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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



Hi Rsb,

Yes, that's right! The sentence has those two meanings. Note though that the noun cab needs an article before it (probably the).

I don't understand what you mean by 'what kind of noun'. Do you want to know the meaning, or whether the noun is countable or uncountable? If so, I'd recommend using the dictionary for both of these. Have a look at these Cambridge Dictionary pages for delay and shift.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Yes sir about countable or uncountable noun what I want to ask.

Delay and shift comes under which things(person,place, object )

Hi Rsb,

OK, I see now! In those dictionary pages, after noun, it shows C if it's countable, U if it's uncountable, and C and U if it's both. Delay and shift are abstract things.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot sir!

Hello Dear Teachers,
I am having issues with understanding the object in Active voice to be placed as a subject of the Passive Voice. For example, I am not sure what the obj is in the following examples (how many words):
e.g.Repair another table for this class. (two days ago)
- Another table for this class was repaired two days ago.
- Another table was repaired for this class two days ago.

Hi eager2know,

I think normally, we'd understand another table as the object of the active voice sentence. We'd understand the phrase for this class as referring to the action of repairing, and it isn't part of the object. 

But, we can understand it another way: the object is another table for this class. In this case, the table is for the class (while in the other meaning above, 'repairing' is for the class). It's a small difference in meaning, though, and both of your passive sentences mean pretty much the same thing. 

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


'The chair is broken'.

It has two meanings:-

First, it is a passive construction. Here 'broken' is a main verb in 3rd form past participle of break. And 'is' an auxiliary verb.

Second, 'broken' here acts as an adjective in verb 3rd form past participle. And 'is' is a main verb/linking verb.

Pls correct If I am not right?

Hi Rsb,

Yes! We can understand this sentence both ways.

But, the second one (broken = adjective) is more likely, because of the tense in your sentence. The first one is a passive action in the present simple. The present simple usually shows something that is true in the present and is relatively unchanging, or is a regularly occurring action. But the action of breaking a chair is short and usually not a regularly occurring action.

Instead, to describe an action that you are seeing right now, we'd use the present continuous: The chair is being broken. (Or: The chair is breaking). Alternatively, if we can see the broken chair, then the action has already happened and we'd use the present perfect or past simple: The chair has been broken / The chair was broken. (Or: The chair has broken. / The chair broke.)

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Jonathan sir,
The chair was broken.
Sentence is same but meaning is different.

It is simple past tense(passive voice)
It is simple past sentence. broken describing the chair.

'Break' is an Ergative verb here ?
Ex. I am breaking the chair.
The chair is breaking.

Hi Rsb,

Yes :) The past tense sentence has the two different meanings you mentioned. And that's right - break is an ergative verb.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team