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

The passive forms are made up of the verb be with a past participle:

  be past participle  
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

We sometimes use the verb get to form the passive:

Be careful with the glass. It might get broken.
Peter got hurt in a crash.

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.

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.

Some verbs very frequently used in the passive are followed by the to-infinitive:


be supposed to be expected to be asked to
be scheduled to be allowed to be told 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. 





Hello maxarsh,

This sentence has a kind of reduced relative clause in it, and the implied relative clause has a passive verb in it. To be more specific, I'd say this sentence is a reduced version of 'Did he ever build a house with a chimney that was ordered by the government?'. 'was ordered' is a passive verb.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

In the passive, 'be' is used with a past participle verb. As such, can we take "He is gone" as a passive sentence? If yes, what could be the active form? If not, why do we use 'be' plus past participle structure in a non-passive sentence? Are there other similar examples of such usage in non-passive sentences?

Hello Adya's,

'He is gone' is not a passive construction (S + be + p.p.) but rather a copula (S + be + adj.). There is no passive form of this structure. In other words, 'gone' is used adjectivally here.

Many past participles can be used in exactly the same way (e.g. 'the job is done'). With transitive verbs, only context will tell you whether a clause has a passive verb or copula in it -- e.g. 'the bread is baked' could be both structures and the only way to know is to ask the speaker or deduce it from the context.

This Wikipedia page and this BBC page might be of interest to you.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

"This could work" is this sentence in active voice or passive

Hello Aspatel,

It is in the active voice. 'work' can be used transitively and intransitively. In the clause you ask about it, where it seems to mean 'to be effective', it is intransitive and so cannot be transformed into the passive.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

If the sentence is in the passive, like, "It can't be solved", what should be the question tag - "can it" or "can it be"?

Similarly, if the passive sentence is like, "It can be made", what should be the short answer in the affirmative- "Yes, it can", or "Yes, it can be"?

Hi Adya's.

In question tags and in short answers there is no need to repeat the main verb, which here is 'be'. Therefore the correct forms would be 'can it' and 'Yes, it can', respectively.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team