (in your example, 'called'). This is just how passive verbs are formed in English (and many other Indo-European languages).

Does that help you?

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, thank you for your response. I have a book where you fill in a chart and the active part say 'I call, she calls, it calls' etc and for the passive it has 'I am called, she is called' etc. I understand the 'I am called is passive' it just confuses me that I call (active) becomes I am called (passive) if you use them as an interchangeable example of how active becomes passive. Separately it shows an active voice and a passive voice but I don't see how for example 'I call him' becomes 'I am called by him' as the meaning changes. Maybe the chart just shows examples which are separate and not a passive voice for a particular sentence.

Hello again sarahmh,

I can see why you find that confusing and I agree that it could probably be represented in a clearer way, though it sounds to me as if the chart is representing the verb forms and not the meaning of the sentences.

It sounds to me as if you understand this grammar well, but if you have any other questions please feel free to ask us.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

1-architects design earthquake resistant buildings in San Francisco
passive voice : the earthquake resistant building was designed by architects .

2-you must show your international driving license when you hire a car overseas.
passive voice : the international driving license are showed when you hire a car overseas .

am i right ?

Hello ra,

Those are almost correct. There are slightly different possible answers, but what I'd write is:

1. Earthquake-resistant buildings in San Francisco were designed by architects.

2. An international driving license must be shown when a car is hired overseas.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team