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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

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Active and passive voice 2

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Active and passive voice 3

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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

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Active and passive voice 5

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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

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Active and passive voice 7

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Comments

Hello admins,
Are these both correct?
She (Russian Blue) is gone! She (Russian Blue) disappeared!

Hi Rafaela1,

Yes! These are both grammatically correct. (Is Russian Blue a cat?)

In British English, it's also common to use the present perfect for the second sentence: She's disappeared / She has disappeared.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Jonathan, your advice helps me a lot.
Yupe, a Russian Blue is a furriend. ;)

Hi team,I don't understand two thing about this sentence
"The exact words my father spoke as he left us are branded in my memory."

1)I tried to add agent (by sth.) to practice my understanding voices.But I couldn't add because
who or what can brand sth. in your memory!? Could you give an example agent for this sentence ?

2)Sometimes I can't add any agent in passive voice sentences.But object need a doer.Can you say why I can't add doer some passive sentences?

Hello Nuro,

I don't think the phrase 'are branded' is a passive verb here. Instead, it's the verb 'be' and the adjective 'branded' (which is formed from the verb 'brand'). If it were a passive verb, it would be in the past ('were branded') because that is the time that the words were spoken and entered the speaker's memory.

There is no need for an agent to be included in a passive sentence; indeed, much of the time, the whole point of a passive sentence is not to mention the agent. When I think about the sentence 'The words he spoke as he left us were branded in my memory', I'd understand the situation to be what caused his words to make such an impression on this person -- in other words, the situation is the agent.

I hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Dear Sir,

I am always confused that when should I use passive voice or "being". For example :

1) 10 workers were terminated by the company
2) 10 workers have been terminated by the company
3) 10 workers were being terminated by the company

My intuition tells me that (1) and (2) are more common, but under which circumstance I should use being rather than passive voice+verb? Thanks.

Hello Yap,

'Being' here indicates that the form is continuous:

10 workers were terminated by the company. [past simple passive]

10 workers were being terminated by the company. [past continuous passive]

The continuous passive form is used just as other continuous forms are used: when something is in progress and is interrupted by another action, for example.

 

Your question is not really about passive voice as all three options are passive forms. What you are asking is when to use the past simple (1), the present perfect (2) and the past continuous (3). The fact they are all passives does not change the differences between these three forms.

 

  • The past simple (1) indicates a finished past action.
  • The present perfect (2) indicates a past action with present relevance.
  • The past continuous (3) indicates an action in progress interrupted by another event or another time point.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team,
I have learnt in passive sentences we use with + tool.
But the fallowing sentence
with + subject.
"The midfield player has been sidelined for the past month with knee problems."
Why with+subject here? Have I learnt wrong, could you explain?

Hello Nuro,

It's true that you can use 'with' to talk about a tool in a passive sentence, but that's not the only use of 'with'. It is a very common word with many uses. Here it describes the reason for the action -- see the 'with preposition (CAUSE)' entry (the eighth heading in purple) on the page I linked to for more examples.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Teacher,If I want to say in active voice, can I use -knee problems- for the subject?At that time sentence like this:
"Knee problems have sidelined him for the past month."
If my active voice sentence is false,what could I say?

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