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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Hello Dil Gill,

Intransitive verbs such as 'be' do not have passive forms. If you change the verb to one like 'visit', you could possibly form a passive construction, e.g. 'That place has been visited', but there is no way to do it with the verb 'be'.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there , I'm preparing for the TOEIC TEST and today I was answering some questions in the reading section.I got confused a little bit with one of them the Question is :Mary’s new computer was supposed _____ delivered on Monday, but it did not arrive until Wednesday. a. to be b. going to be c. having been d. to have been my answer was "a" but it was wrong ,the answer sheet says it's "d" so I wanna know the reason for this answer Thanks in advance ,

Hello mohamed ashraf sayed,

The perfect infinitive (to have been) is the better answer here because of the times referred to in the sentence. In this sentence, both Monday and Wednesday are in the past. Since events on Monday occurred before events on Wednesday, a perfect infinitive (which has a meaning something like the past perfect in terms of it indicating a past action (Monday) previous to another past time (Wednesday)) is the most correct form.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Team, I've got a little trouble in understanding this sentence. 'You understand what Starfleet regulation mandate be done at this point.' Is it active or passive? And why 'be' is used directly(I mean not using 'be forms' such as 'is')? I'm quite confused by the phrase 'be done'. Thanks in advance, Eng.Learner

Hi Eng.Learner,

I'm not surprised that you find it difficult to understand this sentence, because it isn't grammatically correct! I think that the word 'mandate' should be 'mandates'; normally the verb 'mandate' is followed by to + infinitive, but I don't know how else to interpret this sentence. If I'm correct, the idea is that 'you' already understand what actions the regulations require at this point - the form 'be done' is indeed passive.

I hope that clears it up for you.

Best wishes,
Capt. Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

hi teacher, i'd like to askk a question for you: i noticed the following expression" lunch was being served ..might i say lunch was served ? and if no, i'd like why no? thanks to you. regards
Hi, I'm having a hard time understanding if these clauses are active or passive: Word classes are traditionally called parts of speech.- There is not a fixed number of word classes. - We can define the word classes -(this one I'm pretty sure is active, because if it was passive it would be "the word classes can be defined by us", right?) that we need in our analysis.- Word classes can be divided into open classes and closed classes. - (passive?) Open classes are readily open to new words; - (active?) closed classes are limited classes that rarely admit new words. (active?) Can someone please help me ?

Hello savannamanna,

There are two sentences with passive forms:

Word classes are traditionally called parts of speech.

Word classes can be divided into open classes and closed classes.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hello there, "Other products like pens are imported and those are assembling in the factory by the company." I'd like to know is this sentence grammatically correct or not because I think assembling is wrong to put there.I guess it should be "assembled"Please help me with this. Thank you.

Hello naaka,

You are correct; the sentence should have 'assembled' and not 'assembling'.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi.....what is the active voice of: The new car is thought to be eco-friendly The crisis is expected to finish by 2013. It was believed that aliens were green. Dr.Jones is said to het a nomination to a Nobel Prize. It's predicted that our health will improve in the future Tina is having her eyes tested on Tuesday. Please.....transform this sentences fast!!!!!!

Hello Jack,

I think you would learn more if you tried to transform them yourself. Please tell us what you think they should be in the active voice and then we can help you understand any errors you've made.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! I want to know what what is the passive voice of the sentence ''the teacher tells us what to read".....please

Hi Jack Daniell,

There are two possibilities, depending on which verb is to put into the passive:

'We were told (by the teacher) what to read.'

'The teacher tells us what is to be read.'

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Would the following be correct(active to passive) They grow coffee in Kenya-coffee is grown by them in kenya Someone has cleaned the windows- the windows have been cleaned by someone They will send him away to school-he will be sent away to school by them
Hi! I wanted to know what what is the passive voice of the sentence "post the letter"

Hello Virginkhanikor Gogoi,

To transform that phrase into the passive, move its object ('the letter') to the subject position, which is normally at the beginning. Then use the verb 'be' in whatever time is appropriate plus the past participle of the verb 'post': 'is posted'. All together, it's 'the letter is posted'.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teachers of The Learn English Team, A lot of new things that I didn't know about ACTIVE AND PASSIVE VOICE. The use of the indirect object as the subject of a passive verb is a little confuse for me but I think with practice I could improve it. I want to know if It is common to use get to form the passive in english conversations and if It is understanable for everyone? or Would you prefer to use the verb be for passive voice?

Hello Jeraldine_molleda,

The passive is less common in speaking than in writing, and is more common in formal contexts than informal ones. However, the passive is used in even informal conversation when appropriate, as you'll hear when you listen to some of the listening materials on LearnEnglish.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Can we write he will be sent away to school by them if we convert the sentence they will send him away to school into passive voice. Can we write the windows have been cleaned by someone if we covert someone has cleaned the windows into passive. Can we write coffee is grown jn kenya by them if we convert they grow coffee in kenya into passive

Hello manupras,

Yes, those sentences are grammatically correct. Often 'by them' in the passive sentences is left out if it's already clear from context, but it is grammatically correct.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

we would be left with no money after giving the rent. or we would left with no money after giving the money. which 1 is correct and why? and how it is passive sentence? plz explain

Hello tagrapankaj,

The first sentence is correct. It is a passive form: be [would be] + past participle [left]. We can use a passive form as both the object of 'leave' and the subject is us - it is an action we are doing to ourselves. We can see this more clearly if we use a reflexive form:

We would leave ourselves with no money after...

We would be left (by ourselves) with no money after...

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

mail has been sent.. can i write it as mail is sent.. if both are not same what is the difference ? plz also give example with explanation .

Hello tagrapankaj,

There are two forms here which have different uses.

  1. 'Mail has been sent' is an example of a present perfect passive construction [have/has been + past participle].
  2. 'Mail is sent' is an example of a present simple passive construction [am/is/are + past participle].

Present perfect forms, whether active or passive, are used to show that an event or state in the past has some connection to the present: either that it continues into the present or that it has a result of some kind in the present. The first sentence here tells us that the mail is on its way (a present result of the past action of sending it). You can find out more about perfective forms here

Present simple forms, whether active or passive, are used to show that an event or state is true in general, or something which happens again and again, or something which is permanently true. Your example tells us that someone sends mail regularly as part of a normal routine, and not just one time. You can find out more about the present simple here.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

I notice that you have posted a number of versions of this question. Please remember that we are a small team here at LearnEnglish and have many questions to answer every day, as well as dealing with other matters related to running and expanding the site. Posting multiple versions of the same question only slows down the process. Please be patient and we will answer your question as soon as we can.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Please explain: Why there is no passive for Present/Past/Future Perfect Progressive Tenses? And please tell me, how can we make passive from perfect progressive tenses? How can i convert this active into passive: The company has been associating itself with me for the last 5 years.
Hello Ranjeetibs, I'm afraid we are only a small team at LearnEnglish and we don't have time to answer lots of questions. Please only ask one question at a time. Have you seen our Verb Machine? http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/word-games/verb-machine It will answer your first question about the perfect progressive passive form. Best wishes, Adam The LearnEnglish Team

Subido por keyansugan81 (no verificado) el Mié, 02/07/2014 - 16:43

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HI, I am bit confused about active voice and passive voice. I will take example from here. i gave him a book for his birthday this is Active voice. He was given a book for his birthday this this is passive voie. what I am undrstand from this passive voice, that book was given to him by his self. is it correct or worng? please correct me.

Subido por Kirk el Jue, 03/07/2014 - 11:18

En respuesta a por keyansugan81 (no verificado)

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Hello keyansugan81,

No, that is not quite correct. The sentence "He was given a book for his birthday" does not specify who gave the book to the person whose birthday it was. It might be that the giver of the gift is unknown, or it might be that the person who wrote that sentence didn't think it was important to mention who the giver was.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir, can you kindly explain the passive voice of Present perfect and past perfect with some examples ......... it is damn confusing....... its a mess........ :(

Hello waqar un Ansa,

As is explained above, the passive is formed of the verb be (which can be one or more words, and in the case of the present perfect and past perfect is two words, e.g. has/have been or had been) plus a past participle.

Why don't you write two or three sentences and ask us to correct them?

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Well I got a little confused about PASSIVE VOICE, If I have an active voice sentences in present perfect tense, What is the tense that I have to write the passive sentence?? I don't know If I am being clear with the questions, I hope that someone could help with this doubt please.. Greatings

Hello Eloisa Guzman,

In transformation exercises the tenses should remain the same unless there is some instruction to do otherwise.  Therefore, if you have a sentence in the present perfect then you should transform it into the present perfect passive.

I hope that answers your question.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello!i have a question in use of passive here- Film is finished or finished?and -Concert is started or started?and in shops "closed" means "is closed"?what about a note"open".Why just open?thank u.

Hello the elf,

I'm not sure I've understood your question correctly, so please reply if you had something else in mind.  Some of the examples in your question, as far as I can tell, are passive and active forms:

The film finished. [= an active form meaning that it came to a natural end]

The film was finished. [= a passive form meaning someone completed the film, such as the director]

The concert started. [= an active form meaning that music was playing]

The concert was started. [= a passive form meaning that someone started it, such as the host or a special guest]

Other examples are of active verbs contrasted with adjective forms:

The shop closed at six o'clock. [= an active form meaning that the owner locked the door and you can't buy anything]

The shop is closed. [= an adjective form telling us that the shop is not open]

Often in English the past participle and the adjective form are the same so it is very difficult to say which form you are dealing with.  For example, the last sentence above could be seen as a passive, though this is much less likely and would need a particular context:

The shop is closed (every day by its owner). [= a passive form]

It is a tricky area.  I hope the examples above helped to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello!i would appreciate any help with one sentence.- "We have just been told today that the painters (would have finished or will have finished by the weekend." Is it reported speech so we have to change tense?or put "will have finished".I'm confused.

Hello the elf,

In most contexts, the correct form would be will have finished. The first verb ("we have been told") is in a present tense (more specifically, the present perfect), and so generally will is used instead of would. This is explained in more detail on our will have and would have page.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much it is really amazing to get help from here Can you Correct this Our organisation needs some drastic changes to be brought about.

Hello AbdulMohsin,

I think a better sentence would be:

Some drastic changes need to be brought about in our organisation.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hello, think you so much for your help !! I work on passive voice but I don't know when I need to use it (in which conditions ? ....). Can you tell me the goal of the passive voice and when use it. I'm very nervous because my exam is in 1 week and my english is so bad !! Tony

Hello tony29,

There are many reasons why we might use the passive.  The main use is move the focus (the emphasis) from the subject to the object.  For example, if we say ‘Hamlet’ was written in 1599 then we are emphasising 'Hamlet' and the date, not the author. We can add 'by Shakespeare' to this if we wish, of course.

We often use the passive for a formal or official style, such as in notices or announcements.  For example, 'The wedding will be celebrated at 1.00 in St. John's church'; 'Passengers are requested to refrain from smoking'.

We use the passive when we wish to sound neutral and avoid controversy or accusations of bias, such as in news reports.  For example, 'An attack has been made upon a building in central London'.

However, it is very important to remember that variety matters.  Texts which contain only passives tend to read badly and it is usually better to use a mixture of passive and active forms.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team