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. 




Dear LearnEnglish Team,
I am confused with where to put the "by xxx" in the following sentences.

1. The circus boss pays money to the driver.
A: Money is paid by the circus boss to the driver.
B: Money is paid to the driver by the circus boss.

2. Helen's mum invites us to Helen's birthday party every year.
A: We are invited to Helen's birthday party by Helen's mum every year.
B. We are invited by Helen's mum to Helen's birthday party every year.

What are the rules to follow in deciding its position?

Many thanks,

Hello Siuyang,

The most common position for the by-phrase is at the end of the sentence, so the most natural options would be as follows:

Money is paid to the driver by the circus boss.

We are invited to Helen's birthday party every year by Helen's mum.


Sometimes putting the by-phrase at the end separates it too far from the verb, and then we prefer to move it earlier. Thus the second sentence might also be:

We are invited to Helen's birthday party by Helen's mum every year.


It is possible to put the by-phrase in other positions, as in your examples, when we want to emphasise it for some reason. For example, if it were surprising or important for some reason that it is Helen's mum who invites us then we might say:

We are invited by Helen's mum to Helen's birthday party every year.


I hope that helps to clarify it for you.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Peter.

Thanks very much for your very clear explanation.


When to use Passive Voice?

Hello Sir
Thank you very much for giving me clear answer to my last question under active voice and passive voice. The sentence given below I have copied from a website. ' What is grown in these fields? The verb 'grown' is transitive or intransitive. I would like to know whether the above question is passive or not?. For example if I write: 1)'What is grown in these fields by farmers? Is it right to say:2) 'What do farmers grow in these fields?
What I would like to know from you? Is the question one passive and the question two is the active voice of it?
Please let me know.
Thank you.

Hi Lal,

Many English verbs can be used both transitively and intransitively, and 'grow' is one of them -- this is what [I] or [T] or [I or T] means after each dictionary entry (follow the link to see what I mean). 

Yes, in 1, 'grow' is transitive -- any verb in the passive must be transitive, as intransitive verbs aren't used in the passive voice. And yes, 2 is the closest version of 1 in the active voice.

Good work!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

"What class does he read in?" - What is the passive voice of the active voice? Is it possible to transfer it into passive? Explain, please.

Hello Ataur Rahman,

Passive voice is only possible when we have a transitive verb, meaning a verb which has a direct object. Your sentence does not contain such a verb and so no passive is possible.

A more natural way to say this, I think, would be to use 'study' instead of 'read', or to simply say 'What class is he in?' Neither of these sentences have passive forms either.



The LearnEnglish Team

Can this sentence be changed into passive:

Flowers have grown all over the field.