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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 Nuro,

I think you would probably see the passive sentence in most sports journalism, but your sentence is perfect -- great work!

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team


"I want you to eat the food".
"I want you to read the book".

Is this correct to say same sentences like this??

I want you eating the food and
I want you reading the book.

Hello Rsb,

Both forms (want sb to do and want sb doing) are grammatically possible.


Generally, I think we use want sb doing when we are talking about an existing situation which we want to continue or stop:

I don't want you talking to my children!

We also use this to describe an imagined situation in the future which we hope to find or avoid:

I'll be working all day so I don't want people interrupting me.

We have to send the proposal on Monday, so when I get here tomorrow I want everyone working hard on the text.


The infinitive form (want sb to do) generally refers to a particular action in the future;

I don't want you to talk to my children.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Pete sir!

Hi teacher Peter,
I am confused. Some adjectives end with"-ed".
And many past participle forms end with "-ed".However, This situation confuses me. For example, this sentence
"I am excited".The word(excited) is
-adj- or past participle of passive ?

Hi Nuro,

This is an ambiguous case. The word 'excited' could be an adjective:

I am excited/happy/sad etc.

She is an excited/happy/sad person.


On the other hand, you could see it as a past participle in a passive construction:

I am excited by the plan.


It doesn't make any difference to the sentence, really; it's simply a question of terminology.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Which sentence is correct or both are? Why?
1- Many machines are made to run by electricity.
2- Many machines are made to be run by electricity.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I don't think either of those sound particulary natural, to be honest. Although I don't know the context or exactly what you intend to say, I would guess that you are looking for something like this:

Many machines are designed to run on electricity


Many machines are electrically powered



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. I'm really confused about the following sentence:
- I've got some of the cleverest students (to prepare - preparing - prepared) for the competition. They don't need preparation anymore.
I think the three forms are OK, right?
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Iman,

All three forms are possible grammatically, but they have different meanings and only one fits the context.

I've got some of the cleverest students to prepare for the competition - this means that the preparation is a future activity or obligation

I've got some of the cleverest students preparing for the competition - this means that they are currently preparing; their preparation is in progress

I've got some of the cleverest students prepared - this means that the preparation has been done and they are now ready

As your example has a context in which 'they don't need preparation anymore' I think it is clear that the third option is the correct choice.



The LearnEnglish Team