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:

  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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Hi sir, Yes sir it sounds odd if I say 'the window getting being broken by me'. Overall, we use 'get' in place of be in two conditions: 1. Sentence should be in passive form. 2. Sentence should be of simple present, past and future only.

Hello Rsb,

I understand that perhaps this kind of summary is useful to you, but I wouldn't give my students this kind of thing. This is mainly because I think it's more useful to learn patterns, which allow for more diverse usages, than it is to learn rules, which tend to leave out important details. For example, I think it's important to note that 'get' is more informal than 'be'. I'd also not say it's wrong to use it in continuous tenses, though it is unusual.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Mon, 29/03/2021 - 13:47

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Hi great moderators and teachers, I don't understand one thing about the verb 'express' . While reading a text, I saw that and decided to learn how to use. For example when I say; 'I expressed my ideas to her'-->Active voice. But I am confused about how I can use with passive voice. "My ideas were expressed to her. " or 'She was expressed my ideas.' I think both of them. But I am not sure. Thanks a lot.

Hello Nevı,

Your sentence has a direct object (my ideas) and an indirect object (her). We use the direct object as the subject in passive voice:

My ideas were expressed to her.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot teacher Peter.I am very grateful. So the sentence "My ideas were expressed to her. " is more common. But the sentence 'She was expressed my ideas.'(passive with indirect object) is also true but less common. ??? Isn't it. Finally, British Council teachers and team are perfect. They help us and answer our questions. Thanks for your helps. Best wishes.

Hello again Nevı,

No, 'She was expressed my ideas' is not a correct sentence.

As I said, we use the direct object as the subject in a passive sentence, not the indirect object.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nevı on Tue, 23/03/2021 - 15:44

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Hi great teachers Peter, Kirk and Jonathan. I want to learn new things.And I am confused about one thing. While I reading a text to improve my skills, I didn't understand one word which is 'thronged' in that sentence -The streets were thronged with shoppers.- Then I looked different dictionares and one of them said 'be thronged with' is phrasel verb.(Oxford Dict.) Second one said 'thronged' is an adjective and it's structure is "verb-link ADJECTIVE with noun" (Collins Dict.) To sum up, I am very confused. Is ' be thronged with ' an adjective pattern or a 'phrasel verb'? Maybe a grammar topic haven't known anything about. Thank you a lot

Hello Nevı,

I'm surprised by the definition you found in the Oxford Dictionary and don't know how to explain that. I see something different in the Lexico UK dictionary (which is based on the Oxford Dictionary) win the definition for 'throng'.

What Collins says makes sense to me, and matches what Cambridge and Longman show as well. In other words, I'd recommend you view it as an adjective formed from the past participle of the verb 'throng'; it often collocates with the preposition 'with', but there are other patterns as well.

It's always a good idea to check several sources.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Fri, 12/03/2021 - 16:50

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Sir, we cannot say 'your suggestions are welcomed' but say your suggestions are welcome because welcome is treated as an adjective here. We can say 'they were welcomed by us' but why can't we say 'you are welcomed by us' or 'your suggestions are welcomed by us.' and why only 'your suggestions are welcome' Regards
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 13/03/2021 - 08:00

In reply to by dipakrgandhi

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Hello dipakrgandhi,

It's important to recognise the communicative function here, as it is not the same for all of these sentences.

 

When we are describing a fact in the world, we can use these sentences:

They were welcomed by us.

You are welcomed by us.

You suggestions are welcomed by us.

All of these sentences are correct. For example, a hotel might say this to its guests:

We are a friendly and open business, so all of your suggestions are welcomed by us.

 

However, sometimes the function is not simply to describe a fact. For example, Your suggestions are welcome has the function of encouraging people to make suggestions.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Mon, 22/02/2021 - 14:11

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John has been asked to get dressed by the staff. "You are supposed to wear a cloth in public. Hurry up! The meaning is scheduled to start soon." ;)

Submitted by Rsb on Sun, 21/02/2021 - 10:29

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Sir, 1. This is to inform you that below mentioned employee's cab delayed in arriving office at standard time. (Verb delay intransitive) past indefinite tense 2. This is to inform you that below mentioned employee's cab was delayed in arriving office at standard time.( Here, Delayed as an adjective) simple past sentence Both the sentences are correct when I use the word delay as an adjective and verb (intransitive) in the context?
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Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 22/02/2021 - 13:48

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

'delay' is a transitive verb, so I'm afraid the first sentence is not correct. If you look up the word in the dictionary, you'll see some useful example sentences.

The second sentence is a bit awkward in standard British English, but its use of 'delayed' is correct.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir , But in dictionary 'delay' is described as an ergative verb. And can I use "to arrive office" in place of 'in arriving office'? This is to inform you that employee's cab was delayed/late to arrive/reach office at standard time.
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Tue, 23/02/2021 - 03:38

In reply to by Rsb

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Hi Rsb,

Actually, delay has several meanings! For the meaning of 'to make something late', it's only transitive (see the second meaning of delay in the Cambridge Dictionary). It's not intransitive or ergative for this meaning.

About the arrive phrase, it should be: The employee's cab was delayed (in) arriving at the office. You can use it with or without in. It has the same meaning.

Using 'to + verb' (to arrive at the office) doesn't work here, unless you want to show the purpose of the delay (e.g. The event was delayed, to give us more time to prepare).

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Thu, 11/02/2021 - 10:51

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Sir, Cab was late . Can we use 'delay' in place of late? Cab was delay
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Sat, 13/02/2021 - 06:19

In reply to by Rsb

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Hi Rsb,

Delay is a noun and a verb but not an adjective, so we should use the -ed form here: The cab was delayed.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Sat, 13/02/2021 - 07:54

In reply to by Jonathan R

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How delayed is noun here sir? It is not behaving like an adjective describing the cab noun

Hello Rsb,

I just wanted to point out that Jonathan didn't say that 'delayed' is a noun -- he said that 'delay' is a noun. In this sentence, 'delayed' is an adjective.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Can't we write "cab was delay"? What kind a noun is delay?

Hello Rsb,

I'm afraid that isn't correct. I'd suggest you study the example sentences you can find in a few online dictionaries -- I think that should clarify to you how it is used.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir "cab was delayed" It has two meanings :- 1. It is a passive voice that the cab was delayed by someone. Subject is silent 2. It is simple past sentence, delayed is an describing the cab which is noun. Am I correct ? what kind a noun is delay ? And also what kind a noun is 'shift'? For ex. Shift gets over at 6am

Hi Rsb,

Yes, that's right! The sentence has those two meanings. Note though that the noun cab needs an article before it (probably the).

I don't understand what you mean by 'what kind of noun'. Do you want to know the meaning, or whether the noun is countable or uncountable? If so, I'd recommend using the dictionary for both of these. Have a look at these Cambridge Dictionary pages for delay and shift.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Tue, 16/02/2021 - 16:45

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Yes sir about countable or uncountable noun what I want to ask. Delay and shift comes under which things(person,place, object )

Hi Rsb,

OK, I see now! In those dictionary pages, after noun, it shows C if it's countable, U if it's uncountable, and C and U if it's both. Delay and shift are abstract things.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by eager2know on Tue, 09/02/2021 - 18:38

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Hello Dear Teachers, I am having issues with understanding the object in Active voice to be placed as a subject of the Passive Voice. For example, I am not sure what the obj is in the following examples (how many words): e.g.Repair another table for this class. (two days ago) - Another table for this class was repaired two days ago. - Another table was repaired for this class two days ago.

Hi eager2know,

I think normally, we'd understand another table as the object of the active voice sentence. We'd understand the phrase for this class as referring to the action of repairing, and it isn't part of the object. 

But, we can understand it another way: the object is another table for this class. In this case, the table is for the class (while in the other meaning above, 'repairing' is for the class). It's a small difference in meaning, though, and both of your passive sentences mean pretty much the same thing. 

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Tue, 09/02/2021 - 02:35

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Sir, 'The chair is broken'. It has two meanings:- First, it is a passive construction. Here 'broken' is a main verb in 3rd form past participle of break. And 'is' an auxiliary verb. Second, 'broken' here acts as an adjective in verb 3rd form past participle. And 'is' is a main verb/linking verb. Pls correct If I am not right?
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Tue, 09/02/2021 - 03:56

In reply to by Rsb

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Hi Rsb,

Yes! We can understand this sentence both ways.

But, the second one (broken = adjective) is more likely, because of the tense in your sentence. The first one is a passive action in the present simple. The present simple usually shows something that is true in the present and is relatively unchanging, or is a regularly occurring action. But the action of breaking a chair is short and usually not a regularly occurring action.

Instead, to describe an action that you are seeing right now, we'd use the present continuous: The chair is being broken. (Or: The chair is breaking). Alternatively, if we can see the broken chair, then the action has already happened and we'd use the present perfect or past simple: The chair has been broken / The chair was broken. (Or: The chair has broken. / The chair broke.)

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Thu, 11/02/2021 - 03:47

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Jonathan sir, The chair was broken. Sentence is same but meaning is different. It is simple past tense(passive voice) and It is simple past sentence. broken describing the chair. 'Break' is an Ergative verb here ? Ex. I am breaking the chair. The chair is breaking.

Hi Rsb,

Yes :) The past tense sentence has the two different meanings you mentioned. And that's right - break is an ergative verb.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Thu, 11/02/2021 - 10:09

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Sir, Simple sentences (present, past and future) are different from simple tenses. For ex. She is beautiful (simple present sentence) She goes (simple present tense)
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Thu, 11/02/2021 - 13:47

In reply to by Rsb

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Hi Rsb,

Yes, that's right. Simple sentences are sentences that have only one clause. Simple tenses are tenses that are not continuous. Both the examples you mentioned are simple sentences and have simple tenses.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by bakh.sh85 on Tue, 02/02/2021 - 21:12

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Hello sir I am not sure if the selected answer in the following question is correct. Q. Choose the correct passive sentence. A. The meeting will be cancelled soon. B. He got angry when they inquired about his private life. C. Both (A snd B) D. A large cake was been left on the table. Is “He got angry ...” a correct passive voice sentence? Please help me with this. Thanks
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Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 03/02/2021 - 10:08

In reply to by bakh.sh85

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Hello bakh.sh85,

No, that's not a passive form. To make a passive, you need to use be + past participle. It's possible to replace 'be' with 'get' or 'become', but you still need a past participle, and in your sentence 'angry' is an adjective, not a past participle.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
Could you kindly clarify the following sentence.
The patient entered the clinic to meet the doctor. Here the main verb is enter and the voice of the sentence is active. Then how do make it passive? The clinic was entered by the patient....can it be said? It sounds a little strange. Please help.
Thank you

Hello amrita_enakshi,

Your sentence is correct - that is how the passive would be formed for this sentence. You're also right that it sounds strange and it's not a sentence we would normally form with passive voice. We do sometimes use 'enter' as a passive verb form but not when we add the agent with 'by'. Thus, the sentence is grammatically correct but clumsy stylistically, I would say.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Thu, 28/01/2021 - 06:05

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Sir, She always wear pressed uniform. Here pressed is an adjective? Can we use also ironed uniform or ironing uniform in place of pressed uniform? Which will be correct ironed or ironing? It will work as an adjective too if we use ironed or ironing?

Submitted by Rsb on Tue, 26/01/2021 - 07:24

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Hello sir, 1. Glass might be broken.(active voice) Glass might get broken.(active voice) Here broken acts as an adjective. If I say, Glass might be broken by rahul. (Passive) Glass might get broken by rahul.( Passive) It both has the same meaning where broken is a verb 3rd form of break in passive form. We can sometimes use get in place of be in passive form. Am I correct? 2. I was hurt.(active voice) I got hurt.(Active voice) Here hurt act as an adjective. If I say, I was hurt by rahul. (Passive) I got hurt by rahul.(Passive) It both have the same meaning where hurt is a verb 3rd form in passive form. We can sometimes use the get in place of be in passive form . Am I correct? 3.last one is, Aliyah is hospitalized.(active) Aliyah gets hospitalized.(active) Here hospitalized is an adjective? And if I say, Aliyah is hospitalized by rahul (passive) and Aliyah gets hospitalized by rahul. Both has the same meaning in passive form as hospitalize acts as main verb here. We use the get in place of be in passive form. Pls intervene it need your support. Thanks

Hello Rsb,

Yes, 'get' can be used in the place of 'be' in passive forms in informal situations. I'd suggest you think of the verbs 'be' and 'get' in the first pairs of sentences in your examples not as active but rather as link verbs.

Link verbs establish a link between a noun and an adjective or other noun -- they don't have objects (remember that transitive verbs by definition have an object).

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Yes sir it works as linking verb above. As u suggest link verbs establish a link between a noun and an adjective. Here broken and hurt is an adjective? One more things sir, like we say, Aliyah is in hospital mean to say she is hospitalized. Here hospitalized is an adjective or noun?

Submitted by Rsb on Sun, 24/01/2021 - 09:23

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Sir, "I got hurt" - "I am hurt" "I was hurt" here 'hurt' acts as an adjective past participle form? And if I say, "I was hurt by the seniors in the college" or "I am hurt by the seniors in the college". Can we use get in place of be in form of passive construction? I got hurt by the seniors in the college". I get hurt by the seniors in the college". Can 'hurt' function as verb or adjective both? Hospitalized is also an adjective? For ex. Aliyah is hospitalized.
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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Fri, 22/01/2021 - 15:26

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Hello admins, Are these both correct? She (Russian Blue) is gone! She (Russian Blue) disappeared!

Hi Rafaela1,

Yes! These are both grammatically correct. (Is Russian Blue a cat?)

In British English, it's also common to use the present perfect for the second sentence: She's disappeared / She has disappeared.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Jonathan, your advice helps me a lot. Yupe, a Russian Blue is a furriend. ;)

Submitted by Nuro on Thu, 21/01/2021 - 14:09

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Hi team,I don't understand two thing about this sentence "The exact words my father spoke as he left us are branded in my memory." 1)I tried to add agent (by sth.) to practice my understanding voices.But I couldn't add because who or what can brand sth. in your memory!? Could you give an example agent for this sentence ? 2)Sometimes I can't add any agent in passive voice sentences.But object need a doer.Can you say why I can't add doer some passive sentences?

Hello Nuro,

I don't think the phrase 'are branded' is a passive verb here. Instead, it's the verb 'be' and the adjective 'branded' (which is formed from the verb 'brand'). If it were a passive verb, it would be in the past ('were branded') because that is the time that the words were spoken and entered the speaker's memory.

There is no need for an agent to be included in a passive sentence; indeed, much of the time, the whole point of a passive sentence is not to mention the agent. When I think about the sentence 'The words he spoke as he left us were branded in my memory', I'd understand the situation to be what caused his words to make such an impression on this person -- in other words, the situation is the agent.

I hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by Yap on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 19:41

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Dear Sir, I am always confused that when should I use passive voice or "being". For example : 1) 10 workers were terminated by the company 2) 10 workers have been terminated by the company 3) 10 workers were being terminated by the company My intuition tells me that (1) and (2) are more common, but under which circumstance I should use being rather than passive voice+verb? Thanks.