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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:

  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.

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


Active and passive voice 2


Active and passive voice 3


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


Active and passive voice 5


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


Active and passive voice 7



Respected team,
In 1890, (faced) with the growing difficulty of accommodating immigrants at Castle Garden in Manhattan, the government decided to turn Ellis island into an immigration station.
Is the verb (face) passive form? If so what has happened to (to be) verb? And if possible please direct me to some more examples on the net.
Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour.

In this sentence 'faced' is a past participle which heads a participle clause. It is not a passive form but it has a passive meaning, so your question shows that you understand the meaning here.


We have a page on participle clauses which should be helpful. As you'll see, participle clauses with a past participle have a passive meaning and participle clauses with a present participle (verb-ing) have an active meaning. You can find the page here:



The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter M,
Thank you for the help and the time sir.

Hi there brilliant team
I want to know something about following sentence
"The desk was littered with papers."

Here I think' papers' is the subject and the right sentence should be
/The desk was littered by papers.\. Because who or what littered the desk? It's answer is 'papers'.

I would be grateful if you could clear up my confusion.

Hi Nevi,

The correct form here is 'with'.

The papers are not performing the action here. They are the tool which is used, so to speak.

If you want to see the sentence as a passive then the subject in the sentence is 'the desk'. No agent is provided because it is unknown or irrelevant, but an agent could be added:

The table was covered with papers by the team.

However, I would not see this sentence as a passive at all. 'Covered' here describes a characteristic of the desk rather than an action performed on it. Many past participles can be used as adjectives and I would simply treat this as an adjective, just as we do with 'interested', 'bored', 'dressed' and so on.



The LearnEnglish Team


'stopped and blocked' are an adjective also?

Hello Rsb,

Yes, both of those words can function as adjectives:

A stopped car can cause big problems on the motorway.

We have several blocked streets after the earthquake.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Rsb and teacher,

I also wanted to ask something about that grammar topic.

For example
There is a explanation in the dictionary about the adj. 'blocked'

However, there is no explanation in the dictionary about the adj 'stopped'.
It directly says past simple and past participle of stop.

I wonder why one participle adjective is shown in the dictionary and other is not.

I would be grateful if you could clear up my confusion.

Thank you in advance.

Hi Nevı,

Some dictionaries do list stopped as an adjective (e.g. the Collins Dictionary). 

Different dictionaries use different criteria for including or excluding words. One of these criteria is probably the frequency of usage - i.e., blocked as an adjective is probably more frequently used than stopped as an adjective.


The LearnEnglish Team

Pete sir,

If I want to use these adjectives with get

For ex. My account got stopped or blocked automatically.

Get' Is used as linking verb as change in state of subject 'my account'