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

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTY0MTg=

Active and passive voice 2

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTY0MTk=

Active and passive voice 3

GapFillTyping_MTY0MjE=

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

ReorderingHorizontal_MTY0MjI=

Active and passive voice 5

GapFillTyping_MTY0MjM=

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

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTY0MjQ=

Active and passive voice 7

GapFillTyping_MTY0MjU=

Take your language skills and your career to the next level
Get unlimited access to our self-study courses for only £5.99/month.
Respected team, In 1890, (faced) with the growing difficulty of accommodating immigrants at Castle Garden in Manhattan, the government decided to turn Ellis island into an immigration station. Is the verb (face) passive form? If so what has happened to (to be) verb? And if possible please direct me to some more examples on the net. Thank you

Hello Hosseinpour.

In this sentence 'faced' is a past participle which heads a participle clause. It is not a passive form but it has a passive meaning, so your question shows that you understand the meaning here.

 

We have a page on participle clauses which should be helpful. As you'll see, participle clauses with a past participle have a passive meaning and participle clauses with a present participle (verb-ing) have an active meaning. You can find the page here:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/intermediate-to-upper-intermediate/participle-clauses

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there brilliant team I want to know something about following sentence "The desk was littered with papers." Here I think' papers' is the subject and the right sentence should be /The desk was littered by papers.\. Because who or what littered the desk? It's answer is 'papers'. I would be grateful if you could clear up my confusion.

Hi Nevi,

The correct form here is 'with'.

The papers are not performing the action here. They are the tool which is used, so to speak.

If you want to see the sentence as a passive then the subject in the sentence is 'the desk'. No agent is provided because it is unknown or irrelevant, but an agent could be added:

The table was covered with papers by the team.

However, I would not see this sentence as a passive at all. 'Covered' here describes a characteristic of the desk rather than an action performed on it. Many past participles can be used as adjectives and I would simply treat this as an adjective, just as we do with 'interested', 'bored', 'dressed' and so on.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Rsb,

Yes, both of those words can function as adjectives:

A stopped car can cause big problems on the motorway.

We have several blocked streets after the earthquake.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Pete sir, If I want to use these adjectives with get For ex. My account got stopped or blocked automatically. Get' Is used as linking verb as change in state of subject 'my account'

Hello again Rsb,

That use is fine. It's a passive form using 'get' instead of 'be' as the auxiliary verb.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Pete sir, "My account is stopped or blocked" Can it have two meanings: 1. It is passive form using 'get' in place of be. It is present indefinite tense. 2. It is simple sentence stopped and blocked act as an adjective here. And get is main verb Am I correct?

Hello Rsb,

I think it is an adjective here describing the account. If you read it as a passive then it would be present simple, and you'd need a context to suit that such as 'my account is blocked every week' or similar.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Rsb and teacher, I also wanted to ask something about that grammar topic. For example There is a explanation in the dictionary about the adj. 'blocked' https://www.google.com/amp/s/dictionary.cambridge.org/amp/english/blocked However, there is no explanation in the dictionary about the adj 'stopped'. It directly says past simple and past participle of stop. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/stopped?q=Stopped I wonder why one participle adjective is shown in the dictionary and other is not. I would be grateful if you could clear up my confusion. Thank you in advance.

Hi Nevı,

Some dictionaries do list stopped as an adjective (e.g. the Collins Dictionary). 

Different dictionaries use different criteria for including or excluding words. One of these criteria is probably the frequency of usage - i.e., blocked as an adjective is probably more frequently used than stopped as an adjective.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, 'Aliyah gets hospitalized.' This sentence has two meaning: 1. It can be in passive form. Like Aliyah is/gets hospitalized by someone. 2. It can be simple present sentence where 'hospitalized' work as an adjective and 'gets' is a main verb/linking verb. Right sir? As per English grammar, we use 'get' in place of 'be' in passive construction. That rule only apply for simple present, past and future tense only. Ex. I break the window.( Active) The window is/gets broken by me .(passive) If I say, The window is being broken by me. Here, can't we use 'get' in place of 'be' This rule is not apply for continuous, perfect , perfect continuous tense ?

Hello Rsb,

The two uses of 'got' that you mention here are just two of quite a few. The sentence you use as an example is grammatically correct, but sounds a little unnatural to me because  there is dissonance between the use of 'get' as an informal passive auxiliary and the word 'hospitalized', which is not informal. Your example is grammatically correct, however -- I just wanted to point this out.

I'm not familiar with the rule you mention about 'get' not being used in passives in continuous or perfect forms, but it does sound like a good guideline in general. It does indeed sound odd to me to say 'The window is getting broken', but I don't think I'd go so far as to say it's incorrect.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir, Yes sir it sounds odd if I say 'the window getting being broken by me'. Overall, we use 'get' in place of be in two conditions: 1. Sentence should be in passive form. 2. Sentence should be of simple present, past and future only.

Hello Rsb,

I understand that perhaps this kind of summary is useful to you, but I wouldn't give my students this kind of thing. This is mainly because I think it's more useful to learn patterns, which allow for more diverse usages, than it is to learn rules, which tend to leave out important details. For example, I think it's important to note that 'get' is more informal than 'be'. I'd also not say it's wrong to use it in continuous tenses, though it is unusual.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi great moderators and teachers, I don't understand one thing about the verb 'express' . While reading a text, I saw that and decided to learn how to use. For example when I say; 'I expressed my ideas to her'-->Active voice. But I am confused about how I can use with passive voice. "My ideas were expressed to her. " or 'She was expressed my ideas.' I think both of them. But I am not sure. Thanks a lot.

Hello Nevı,

Your sentence has a direct object (my ideas) and an indirect object (her). We use the direct object as the subject in passive voice:

My ideas were expressed to her.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot teacher Peter.I am very grateful. So the sentence "My ideas were expressed to her. " is more common. But the sentence 'She was expressed my ideas.'(passive with indirect object) is also true but less common. ??? Isn't it. Finally, British Council teachers and team are perfect. They help us and answer our questions. Thanks for your helps. Best wishes.

Hello again Nevı,

No, 'She was expressed my ideas' is not a correct sentence.

As I said, we use the direct object as the subject in a passive sentence, not the indirect object.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi great teachers Peter, Kirk and Jonathan. I want to learn new things.And I am confused about one thing. While I reading a text to improve my skills, I didn't understand one word which is 'thronged' in that sentence -The streets were thronged with shoppers.- Then I looked different dictionares and one of them said 'be thronged with' is phrasel verb.(Oxford Dict.) Second one said 'thronged' is an adjective and it's structure is "verb-link ADJECTIVE with noun" (Collins Dict.) To sum up, I am very confused. Is ' be thronged with ' an adjective pattern or a 'phrasel verb'? Maybe a grammar topic haven't known anything about. Thank you a lot

Hello Nevı,

I'm surprised by the definition you found in the Oxford Dictionary and don't know how to explain that. I see something different in the Lexico UK dictionary (which is based on the Oxford Dictionary) win the definition for 'throng'.

What Collins says makes sense to me, and matches what Cambridge and Longman show as well. In other words, I'd recommend you view it as an adjective formed from the past participle of the verb 'throng'; it often collocates with the preposition 'with', but there are other patterns as well.

It's always a good idea to check several sources.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, we cannot say 'your suggestions are welcomed' but say your suggestions are welcome because welcome is treated as an adjective here. We can say 'they were welcomed by us' but why can't we say 'you are welcomed by us' or 'your suggestions are welcomed by us.' and why only 'your suggestions are welcome' Regards

Hello dipakrgandhi,

It's important to recognise the communicative function here, as it is not the same for all of these sentences.

 

When we are describing a fact in the world, we can use these sentences:

They were welcomed by us.

You are welcomed by us.

You suggestions are welcomed by us.

All of these sentences are correct. For example, a hotel might say this to its guests:

We are a friendly and open business, so all of your suggestions are welcomed by us.

 

However, sometimes the function is not simply to describe a fact. For example, Your suggestions are welcome has the function of encouraging people to make suggestions.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

John has been asked to get dressed by the staff. "You are supposed to wear a cloth in public. Hurry up! The meaning is scheduled to start soon." ;)
Sir, 1. This is to inform you that below mentioned employee's cab delayed in arriving office at standard time. (Verb delay intransitive) past indefinite tense 2. This is to inform you that below mentioned employee's cab was delayed in arriving office at standard time.( Here, Delayed as an adjective) simple past sentence Both the sentences are correct when I use the word delay as an adjective and verb (intransitive) in the context?

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,

Kirk

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).

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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,

Jonathan

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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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,

Kirk

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

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,

Jonathan

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,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, '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,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Jonathan sir, The chair was broken. Sentence is same but meaning is different. It is simple past tense(passive voice) and 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,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, Simple sentences (present, past and future) are different from simple tenses. For ex. She is beautiful (simple present sentence) She goes (simple present tense)

Hi Rsb,

Yes, that's right. Simple sentences are sentences that have only one clause. Simple tenses are tenses that are not continuous. Both the examples you mentioned are simple sentences and have simple tenses.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team