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



I'm not really sure the difference between "Would you like to be seated?" and "Would you like to take a seat?" What's the point to use passive voice in this case? Can anyone explain??
( ⸝⸝•ᴗ•⸝⸝ )੭⁾⁾

Hello Rafaela1,
The sentences contain different verbs, not only an active/passive difference.
We generally use 'be seated' when we are given places according to a plan, such as at a wedding:
'The guests were seated with the family members on the left and friends on the right.'
The phrase 'take a seat' simply means to sit down and is a polite way to say that someone does not have to stand. We might use this, for example, when someone visits our office.
Most often we would simply say 'Would you like to sit down?'

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your helpful explanation, Peter!
Yes, I understood! Actually, I heard a waitress in a drama saying "Would you like to be seated?" for a reserved seat which was given places as you say.
My question was solved!

Good Morning.I would like if there is difference among these phrases : 1) we are lost but we will have us told the way to get there 2) we are lost but we Will make us told the way to get there .3) we are lost but we Will have been told the way to get there. I Wish you all the best.

Hello rosario70,
I'm afraid none of those sentences appear to make sense. The verb forms are confused but apart from that the phrase 'we tell us' (in various forms) suggests someone is giving themselves information, which is an odd concept.
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
This sentence is from a print out of BBC learning English / BBC world service
'He was being treated for depression when he won the lottery.'
I think this a typing error ; 'lost' is the right word but not 'won' I am I correct?
I am I right? Please let me know.
Thank you.
Best regards

Hi Lal
In the end, it of course depends on what they meant to say or whatever was true for that situation. Both 'won' and 'lost' are grammatically correct here, though we don't usually talk about 'losing' the lottery, as most people, however much they may hope to, don't really expect to win it.
I'm not very familiar with the research on this, but several times I've read that people who win large amounts of money actually end up more depressed than they were before they had all the money. In any case, this sentence is about his state at the time he won.
All the best
The LearnEnglish Team

Please help me clarify

Which one is correct?

Johnny is being interrupted because he has perpetrated heinous crime.


Johnny is being interrogated because a heinous crime has been perpetrated by him.

Hello Akash Rathore,
The verb in the first sentence should be 'interrogated' rather than 'interrupted', and both sentences should have 'a' before heinous.
The choice between active and passive is really on of style as both are grammatically correct. In my view, the active version is much more likely and has a better style in most contexts.

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Peter