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: 4.1 (85 votes)
Do you need to improve your English grammar?
Join thousands of learners from around the world who are improving their English grammar with our online courses.

Hello, Sokhomkim.

What Mr. Moore explains is correct.
1. It seems that one book is missing. (active voice)
2. One book is missing. (passive voice)

Regarding the third sentence, as a native Spanish speaker, I think I understand what you're trying to say. Using only "one" to refer to "a book" in the passive voice is possible, but you need context. Continuing with Mr. Moore's example;

If we usually have 10 books, but now there are only 9, and suddenly someone notices, they may ask: 'Are there only 9 books?' You can respond in the passive voice: 'It seems that one is missing'.

"It seems that one is missing" is a clear and appropriate use of passive voice in this context. It effectively conveys the idea that there is a perception or observation of a missing book without specifying who might have taken it.

I hope this helps.

Hello Glori Flores and Sokhomkim,

Just to be clear, in 'One book is missing', there is no passive voice. It is: 'One book' (a noun phrase subject) + 'is' (link verb) + 'missing' (an adjective).

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by tunalee on Thu, 05/10/2023 - 06:53

Permalink

Hello,
I would like to ask the position of by agent in the passive voice of the present perfect when the sentence has adverbs such as recently, yet,..etc.
1. Jack has typed the article recently.
>>The article has been typed by Jack recently or The article has been typed recently by Jack.
I searched on the Internet and someone said it could be "The article has recently been typed by Jack." It's a good idea, however, I would like to know where the position of "by agent" is really.
2. The police haven’t found the murderer yet.
In this sentence, anything should be noted if the sentence has the adverb "yet" which is usually at the end of the sentence.

Hello tunalee,

1. As far as I know, the best option is the one you found on the internet (with 'recently' in mid position). I'm not sure I'd call the other two forms incorrect, but both of them do sound awkward to me, probably because of all the different pieces. If I needed to communicate this idea, I'd re-phrase this and possibly the other sentences before and after it.

2. Here 'yet' should go in end position, i.e. last. Similar to 1, I wouldn't use this sentence unless I couldn't avoid it. The context would probably make clear who the agent is and so it wouldn't be necessary. If the context didn't make it clear, I'd re-phrase the sentences so that it would be.

I hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Iryna_hn on Fri, 15/09/2023 - 20:06

Permalink

Hello!
Could you please explain what type of passive is it:
"We were afraid of being seen together"
Thank you!

Hi Iryna_hn,

This is a passive -ing form (or passive gerund). The structure is being + past participle. It is needed here because it follows the preposition of. Here are a couple more examples.

  • I was happy about being chosen to join the team. (follows a preposition)
  • Being valued and appreciated by others is the best feeling. (the subject of the sentence)

Hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Emirorhan on Sat, 26/08/2023 - 13:13

Permalink

Hello support team
Can anyone explain a question on second grammer test:
Someone ___ my talk at the conference and recommended me as a speaker.
The answer was"saw" but i think it should be "had seen". Because verb of "see" happened before verb "recommend" and they both hapenned in past.
And secondly i want to ask why are we saying "I went home then I changed my clothes, then I leaved." Instead of using past perfect.
Thank you.

Hello Emirorhan,

For past actions which happen in sequence (i.e. not at the same time) we usually use two past simple forms. For example: I got up, I cleaned my teeth, I had a shower and I went to work.

This is true even if we change the order of description: Before I went to work I got up, cleaned my teeth and I had a shower.

 

So, when do we use the past perfect? We use it when an action not only happens before another action in the past, but when the two events are connected in some way. In other words, if an action triggers (causes) another action, or if one action has a direct influence on a later action then the past perfect is common. As you can see, the past perfect does fit in your sentence as the earlier action (seeing you) affected or caused the later action (recommending you). The past simple is also fine, however - it is up to the speaker how far they choose to link the two actions.

 

I think I've already answered the second question in my description of the past simple above. Note that the past form of 'leave' is 'left' - it's irregular.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user khaledAl5

Submitted by khaledAl5 on Mon, 14/08/2023 - 02:22

Permalink

Good morning everyone

I have doubts about passive regarding “impersonal passive structure and the normal passive structure” for example: _ he reads books.

1) the normal passive structure: Books are read.
2) the impersonal passive structure: it’s said that he reads books. OR he is said to read books.

The question is: can I make the sentences that have “object” with the two structures? OR there are sentences go with the normal structure, and sentences go with the impersonal?

Thank you in advance.