Passives

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

Average: 4.2 (111 votes)

Submitted by Sokhom on Sun, 24/10/2021 - 02:12

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Hello, Sir!
I'm sorry for asking a question which is not in the this context.
e.g. Everything in the sale has been reduced/lowered/decreased to half price.
The correct option is 'reduced' as it is associated with 'price'. The option, 'decreased' is not right because it has the structure 'something decreases' which personally it's not right in the passive sentence above. However, I think 'lowered' is also right in the sentence. So, I was wondering why 'lowered' is not correct in the sentence above.
Your explanation is a great help for me.
Best Wishes!

Hello Sokhom,

Generally, we don't explain answers from elsewhere as we have no way of knowing what the thoughts of the authors were, or even if we agree with them. The place to go with a question like this is to the authors of the task, who may have indicated particular guidelines in their instructions.

The question is really which of the options best collocates with 'everything'. Price here is not the subject, so 'reduced' is the best option in my view: lower a price, decrease a cost, reduce an item.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much for your reply, Sir. :)
e.g. Average house prices decreased by 13% last year. (Long man dictionary)
I was wondering if I could replace 'decreased' with 'reduce' and 'lower'.
e.g. Average house prices were reduced/lowered by 13% last year.
Thank you so much for your valuable time.
Best Wishes!

Hello again Sokhom,

You could use 'were reduced' or 'were lowered' here. This would be a passive form rather than the intransitive verb in the original.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Iryna_hn on Thu, 09/09/2021 - 12:41

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Could you please check if this sentence is correct: ... women put pins in their mouths TO AVOID BEING KISSED in the dark. And explain what tense or grammar structure of the Passive is that. Thank you in advance!

Hi Iryna_hn,

Yes, the sentence is correct!

The whole phrase you highlighted is a to-infinitive phrase (which shows the purpose of the action 'putting pins in their mouths'). It contains a passive -ing form ('being kissed'). The -ing form is needed because it follows the verb avoid (this verb requires the next verb to be in the -ing form).

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Yes, Jonathan, thank you! It all makes sense to me now! Is there any information here at the website about verbs followed by -ing? So I could get acquainted with the theme better.

Hi Iryna_hn,

OK, great! We have two pages about this verb pattern. Have a look at page one and two. I hope they are useful.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mussorie on Thu, 17/06/2021 - 20:27

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Could you please explain the below statement? Whether is the word "scheduled" used in this sentence an adjective ( like the subject complement) or a passive form? 1.President is scheduled to leave at 2:00 pm. In general, I have a query that how can we identify a past participle used in a sentence as an adjective or a passive structure?