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: 3.4 (11 votes)

Hello Laura Olivia,

I think the first sentence is the best option, but the reason is rather complex.

 

First of all, we should note that the question here is not really about passive forms, but rather about the difference between these two constructions:

1. report sb to be + verbing

2. report sb verbing

You could rewrite your examples using 'People have reported...' and still use either form; the fact a passive form is used in your examples does not change the question of which of these forms is used.

 

I'm going to use a different context for the sake of clarity, and then we'll go back to your context for comparison.

The form report sb to be + verbing has the meaning 'we have information about the person's activity'. For example:

Someone reported him to be working on a new book.

He was reported to be working on a new book.

> There is information that he is working on a new book.

 

The form report sb + verbing has the meaning 'officially complain about someone while they are engaged in an activity'

For example:

Someone reported him working on a new book.

He was reported working on a new book.

> Someone complained (to the police, for example) while he was writing a new book. This complaint could be about anything - it does not have to be related to the book-writing activity.

 

Now, it is possible to see the form report sb + verbing as simply omitting 'to be', but I think this leads to ambiguity, which we generally try to avoid. This is why I think example 1 is the best option.

 

With reference to your context, I think the context is sufficiently clear that there is very little chance of ambiguity. Reporting theft is an expected action, so the sentence would be immediately understood. Thus, while the first example is better in my view, in this particular context I think the second is also acceptable.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by aattttuujj on Mon, 01/03/2021 - 14:40

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hello, With the tense Present Simple the structure is is/are + past participle. What is the structure of the past perfect? i have to know the passive past perfect for my test but i don't know how to form it. thanks for the grammar tests already they help a lot.
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Tue, 02/03/2021 - 03:28

In reply to by aattttuujj

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Hi aattttuujj,

The passive in the past perfect is: had been + past participle. Good luck with your test :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kaisoo93 on Fri, 26/02/2021 - 05:50

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Hello Teachers, Are all verbs in sentence with structure like "how/how long/what/whether/who + to-infinitive" can be replaced with passive form without restructuring the sentence? For example: 1) Who "to hire" is decided by the management = Who "is hired" is decided by the management = Who "to be hired" is decided by the management 2) How much money "to allocate" to housing depends on various factors. =How much money "to be allocated" to housing depends on various factors. =How much money "is allocated" to housing depends on various factors. Thanks

Hello Kaisoo93,

You can reformulate sentences such as these to have a subject and a finite verb form, but it is not always passive. Depending on the context, an active form may be required:

Where to go is your decision

> Where you go is your decision

 

Your second example also likely requires an active form:

How much money we/they/the government should allocate depends on...

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by danohara on Tue, 05/01/2021 - 18:46

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Hi there, thank you for the informative posts as ever. I think that the table should be updated so that it says "have/has been + past participle" in the present perfect row. One of my students read it and got confused. Many thanks
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Wed, 06/01/2021 - 03:07

In reply to by danohara

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Hi danohara,

I've updated the table now. Thanks so much for letting us know about the correction :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Mon, 04/01/2021 - 17:12

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Sir, Bicycles are made here since the year 2000. Bicycles have been made here since the year 2000. Which sentence is correct and if both are correct then what is the difference ?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 05/01/2021 - 08:28

In reply to by SonuKumar

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Hello SonuKumar,

The second sentence is correct as you are describing an action which began in the past and continues to the present.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team