You are here

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



I was expected to be a human....

Hello. What is the difference between the two sentences in the two pairs?
1.a) He is having a mechanic repair the car now.
1.b) He has a mechanic repairing the car now.
2.a) He was having a mechanic repair the car yesterday.
2.b)He had a mechanic repairing the car yesterday.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

When have is used in a causitive structure it is possible to use it with continuous aspect, so all of these sentences are grammatically correct.

With the adverb 'now', there is no difference between sentences 1a and 1b. Both describe a process which is in progress; the simple and continuous forms do not change this.


The second pair of sentences have some differences, though we really need a context to be sure of the meaning. Sentence 2a describes the person's intention, but does not make it clear whether or not the repair was done. Sentence 2b tells us that the repair began, but may or may not have been completed.



The LearnEnglish Team

Would you mind explaining me these examples?
I had to turn sentence using personal and impersonal construction:
1. They thought he had been brave to do so.
1a. He was thought to have been brave to do so.
1b. It was thought that he had been brave to do so.

2.They believe he was working illegally.
2a. He is believed to have been working illegally.
2b. It is believed that he was working illegally.

I do not understand why (in 1a.) the tense is changed from past perfect to present perfect and why (in 2a) the tense is changed from past continuous to present perfect continuous.

It is written that personal construction is: subject+passive verb+ to-inf, so for this reason i thought that for example in 1a. should be 'he was thought to be brave to do so'

Thank you for your answer :)

Hello NicoleID,

I think part of the problem here is that you are confusing two forms. In sentence 1a there is no present perfect. The construction 'be thought to...' is followed by an infinitive, but there are many infintive forms:

to work - infinitive

to be working - continuous infinitive

to have worked - perfect infinitive

to have been working - continuous perfect infinitive


In 1a, to have been is a perfect infinitive. The form is consistent with the pattern.

In 2a, to have been working is a continuous perfect infinitive. Again, it is consistent with the pattern.

If the normal infinitive had been used, the sentences would have been about the present; the perfect infinitive make the past time reference clear.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello team. Could you please help me? Which sentence is correct to change the following sentence from active into passive voice?

- They refused him a visa. (active)

1- He was refused a visa.
2- A visa was refused to me.
3- A visa was refused for me.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I think options 1 and 3 are correct. Option 2 does not sound correct to my ear.

However, as the subject in the original sentence is 'he' you should say 'him' rather than 'me'.



The LearnEnglish Team

I am wondering that someone told me that time
and place phrase should write before by+ subject. is it the right way to writ in passive form. Can u explain me please? Thank you

Hello MJEnglishLearner,

With questions like this it's generally helpful to give an example so we can be sure that we understand what you mean.

If I understand you correctly, you are asking about the order of phrases in passive voice sentences. For example:

The meeting was organised by our team on Saturday at 3pm.

The meeting was organised on Saturday at 3pm by our team.

Both of these are grammatically possible. I don't think there is any preference in terms of style and clarity.



The LearnEnglish Team

I'm wondering in what situations and how do English speaking people say like this, 'No apologies are necessary'.