Passives

Do you know how to use the passive voice to change the focus of a sentence? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how the passive voice is used.

A lot of olive oil is produced in Italy.
This book was written by Angela Davis.
The suspect will be released tomorrow.
This product has not been tested on animals.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Grammar B1-B2: Passives: 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

We use the passive voice to change the focus of the sentence.

My bike was stolen. (passive – focus on my bike)
Someone stole my bike. (active – focus on someone)

We often use the passive:

  • when we prefer not to mention who or what does the action (for example, it's not known, it's obvious or we don't want to say)
  • so that we can start a sentence with the most important or most logical information
  • in more formal or scientific writing.

How we make the passive

We make the passive using the verb be + past participle. We start the sentence with the object.

Avatar was directed by James Cameron.
Object + be + past participle

It is not always necessary to add who or what did the action.

My flight is cancelled.
Object + be + past participle

Only the form of be changes to make the tense. The past participle stays the same. Here are examples of the passive in its most common tenses.

Tense Example Structure
Present simple Alioli is made from oil, garlic and salt. is/are + past participle
Present continuous The hall is being painted this week. is/are being + past participle
Past simple John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. was/were + past participle
Past continuous The signs were being put up last week. was/were being + past participle
Present perfect Oranges have been grown here for centuries. has/have been + past participle
Past perfect When he got home, he found that his flat had been burgled. had been + past participle
Future simple The work will be finished next week. will be + past participle

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Grammar B1-B2: Passives: 2

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Average: 1 (1 vote)
Profile picture for user OlaIELTS

Submitted by OlaIELTS on Thu, 07/05/2020 - 04:01

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It's really awesome.

Submitted by Pandalapd on Wed, 22/04/2020 - 11:01

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Hi, i got a question here. Someone (saw) my talk at the conference and recommended me as a speaker. and Someone (had found) my wallet and left it at reception. why the first sentence used the (saw) can not use by (was seen) or (had seen) but the second sentence used (had found) not using (was found) or (found)?

Hello Pandalapd

The subject of the verb 'saw' is 'someone' and the object is 'my talk', so a passive verb such as 'was seen' is not correct there, because a passive verb only has a subject and not an object. 'had seen' is also a possible correct answer there, but is not an option for that question.

For the second sentence, 'was found' is not correct for the same reason that 'was seen' wasn't correct for the first sentence: an active verb is needed, not a passive one. 'found' is also correct, but is not an option for that question.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ahmed hefny on Fri, 10/04/2020 - 23:49

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hello, thanks for these valuable lessons. I have a small question here. which of these sentences are right? "The fire service still hasn't put out the fire." "The fire service still haven't put out the fire."
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 11/04/2020 - 08:05

In reply to by ahmed hefny

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Hello ahmed hefny,

Organisations like the fire service can be treated as both singular (an organisation or an institution) or plural (a team of people). Thus, both has and have are possible.

Other organisations like this include sports teams, governments, international organisations, the police, the army and others.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by M.Ayman on Sun, 05/04/2020 - 08:32

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Hello, I have a very simple question Can I say My cat eats fish afternoon. And how to change into passive.
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 05/04/2020 - 16:10

In reply to by M.Ayman

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Hello M.Ayman

That's close to being correct. Instead, I would recommend something like 'My cat eats fish in the afternoon'. In the passive, that would be 'Fish is eaten by my cat in the afternoon'. I can't think of a time anyone would likely say that in the passive, though.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team