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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



Hello Rsb,

'delay' is a transitive verb, so I'm afraid the first sentence is not correct. If you look up the word in the dictionary, you'll see some useful example sentences.

The second sentence is a bit awkward in standard British English, but its use of 'delayed' is correct.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Sir ,
But in dictionary 'delay' is described as an ergative verb.

And can I use "to arrive office" in place of 'in arriving office'?

This is to inform you that employee's cab was delayed/late to arrive/reach office at standard time.

Hi Rsb,

Actually, delay has several meanings! For the meaning of 'to make something late', it's only transitive (see the second meaning of delay in the Cambridge Dictionary). It's not intransitive or ergative for this meaning.

About the arrive phrase, it should be: The employee's cab was delayed (in) arriving at the office. You can use it with or without in. It has the same meaning.

Using 'to + verb' (to arrive at the office) doesn't work here, unless you want to show the purpose of the delay (e.g. The event was delayed, to give us more time to prepare).


The LearnEnglish Team


Cab was late .

Can we use 'delay' in place of late?
Cab was delay

Hi Rsb,

Delay is a noun and a verb but not an adjective, so we should use the -ed form here: The cab was delayed.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

How delayed is noun here sir?

It is not behaving like an adjective describing the cab noun

Hello Rsb,

I just wanted to point out that Jonathan didn't say that 'delayed' is a noun -- he said that 'delay' is a noun. In this sentence, 'delayed' is an adjective.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Can't we write "cab was delay"?

What kind a noun is delay?

Hello Rsb,

I'm afraid that isn't correct. I'd suggest you study the example sentences you can find in a few online dictionaries -- I think that should clarify to you how it is used.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Sir "cab was delayed"
It has two meanings :-

1. It is a passive voice that the cab was delayed by someone. Subject is silent

2. It is simple past sentence, delayed is an describing the cab which is noun. Am I correct ?

what kind a noun is delay ?

And also what kind a noun is 'shift'?

For ex. Shift gets over at 6am