Active and passive voice

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:

Subject be Past participle Adverbial
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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Average
Average: 3.9 (502 votes)

Submitted by lunabd on Thu, 16/05/2024 - 03:15

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Hi i've a doubt... I was answering an exercise for passive voice and the instruction was the following:

Find the mistake:

The population was increased from 1 million to 1.5 million people...

When I submitted the answer the app showed that the correct sentence was :

The population increased from 1 million to 1.5 million people....

Somebody can explain me why??

Thanks in advance 

Hi lunabd,

The population increases (or decreases) by itself; policies and decisions can affect it but no person is directly controlling it. Therefore there is no reason to use a passive form. It's similar to these examples:

the sun rose

the wind blew

cancer rates increased

unemployment fell

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by L. Lawliet on Mon, 25/03/2024 - 18:58

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Quite interesting!!

Submitted by TeacherNina on Mon, 11/03/2024 - 10:48

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Hello,

Could you please tell me if the following sentence is incorrect?

Air conditioning was suggested by someone.

Thanks,

Nina

Hi TeacherNina,

The sentence is correct! It's possible that "by someone" is redundant in the sentence, but it's not incorrect.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Dhyey on Tue, 09/01/2024 - 14:33

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Hello, can you solve this question for me?
[ Why do I refuse to be interviewed? (Change the voice.) ]

Hello Dhyey,

I suppose you could change the passive infinitive ('to be interviewed') to an active one ('Why do I refuse to interview?'), though that's a little unnatural. More often people would say 'go to an interview', 'do an interview', 'have an interview', 'accept an interview' or something like that.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Mohsen.k77 on Sun, 10/12/2023 - 17:42

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Hello dear teachers,
is the following sentence correct?
"the problem of 21th century is water being heavily polluted."
I feel we need one more "is" after water !

Best Regards,

Hello Mohsen.k77,

Yes, you are right. I'd also suggest saying 'the 21st century': 'the problem of the 21st century is (that) water is being heavily polluted'

The word 'that' is optional, but I think it's clearer if you include it.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by aigerimwonderer on Mon, 16/10/2023 - 08:41

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hi I have a question. should we consider a V3 as a main verb and to be as an auxiliary in passive voice since subject doesn't perform any action, it's just existing in some tense. I built a house - the house was built by me. I was performing an action, was building the house in the past. on the other hand, the house was just existing in some shape or form. in the past it was built and it was green, today the house is blue, tomorrow it will be colored in another shade, and in 5 years it will be constructed and like new.
I understand the V3 colored gives the idea of an action to color while blue gives only the description of the house.
but the same way V3 stuffed box gives the idea that action happened and someone stuffed that toy and it used as an adjective.
can we say that passive voice is just verb to be in some tense and V3 just an object that describes the subject?

Hello aigerimwonderer,

I agree with the idea that the V3 form is the 'main verb' since it carries the meaning in a sense. It of course depends on what exactly you mean by 'main verb', but in general that makes more sense to me than calling the verb 'be' or 'get' the 'main verb'.

I don't agree with calling V3 an object that describes the subject, but I can see how you might want to say that. In the end, this is quite an abstract idea, whereas what we focus on here is helping people learn to use English.

I hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by chivi168 on Fri, 13/10/2023 - 14:54

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Hi,
Can you tell me what is the difference between "have already been" and "have been already"? I'm confused. Thank you in advance

Hello chivi168,

There's no difference in meaning, but 'already' normally goes in 'mid-position'. When the verb has more than one word (such as 'have been'), this means that goes after the auxiliary verb (in this case 'have'). 

It's not exactly wrong to say 'have been already', but it sounds a bit awkward. If you had a particular sentence in mind, please let us know what the full sentence is.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Sonu on Wed, 04/10/2023 - 17:20

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People think it has been a complex problem.

How to make it in active voice and what is the rule of it

Hello Sonu,

'think' is already a verb in the active voice (with the subject 'people'). The verb 'be' (in 'it has been') is a link verb and so is in a way already active too; it's certainly has no passive form.

So I'm afraid I don't know how to help you. I'd suggest asking your teacher.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

 

Submitted by user--25 on Tue, 19/09/2023 - 17:22

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Hi! I´m struggling to make this sentences into ACTIVE VOICE.
1) The problem isn’t detected by the doctor.
2) The verification of the test isn’t done by the specialist.
if someone can help me, i would be very pleased!

Hello user--25,

This site focuses on explanations of the language and advice. I'm afraid we don't provide answers to questions from elsewhere like this. If we did then we would end up doing our users' tests and homework for them!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nish_Mish on Fri, 30/06/2023 - 22:02

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What will be the passive voice for statements like: "Time and tide wait for none."

Hello Nash_Mish,

You could make a sentence like this: None are waited for by time and tide.

However, it's a horrible sentence. Some sentences simply don't work well in terms of style in passive voice.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish

Submitted by Khoshal on Thu, 22/06/2023 - 15:12

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Hello teacher,

What’s the active of the following sentence?
Example: They are getting married later this year.

Thanks,
Khoshal

Hello Khoshal,

I'd say this sentence is already in the active voice. We often use 'get' + an adjective to refer to a change of state, e.g. 'I'm getting sick' means I'm going from healthy to sick. In the same 'I'm getting married' means I'm going from being single to being married. In this case, 'married' is an adjective, not a past participle.

It is grammatically possible to say 'They will be married later this year' (which is a passive), but in most situations that would sound strange.

It's true that we often use 'get' instead of 'be' to make passives in informal speaking, but that's not the case with 'get married'.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Seb1989 on Wed, 07/06/2023 - 08:20

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Hello,

I have a question about the correct placement of the other sentence parts in passive sentences. Starting from 'Henry had received payments from a weapons manufacturer.' Two possibilities suggest themselves for the passive:

Payments from a weapons manufacturer had been received by Henry.

Payments had been received from a weapons manufacturer by Henry.

Both seem correct, although the first sentence breaks the usual rule of retaining adverbials in the end part of the sentence. To me, the first sounds more natural, as the expression 'from a weapons manufacturer' defines 'payments' like a relative clause (e.g. payments which had originated from a weapons manufacturer'). The second, however, does seem to conform with the structure of passive sentences generally and thus should be the preferred conversion, even though it sounds quite awkward to my ears.

Thank You,

Hello Seb1989,

I agree that the first sentence is much easier to understand. I'm not completely sure, but I'd probably call 'from a weapons manufacturer' a prepositional phrase that modifies 'Payments' (the head of the noun phrase) and therefore sits under it. In other words, I don't think it's an adverbial here. Even if it were, in almost any situation, clearer sentences beat sentences that are ostensibly more grammatical, at least in my book.

If I were writing a text that needed to include one or the other of these sentences, I'd choose the first one unless there were some good reason not to. For example, if what's important is that he received payments (and not that they came from a weapons manufacturer), then the second one might be better. Though really in that case, I'd probably just leave out 'from a weapons manufacturer'.

When exercises that involve transforming actives into passives are created, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that passives are used for very specific reasons. One of the main reasons is for leaving out information. If that's the case, then key elements of the active sentence wouldn't make it into the passive version in real usage.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

 

Submitted by Nish_Mish on Sun, 21/05/2023 - 16:20

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What is the passive voice for "permission is granted" or " mission accomplished".

Hi Nish_Mish,

The first one is already in the passive voice (subject + be + past participle). The second one does not have "be" in it, so it's just a noun phrase (noun + past participle). It can be changed into the passive voice: The mission is accomplished.

The active voice would be something like: I grant you permission and I accomplished the mission.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Hi whoferra,

In your sentence, "They" is the subject and "football" is the object. To make the passive, first reverse them. Change "they" into the object form "them", and add "by". Then, change the verb into the passive form: "be" + past participle. --> Football is played by them every day.

This passive sentence is grammatically correct, but it sounds quite unnatural! I think the active sentence would be much more commonly used.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by User_1 on Tue, 16/05/2023 - 14:10

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Hello,
I am a bit confused about the passive voice in these two sentences:
1. Lunch was being served.
2. Lunch was served.
Since they refer to the past, please could you explain the difference between them?
When is it better to use the first than the second?
Thanks

Hi User_1,

The first one is the past continuous. It indicates that the action was already in progress at a particular moment. For example, let's say I arrive at a restaurant at 12:30 pm, but the restaurant had already started serving lunch at 12 pm. I can say "Lunch was being served when I arrived" (i.e. it was already in progress at the moment I arrived).

The second one is the past simple. It indicates the whole action of serving lunch. For example, "Lunch was served, and then the restaurant staff took a break".

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Mhynor on Sat, 13/05/2023 - 19:43

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Hello everybody!
I need help with these two sentences. I found them in a newspaper article:
"...the young boy who is said to have loved riding his bike and nature"
"She went out to have her nails manicured."
Are any of them a Passive Voice?
Thank you so much for your answer!

Hello Mhynor,

The first sentence contains a passive construction: '...is said to...'

There are a lot of similar phrases to this which are grammatically passive and are used to talk about reputation or expectation: is said to..., is thought to..., is believed to..., is hoped to... etc.

 

The second sentence does not contain a passive construction but it does have a causative have construction ('...have her nails manicured'), which has some similarities to passive forms, and is even sometimes describes as a pseudo-passive construction.

You can find more information on causatives here:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/course/upper-intermediate/unit-15/session-1

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team 

Submitted by anastasiia945 on Thu, 02/02/2023 - 19:16

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Good day!

I'd like to clarify this sentence: "I do not remember Jack giving me the ticket." As far as I understand, its passive form should be " I do not remember being given the ticket by Jack." My question is - why do we leave 'I do not remember' as it is?

Hello anastasiia945,

It is possible to create a passive construction such as 'It is not remembered by method...' but it sounds horrible stylistically and is not something we would ever say.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Butteryliscious on Thu, 26/01/2023 - 14:35

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How do I change the voice of sentence given below
Why do I refuse to be interviewed?

Hello Butteryliscious,

The sentence already has a passive form - the passive infinitive (to be interviewed). You could manipulate the sentence into 'Why is being interviewed refused by me?' but it seems a pointless thing to do as it is a clumsy construction that I can't imagine ever using.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by milisisak on Mon, 26/12/2022 - 13:46

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Hi there, I am struggling with a sentence I think you can help me with. is the sentence - With its glass mosaic edifice, it has been nicknamed” the diamond of the desert.” passive or active, and why so?

Thank you

Hi milisisak,

"It has been nicknamed" is a passive structure, in the present perfect. The structure is: subject + "has/have" + "been" + past participle. The sense is that the subject "it" (presumably a building?) is not doing the "nicknaming" action, but instead is receiving the action (i.e., other people nicknamed this building "the diamond of the desert"). 

I hope that helps to make sense of it.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Please let me know the passive form of:
Ask him to write a letter. (Let him be asked to write a letter./ Let he be asked to write a letter./ Let a letter be asked to write by him.)
Give him another chance. (Let another chance be given to him./ Let him be given another chance.)
Call him. (Let him be called./ Let he be called.)

Hello jakirislam,

I'm afraid we don't provide answers to questions from elsewhere like this. If we did then we'd end up just doing people's homework or tests for them, which is not our job!

We're happy to explain rules and provide examples, of course, but not just to provide answers.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

can i have help in the a passive forme to an active forme
the example
-societies are being affected in a bad way by diffrent forms of corruption .
an i answer in my exam like this:
-diffrent forms of corruption are affected societies in a bad way
-so my question is: if my answer is true and thnks

Hello Kenzaa,

You had the right idea, but there is a small mistake. I think the best answer there is 'Different forms of corruption are affecting societies in a bad way'. Notice that the verb is in the present continuous, like in the passive sentence.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by RajdeepSangui on Thu, 24/11/2022 - 02:30

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Voice Change: It has been had by me.

Submitted by andresiniestaoficial on Fri, 11/11/2022 - 08:12

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hello. i understand that the passive form of "has the doctor given you your letter of discharge ?" become "have your letter of discharge been given to you ? but i have red these following sentence in a book and i'm lost now: "Have you been given your letter of discharge ?" is it possible to use passive voice like that ? thx

Hello Andres,

Yes, using the passive voice with double object verbs (like 'give') can be a little tricky.

The first thing I'd suggest is clearly distinguishing the direct object and the indirect object. In 'Has the doctor given you your letter of discharge?':

  • the subject is 'the doctor'
  • the indirect object is 'you'
  • the direct object is 'your letter of discharge'.

When a verb has only a direct object, the direct object becomes the subject of the passive verb. For example, 'The doctor treated the patient' becomes 'The patient was treated [by the doctor]'. (The brackets around 'by the doctor' show that this part of the sentence is optional; it can be omitted.)

You can do the same thing when the verb has a direct and indirect object: 'Has your letter of discharge been given to you [by the doctor]?' (Notice it's 'has' and not 'have' because 'your letter of discharge' is singular.)

What you saw in the book, however, is also correct when the indirect object is a person; the indirect object can become the subject of the passive verb: 'Have you been given your letter of discharge [by the doctor]?'

It can seem a bit strange, but it's perfectly natural in English. In fact, I'd say it's more common than the previous passive (where the direct object becomes the subject of the passive verb) with double object verbs.

Does that help make sense of this? Please let us know if you have other questions.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team