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

Language level

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Average: 1 (1 vote)

Submitted by Shreya on Fri, 28/08/2020 - 14:28

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Hello! I am not able to get this two sentences: 1) Flights to Sanya, the holiday hotspot in the South China Sea, has seen strong recovery helped by a new duty-free policy. This sentence should be in passive, they haven't mentioned who has seen it. Again it can't be "has been seen" as per passive rules. 2) All the children, gathered in that group, were ready to perform a traditional dance.(non-finite clause) Over here it should be readied.But again it sounds wrong. Kindly help.
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Sat, 29/08/2020 - 03:53

In reply to by Shreya

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Hi Shreya,

These are interesting examples. Let me try to help.

 

1) The sentence is correct in the active voice. In this sentence, see doesn't mean 'see with your eyes'. It's a different meaning. Here, it means 'to be the time or place when something happens', and the subject is Flights to Sanya (i.e. it means something like 'Flights to Sanya have experienced or witnessed ...'). This is the third meaning of see listed on this page in the Cambridge Dictionary. Have a look there for more examples.

But one correction is needed: Flights to Sanya have seen ...

 

2) There's no need to use a passive in this sentence. It's fine to use the adjective ready.

As you point out, ready is also a verb so the passive form would be: All the children were readied to perform ... . But, using the passive means specifically that the children were readied by someone (e.g. by a teacher, or a group leader). That is, the children didn't get themselves ready. But there's no other information about that in this sentence, so there's no reason to prefer the passive.

 

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Shreya on Sat, 29/08/2020 - 10:47

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Thank you so much Jonathan for your help.

Submitted by amrita_enakshi on Fri, 28/08/2020 - 08:30

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Hello Could you please help me with the following quassi-passive voice change? Active : Cheese is a milk product. Passive : Cheese is a product which is made of milk. Am I correct ?
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Submitted by Smiley1 on Tue, 18/08/2020 - 09:32

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Hello admins, Please tell me the difference between 'I have no story to be told' and 'I have no story to tell'. Does it depend on how the speaker see the story??

Hi Smiley1,

Interesting examples! Their meanings are very similar. But:

  • The first one (no story to be told) focuses more on the story, since be told is a passive verb referring to the story ('a story is told').
  • The second one (no story to tell) focuses more on the speaker, since tell is an active verb and the doer of the verb is the speaker.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by alekanka on Wed, 15/07/2020 - 20:51

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Hello! I've never quite understood how to use passive with "be going to do smt" form. I've seen both "will be done" and "be going to be done". Which of them is more correct and why? Thanks in advance
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Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 23/07/2020 - 15:06

In reply to by alekanka

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Hello alekanka,

Both of those can work -- it really depends on how you see the future. You can see an explanation of this on our Talking about the future page.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Karan Narang on Wed, 15/07/2020 - 04:36

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I have been got good mark by test although I have some doubt many people who use these sentence passive voice like I am tired, I was gone market yesterday and I will be opened my new shop by tomorrow. These sentence meaning whether passive or active voice can u explain it.