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 Adya's,

As I said in my earlier answer, I don't think there is a rule which determines which verbs can and cannot be used in passive voice.

As you know, only transitive verbs can be used in passive voice. However, not all transitive verbs are used in passive voice. This is a question of convention rather than a grammatical rule. For example, it is possible to perform some grammatical gymnastics and create a formally correct passive voice sentence with 'go':

I went to the house.

The house was gone to.

There is nothing grammatically wrong with the second sentence here. Structurally it is fine and it makes sense. However, it is simply a convention of the use of English that we do not form this sentence or commonly use it. It might be possible to imagine a sentence like this in a very formal police report, for example, but it would sound rather awkward, I think.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Does it mean that every intransitive verb can be made transitive by adding a preposition to it? So, if the active sentence is like, "He went to London", can it be changed into passive as, "London was gone to by him"? I'm badly confused now.

Hello Adya's,

No, I don't think that's what Peter meant. In general, verbs are either transitive or intransitive, though there is a class of verbs -- and I expect this is what you're referring to -- called ergative verbs (see also the Wikipedia entry).

Ergative verbs can be used transitively or intransitively. For example, the verb 'fly' can be intransitive ('Birds can fly') but in other cases it can be used transitively ('Pilots fly planes'). There are a few short lists on both of the pages I linked to above, and I expect you can find other lists by searching the internet for them.

Note that 'go' is not an ergative verb, so a sentence like 'London was gone to by him' is not correct.

I hope that clears up your confusion.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

thank you kirk sir

Some intransitive verbs become transitive when prepositions are added to them, like 'listen to', 'laugh at', etc. Is there any set rule governing such conversion from intransitive to transitive, or do we have a fixed number of intransitive verbs which only can be thus converted? Do we have such a list containing those intransitive verbs which can be converted into transitive?

Hello Adya's,

I'm not aware of any such list or rule. Prepositions require an object so any verb which has a preposition will have an object and hence be transitive.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

How to treat the verb 'have', transitive, intransitive, or linking? In the sentence, "I have books", can we have the passive form as, "Books are had by me"?

Hi Adya's

Certain stative verbs are not used in passive voice and 'have' (when used for possession) is one of these so we would not make a sentence like the one you suggested.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team