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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Dear Sir Tpoic: avtive or pasive There are many countries in the world which are devoloped and some are developing. Please tell me ' are developed' is passive or not. Thank you.

Hello Andrew international,

In this case, 'are' is a verb and 'developed' is an adjective formed from the past participle -- this is not a passive construction. Here 'developed' means something that has already been developed whereas 'developing' means it is still in the process of being developed.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir Please let me know the following senttence is pasive or not because it doesn't have an agent so it can't be passive but it has the passive structure. eg. Those countries are developed. Thank you.

Hello Andrew international,

Passive construction do not have to have an agent; in fact, many times the point of a passive construction is to not discuss the agent or to draw attention away from them. Therefore I'm afraid I can't say whether it is a passive construction or the verb 'be' + an adjective (an adjective that is formed from the past participle of the verb 'develop') without seeing the context. If you can supply the context then we can help you see how this works.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

What time would it be convenient to come round? Do dwe consider this sentence in future or future in the past. Can we use would for future tense als?

Hello aseel aftab,

We use 'would' here as a polite form. 'Will' is also possible, but is rather less formal/polite:

What time will it be convenient to come round?

What time would it be convenient to come round?

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi It is requested to convert these sentences into active voice. 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

Subido por Peter M. el Sáb, 16/12/2017 - 06:55

En respuesta a por KHURRAM USMAN

Enlace permanente

Hello KHURRAM USMAN,

I'm afraid we don't provide answers to tasks like this. We're happy to explain how the language works or to explain examples which are not clear (as I did for you with your other question) but we don't do tasks like this. If we tried then we would end up doing our users' homework for them, which is not our role!

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter It is not homework but i want to know how to convert passive voice into active voice and then when we have active voice sentences, similarly, we can do it. your page is not providing details instructions how to do this. Therefore, please help me in this regards. Yet, why we use 'be' with may, can give me some advice regarding this.

Hello KHURRAM USMAN,

To make a passive verb form into an active verb form we need to know the agent - the person or thing doing the action. Sometimes this is included in the passive construction (with a 'by' phrase), sometimes it is obvious and sometimes we simply need to use a generic term such as 'someone' or 'people'. This can make for some very unnatural sentences, even if they are grammatically correct.

 

The active versions of your sentences would be as follows:

People speak English all over the world.

Someone has cleaned the windows.

People were serving lunch.

People will finish the work soon.

Someone might have invited them to the party.

 

I'm not sure what you mean by the question about 'may'. Modal verbs are followed by bare infinitives (without 'to') and 'be' is an example of a bare infinitive: should be, might be, may be, could be etc.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

How can I tell "verb" is transitive or not? And also how can I tell verb is only intransitive like "happen" etc?

Hello kingston,

Most dictionaries will have this information. See, for example, the entry for 'happen' in the Cambridge Dictionary, where [I] means it is intransitive.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Riha,

A passive verb always has at least two parts, and the first one is always some form of the verb 'be' (or in some cases 'get'). The second part, which is always one word, is always a past participle.

Does that help?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir, Would you please help me change the following sentence into the passive voice? They have had to destroy some buildings.

Hello Hisham al Lubbad,

The passive form of this sentence would be as follows:

Some buildings have had to be destroyed.

 

Please note that generally we don't provide answers to specific questions like this as we don't want to end up doing people's homework or tests for them.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Hisham al Lubbad,

Both of those transformations are correct so the information you have been giving to your students is correct.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

The house is being painted and Somebody is painting the house. Does both the sentence means the same because we use continuous tenses for an ongoing action at the moment so the sentence in passive voice uses the past participle form so does it also mean action is ongoing.

Hello aseel aftab,

Yes, they essentially mean the same thing. The continuous aspect is also used in both. The continuous aspect can mean different things depending on context, but yes, one of the common meanings is to refer to something ongoing at the moment of speaking.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir , the other day I came across 2 sentences. In one a blank was supposed to be filled with the passive form of a verb. The sentence was : Lifeguards ......... (train) to save people from drowning. My knowledge says the answer should be 'are trained' . Sir can we also write 'has been trained' as that is also a passive form? The second sentence simply tells to change the voice. 2. Were you taught to read by your father? Can we have two answers to this? *Did your father teach you to read? *Your father taught you to read? The second answer seems strange... please shed some light. Thank you.

Hello amrita,

I'm afraid we can't help you with questions that come from other sources. We are simply too small a team with too much other work to be able to offer this kind of service.

Good luck!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I have read this : A week after Aarushi's murder, Rajesh Talwar was arrested and spent 60 days in jail before getting bail I have few doubts : 1. " Rajesh Talwar was arrested " is in passive and so the remaining sentence after 'and ' should either be in passive for it to continue the same subject without repeating or have subject repeated if it is to be in active voice. 2. In its present form does the range of ' was ' extend to verb after ' and ' and effectively makes it : and was spent 60 days in Jail before getting bail , which is wrong. Please clarify.

Hello dipak,

1. Although it would be a bit clearer if the subject were repeated, it's not strictly necessary here.

2. No it does not.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, my question on the passive voice of grow: I have seen written "Cells were grown on a rotary shaker" but also "Cells grown on a rotary shaker". what is the difference ?

Hi johny34,

'Cells were grown' is a passive sentence, but 'cells grown on a rotary shaker' is a noun phrase. In other words, the first expresses a complete thought, with a subject and verb, but in the second 'grown' works like an adjective -- it describes what kind of cells you mean. It is a short form of 'cells that were grown on a rotary shaker' (and this phrase has a passive verb), but in the form you ask about, 'grown' works like an adjective. You can read more about how this works in the Simplifying defining relative clauses section of our Defining relative clauses page.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, I am still not receiving the email notifications for the replies to my comments. When I access it through the ' Track ' menu in my account it does not open the exact page where my comment has been answered , and I have to go from page one in that section to search the exact page. Please suggest the solution. Thanking you in advance.

Hello dipakrgandhi,

I'll have to check into the matter of email notifications with our technical team and will let you know once I've heard back from them.

As for the 'track' menu, it sounds as if it is working correctly, or at least that is how it works for me as well. Our site is not set up for complex and lengthy exchanges in the comment sections and so this is how it works.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sir, I wonder why if the sentence whether passive or not: The data also reveals that countries recently plagued by terrorism or political unrest – such as Egypt and Tunisia – still have the tourism pull to rebound from a downward turn. I look forward to seeing your answer soon. Thank you.

Hello Harper Nguyen,

I presume you are asking about the verb 'plagued' here. This is actually part of a reduced relative clause. The full sentence (with the relative clause) would be as follows:

The data also reveals that countries which have been recently plagued by terrorism or political unrest – such as Egypt and Tunisia – still have the tourism pull to rebound from a downward turn.

As you can see, the verb in the relative clause is a passive form.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Can we also say'The data also reveals that countries which are plagued ... ' instead of ' ... have been ... ' What difference would it make ?
Hello, I have started learning English, so i am confused and i don't understand the exact meaning of this sentence: "As for the plants recently cultivated". Is it in passive tense or in active? Could you please explain it, and if it's in passive, why there is no any verb like "are" or "were" before "cultivated"? Thank you so much.

Hello frasha,

That is not a complete sentence, so I'm not surprised that you find it difficult to parse. It might be a phrase with ellipsis (i.e. words left out: 'As for the plants (that were) recently cultivated') I'm afraid I can't explain it without knowing the wider context.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Could you please explain this sentence for me "Prices to be set " how can we use "to" in a passive form?! Thanks in advance

Hello Hagar28,

This isn't really a sentence as it has no main verb. Without knowing the context you saw it in, I can't say for sure, but I imagine that the verb 'are' has been omitted. This is an example of a passive infinitive. The passive voice requires the verb 'be' (here in infinitive form) and the past participle, both of which are present here.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! Could someone please tell me if the following sentence is in a passive tense or not? "Did he ever build a house with a chimney ordered by the government?" Thanks

Hello maxarsh,

This sentence has a kind of reduced relative clause in it, and the implied relative clause has a passive verb in it. To be more specific, I'd say this sentence is a reduced version of 'Did he ever build a house with a chimney that was ordered by the government?'. 'was ordered' is a passive verb.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi In the passive, 'be' is used with a past participle verb. As such, can we take "He is gone" as a passive sentence? If yes, what could be the active form? If not, why do we use 'be' plus past participle structure in a non-passive sentence? Are there other similar examples of such usage in non-passive sentences?

Hello Adya's,

'He is gone' is not a passive construction (S + be + p.p.) but rather a copula (S + be + adj.). There is no passive form of this structure. In other words, 'gone' is used adjectivally here.

Many past participles can be used in exactly the same way (e.g. 'the job is done'). With transitive verbs, only context will tell you whether a clause has a passive verb or copula in it -- e.g. 'the bread is baked' could be both structures and the only way to know is to ask the speaker or deduce it from the context.

This Wikipedia page and this BBC page might be of interest to you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi If the sentence is in the passive, like, "It can't be solved", what should be the question tag - "can it" or "can it be"? Similarly, if the passive sentence is like, "It can be made", what should be the short answer in the affirmative- "Yes, it can", or "Yes, it can be"?

Hi Adya's.

In question tags and in short answers there is no need to repeat the main verb, which here is 'be'. Therefore the correct forms would be 'can it' and 'Yes, it can', respectively.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team