Active and passive voice

Learn how to form the passive voice and do the exercises to practise using it.

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:

Subject be Past participle Adverbial
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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


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Submitted by Andrew international on Tue, 09/01/2018 - 06:42

Dear Sir Please let me know the following senttence is pasive or not because it doesn't have an agent so it can't be passive but it has the passive structure. eg. Those countries are developed. Thank you.
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Tue, 09/01/2018 - 17:52

In reply to by Andrew international


Hello Andrew international,

Passive construction do not have to have an agent; in fact, many times the point of a passive construction is to not discuss the agent or to draw attention away from them. Therefore I'm afraid I can't say whether it is a passive construction or the verb 'be' + an adjective (an adjective that is formed from the past participle of the verb 'develop') without seeing the context. If you can supply the context then we can help you see how this works.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


Submitted by aseel aftab on Wed, 03/01/2018 - 23:28

What time would it be convenient to come round? Do dwe consider this sentence in future or future in the past. Can we use would for future tense als?

Hello aseel aftab,

We use 'would' here as a polite form. 'Will' is also possible, but is rather less formal/polite:

What time will it be convenient to come round?

What time would it be convenient to come round?


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by naaka on Sun, 23/08/2015 - 14:08

Hello there, 'Fast and Furious is (showing or showed) in every theater. Should it be showing or showed? Thank you.

Hello naaka,

In most contexts it would be 'showing'. It is something of an idiomatic use which we do not see in other contexts, so a play is 'being performed' and an art exhibition is 'being shown', but a film is 'showing'.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team