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: 3.4 (11 votes)

Submitted by bkbilal97 on Thu, 19/01/2023 - 12:02

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Hi,
I think there is a mistake in the first exercise in the following sentence;

The fire service still ___ the fire.
The options given are:
wasn't put out.
is put out.
haven't put out.

The third answer is supposed to be the correct one! But it should be "has not put out" since the agent is an "it."

Hi bkbilal97,

Actually, in British English it is common to use a third person plural verb form even for singular nouns, if the noun represents a group of people. Such nouns include government, teambandcompanygang and many more. For example, it's common to say The band are really good (as well as The band is really good), or The government have made an announcement (as well as The government has made ...). 

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by tunalee on Sat, 10/12/2022 - 18:53

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Hello team
Kindly help me change this sentence to passive.
People thought that the cover was made of iron.
I am confused when the first and second verb are in past form. Will we use to infinitve or to have V3/ed form for the second verb?
Kind regards!

Hi tunalee,

I would say --> The cover was thought to be made of iron.

After "was thought" it's also common to use an adjective (e.g. It was thought necessary / It was thought impossible). However, it's not common to put an -ed verb form there (e.g. The cover was thought made of iron), so I think the full form thought to be made ... is preferred.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by paddyjosy on Mon, 05/12/2022 - 00:17

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Hello team
Kindly help me change this sentence to passive.
Experts say that the rains will be heavy this year .

Hi paddyjosy,

There are a couple of ways I can think of.

  • It is said (by experts) that the rains will be heavy this year.
  • The rains are said (by experts) to be heavy this year.

In the second sentence, "are said" is followed by the infinitive "to be", which loses the future reference of the original sentence ("will be"). We can, however, keep that meaning by changing the vocabulary (e.g. "The coming rains are said to be heavy this year" or "The rains later this year are said to be heavy").

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Mon, 28/11/2022 - 15:53

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Hello. Could you please help me? Which sentence is correct?
- I made the fish cooked.
- I made the fish be cooked.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I'm afraid neither is correct. You can make someone do something or you can have something done, but you can't make something done (or be done).

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kunthea on Thu, 11/08/2022 - 03:46

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Hello teachers,
Could you please tell me about the exercise number 7 in Grammar test 1?
The fire service still________ the fire.
The answer is haven't put out
The third answer makes more sense; I also think that. However, why not use hasn't instead; I think the subject of the sentence is singular or the subject itself means Plural? Why?

Hello Kunthea,

Words which describe organisations and institutions can often be both singular and plural. Thus we can say The police is... or The police are....

Other examples are the fire service, the army, the United Nations, Manchester United, the European Union, my class, the government, Microsoft etc.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team