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

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Active and passive voice 2

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Active and passive voice 3

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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

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Active and passive voice 5

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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

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Active and passive voice 7

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Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 08/02/2018 - 07:30

In reply to by Arvin2017

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Hello Arvin,

No, there is no difference in meaning, though the second one would sound inappropriate in formal situations. But there is no difference in meaning.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew international on Thu, 18/01/2018 - 08:13

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Dear Sir I am asking this question to make sure when we use 'by' to show the doer in passive sentences. Eg. The tree was cut by me. The letter was written by the manager But 'the tree was cut with an axe. The letter was written with a pen. In both these sentences 'with is used instead of 'by'. but in this, for eg. The buildings were destroyed by a violent wind. Now what I would like to know is " Why we use 'by' to show the doer in some and 'with' to show to name the doer. I thought 'by' is for persons and a 'with' is for a thing for eg an axe. a pen. Now I know; I am wrong. Is there any rule? Please let me know. Thank you.

Submitted by xsman on Tue, 16/01/2018 - 14:46

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Hello, My question is regarding the passive form of a sentence that is called "to" passive. For example Some locals say that Ali makes delicious food. Ali is said to make delicious food. . . In the same manner what would be the passive form of this sentence underneath? A large number of people will believe that x-league is a corrupt political party.

Submitted by Andrew international on Tue, 16/01/2018 - 06:54

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Dear Sir Thank you very much for explaning well my last question about the 'reduced relative clause.' Now it is very clear. I am sorry that didn't write the full sentence. Now I have aother question. Please explain this since I am not sure what the reason is exactly. 1.The letter was written by me. 2. The letter was written with a pen. 3. The tree was cut by me. 4.The tree was cut with an axe. 5. The building was destroyed by a cyclone. I was told the No. 1 is person so 'by me' No. 2 is agent (pen so 'with') I understood that but for No. 5 'by cyclone' but cyclone is not a person therefore what I was told is wrong. Again I thought the cyclone itself did it without anyone's help or using it like the 'pen' and 'the axe.' Is that the reason? I am I correct or wrong. Thank you.
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 17/01/2018 - 07:41

In reply to by Andrew international

Permalink

Hello Andrew international,

We use a prepositional phrase with 'by' to indicate the agent of a passive verb action, and a prepositional phrase with 'with' to show the tool or method used to perform the act. The agent does not have to be a person:

He was killed by the disease.

I was hit by the car.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir Thank you for explaning 'by' and 'with' in passive sentences to name the agent. It is very clear now. I am sorry I asked the same question again today (a few minutes ago). Thank you

Submitted by Andrew international on Mon, 15/01/2018 - 03:17

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Dear Sir I would like to know in this sentence the word 'used' which is past participle of use doesn't have a helping verb. Is it undestood the helping verb for eg 'are' but need not write it. I am I correct? The sentence is: Some verbs very frequently 'used' in the pasive ... This is given in the above website. Please let me know Thank you.
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 15/01/2018 - 08:14

In reply to by Andrew international

Permalink

Hello Andrew international,

You need to quote the whole sentence here, not just a part of it:

Some verbs very frequently used in the passive are followed by the to-infinitive

 

The subject here is some verbs very frequently used in the passive. The verb is the passive form are followed and there is a prepositional phrase with by to show the agent (the doer of the action).

You can think of it as having a reduced relative clause:

Some verbs (which are) very frequently used in the passive are followed by the to-infinitive 

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew international on Sat, 13/01/2018 - 11:48

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Dear Sir This is not about active - passive. but I request you to explain this. 1. I look forward to hearing from you soon. 2. I am looking forward to hearing from you soon I think both are correct. I have come across these in formal letters mostly. But why two different tenses? Can I use either? Is first one is better than the second? Please let me know. Thank you. Regards
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 13/01/2018 - 20:39

In reply to by Andrew international

Permalink

Hello Andrew international,

Yes, both are correct. The context can make a difference sometimes, but in most cases there is probably no real difference in meaning. The continuous form (in sentence 2) could make the desire seem a bit stronger, but probably in most cases there is no difference.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew international on Thu, 11/01/2018 - 08:42

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Dear Sir Tpoic: avtive or pasive There are many countries in the world which are devoloped and some are developing. Please tell me ' are developed' is passive or not. Thank you.
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Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 11/01/2018 - 11:36

In reply to by Andrew international

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Hello Andrew international,

In this case, 'are' is a verb and 'developed' is an adjective formed from the past participle -- this is not a passive construction. Here 'developed' means something that has already been developed whereas 'developing' means it is still in the process of being developed.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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 on Tue, 09/01/2018 - 17:52

In reply to by Andrew international

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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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

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

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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,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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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,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team