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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Soumis par Widescreen le mer 21/12/2016 - 13:40

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Hi team, Kindly advises if my passive sentence is correct. The active sentence is : I rarely hear her call her children bed names". My passive sentence is : I rarely hear her children to be called bad names by her" thank you.

Soumis par Peter M. le jeu 22/12/2016 - 06:52

En réponse à par Widescreen

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Hello Widescreen,

That is not a correct sentence. I'm afraid we don't provide answers to tasks from elsewhere as we cannot offer a service of doing people's homework or tests for them! If we tried then we would never have time for anything else.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par dlis le lun 05/12/2016 - 15:59

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Hi sir, He's broken his arm. Is it a passive sentence or an active?

Soumis par Peter M. le mar 06/12/2016 - 07:16

En réponse à par dlis

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Hello dlis,

That is an active sentence. It is an example of the present perfect (has + past participle).

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par dlis le mer 07/12/2016 - 15:25

En réponse à par dlis

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Hi sir, thank you for your reply. My question is, when something happened accidentally, is it possible to keep in active voice?or could I say, He has been broken his arm. Do they have same meaning?

Soumis par Kirk le jeu 08/12/2016 - 14:27

En réponse à par dlis

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Hello dlis,

That sentence isn't correct, but you could say 'his arm has been broken' if you wanted to use the passive, but it is rarely used compared to the active. I know it might sound strange, but people use the active sentence much more often, even to talk about accidents. The active voice doesn't imply that someone broke their arm on purpose.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Karan gupta le mar 22/11/2016 - 14:58

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If I had to convert this into an indirect speech, then? He said, " when I was a child, I wasn't afraid of ghosts". I think it should be : He said that when he had been a child, he was not afraid of ghosts..? whats wrong here.

Hello Karan gupta,

There is no need to change the verb form here:

He said that when he was a child, he was not afraid of ghosts.

Verbs in simple past or past progressive tend not to shift back in sentences with 'when' and 'if'.

Please note that this page is not related to reported speech. It is helpful if questions can be posted on relevant pages so that other users can find them when they are studying a given topic.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

But sir do we a have comment section on change of narration; I have never found one.It should be very sought after if you started one.

Soumis par Arvind Kumar Singh le mar 15/11/2016 - 09:20

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Which one is correct?? You are known by me . or You are known to me. explain please

Hello Arvind Kumar Singh,

Without knowing the context or what you want to say, it's difficult to say which is correct, though I can say that the second one is probably more common than the first. If you have a context in mind, please explain and we'll do our best to help you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par sonicsyy le mar 01/11/2016 - 07:17

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Hi, I have a question about phrases 'dress up' and 'be dressed up'. What's the difference between the two sentences below? 1) He likes to be dressed up like a prince. 2) He likes to dress up like a prince. Thank you in advance,

Soumis par Kirk le mar 01/11/2016 - 12:35

En réponse à par sonicsyy

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Hello sonicsyy,

Sentence 1 is in the passive voice and sentence 2 is in the active voice - see our active and passive voice page for more on this.

The first sentence implies that other people put the clothes on him, whereas the second one implies that he puts the clothes on by himself.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Andrew international le mer 26/10/2016 - 10:59

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Dear Sir Is this active or passive? It is made in Japan. I think it is not passive because there is no transitive verb but a part of be and a past participle in the structure. Best regards Andrew international

Soumis par Peter M. le jeu 27/10/2016 - 07:50

En réponse à par Andrew international

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Hello Andrew international,

'Make' is a transitive verb which requires an object when used in active voice: I make [something] - the object is required.

In your example the person doing the making is omitted, but this does not mean that the verb is intransitive. We can always omit the 'by' phrase:

He was killed (by his enemy).

The job was completed (by my colleague).

It was made in Japan (by robots).

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par frozenfever le jeu 20/10/2016 - 16:04

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I want to learn literary elements and figurative language.

Hello frozenfever,

That's great, but I'm afraid we don't have any resources for that. This BBC page might be useful for you and I'd also suggest you do an internet search for 'learn literary elements'.

Good luck!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello again Losu Peter,

There's a little bit on paragraph writing in Unit 7 of English for Emails and in Writing for a Purpose. Another good resource that I sometimes refer my students to is the Online Writing Lab, which has lots of useful resources for learning about writing.

You can also learn a lot by reading texts that are similar to the ones that you want to write. Analyse the paragraphs - what is the idea in each one, what does each sentence do, etc. - and then imitate the organisation and style in your own writing.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Olle99 le mer 31/08/2016 - 21:01

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Hi, I will appreciate if you answer and comment on the following question: What form (“were” or “have been”) is better to use in a descriptive text? E.g. “In contrast to X, where changes were (have been) observed, no changes were (have been) found in Y.” Thank you, Olle

Soumis par Peter M. le jeu 01/09/2016 - 07:34

En réponse à par Olle99

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Hello Olle99,

The type of text does not influence this, but rather the way we perceive the action. If there is a present result of the action which is still valid then we use the present perfect; if the action is solely in the past and is complete then we use the past simple.

In your example it depends on the context. If you are describing the actions of a scientist from the past then 'were' and 'were' would be correct. If you are describing your own research or research conducted by another person in the present or very recent past then 'have been observed' and 'have been found' would be correct.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Essid Abir le dim 28/08/2016 - 15:53

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Hi, "causative verbs are used instead of passive verbs to show that the subject causes the actions to be done ." Can you please, give me more information about Causative verbs: have/get something done.

Soumis par Peter M. le lun 29/08/2016 - 06:59

En réponse à par Essid Abir

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Hi Essid Abir,

The construction 'have sth done' is generally used when we pay for a service. For example:

'I had my lawn cut last week' means that I paid someone to do it.

Here are some other examples:

'I had my house painted'

'She had her car repaired'

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par pyramid le lun 15/08/2016 - 06:16

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Let the voice be changed How to make this sentence negative? Or ∆ How to change the voice Dont speak English Page does not provide this information

Hello pyramid.org,

There are several ways to make the sentence negative, depending on which element you wish to negate, but the most common is 'Don't let the voice be changed'.

Your second sentence is an imperative form. Imperative forms do not have passive forms.

 

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

You say imperative sentences do not have passive. In our school days they told us to use ' Let ' in converting the sentence to passive form , like : 1) Active :Do not speak the English. Passive : Let the English not be spoken. 2) Active : Bring me the head of Medusa. Passive : Let the head of Medusa be brought to me. Please clear the doubt.

Hello dipakrgandhi,

I have also seen that in some grammars and this kind of rephrasing does certainly express much the same idea with a passive infinitive. I'm not sure I'd call it a transformation of the imperative verb into a passive form, since the verb 'let' is introduced, but it is a way to express the idea with a passive.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par pyramid le mar 09/08/2016 - 08:49

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Let me speak English ∆ How to change the voice ∆ Are following sentences correct?? ●let english be spoken by me ●let i be spoken english ●let i be allowed to speak English ●i should be let to speak English Help

Hello pyramid,

None of those sentences are natural or likely to be heard in English. What I'd recommend is 'I should be allowed/permitted to speak English'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par pyramid le dim 31/07/2016 - 12:08

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had i been asked, you would have been answered * Or * If i had been asked, you would have been answered * Which is correct ??

Soumis par Raju0508 le ven 29/07/2016 - 07:36

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Hi Team- can you guys clear my doubt mentioned below: After his dad died, he was taken care of his mother After his dad died, he was taken care by his mother I am confusing of both sentences I believe that, Both sentences are have difference meaning itself right ? correct me if i was wrong?

Soumis par Peter M. le sam 30/07/2016 - 06:53

En réponse à par Raju0508

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Hi Raju0508,

The second sentence is correct and is a passive form. The first sentence is not grammatically correct.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par AJU V le jeu 21/07/2016 - 10:00

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Dear Kirk Could you please transfer in to passive. "I met with an accident"

Hello AJU V,

We're happy to help you, but please give it a try yourself first. By the way, the sentence you will get by transforming this into the passive is so unnatural that it's unlikely you'd ever hear or read it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par ZNatalieJM le ven 10/06/2016 - 17:42

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Hi, I am currently writing Essay in Passive Voice and I am wondering is this sentence is correct? I have a big problem with long sentences like that when I need to say about organizations for example, but how can I do that in Passive Voice? Most of the organizations (65%) are aware of the problem but they are doubtful how to cope with it. Cheers

Soumis par Peter M. le sam 11/06/2016 - 06:30

En réponse à par ZNatalieJM

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Hi ZNatalieJM,

That sentence is fine - well done.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par maysamteacher le dim 29/05/2016 - 09:31

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Hello, Would you mind giving me a clue here? Is the passive voice mostly used in speaking or writing. Does an English teacher have to explicitly focus on passive voice practice while teaching in a speaking session? Thank you in advance

Soumis par Peter M. le lun 30/05/2016 - 07:10

En réponse à par maysamteacher

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Hello maysamteacher,

Passive voice can be used in both speaking and writing. It really depends upon the kind of speaking and what the speaker wishes to express. If we do not know who did something then the passive may well be the most natural way to express it, whether in spoken or written form. For example, 'My house was burgled' is more common than 'Someone burgled my house'. Passive forms are also stylistic and rhetorical. They enable us to focus attention on certain parts of the sentence and to omit other parts.

I would not say that the passive is necessarily tied to either speaking or writing. It may be more common in written English, but it is certainly used in spoken English quite frequently.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par tonykjohn le mar 24/05/2016 - 17:21

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This shop sells all the vegetables Could you please change this to passive

Hello tonykjohn,

I'm afraid we don't provide answers to questions from tests or homework for our users. However, if you want to try to transform it yourself then we'll be happy to tell you if you did it correctly.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Ok thanks for your reply. I had a confusion while transforming All the vegetables are sold by this shop All the vegetables are sold in this shop Which one is correct??

Hello tonykjohn,

Both of those are correct, with slightly different meanings. The first one says that the shop sells the vegetables. The second could mean the same thing, but if taken literally, it could mean that a different business is selling the vegetables inside a shop that doesn't belong to it. But I think in most cases they mean the same thing.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par SophyaGreen le sam 21/05/2016 - 20:17

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Hi Peter Thank you very much for your prompt reply. I’m afraid I haven’t expressed clear enough about my doubt. I’ll try better this time. Texts books or English class websites show how to change active sentences into passive ones. But in real life things don’t happen that way, don’t they? I mean, for example, a newspaper would simply report the news and not to do grammar exercises. I have my own “criteria” to use them but I couldn’t find anything on website or textbooks to confirm my “guess”. Could you please, tell if I’m right? Here you go. Most villagers suffer from allergies, and nearly a quarter of them suffer from respiratory diseases. It is reported (on going event) that everyone in the village has some relative affected by air pollution. Apparently uniform was the cause of demonstrations at St. Mary Primary School. It was reported (an past event) that everything started when a small number of youth refused to wear “the old-fashioned” uniform…. In DiCaprio case, I definitely would use “It has been reported”. The local newspaper reported that their Crop Cycle was after all man-made. It had been confirmed (a recent and a older past) that two grandpas, after a few pints of ales, decided to play aliens with ordinary farming tools. Thank you very much Sofia

Soumis par Kirk le lun 23/05/2016 - 07:56

En réponse à par SophyaGreen

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Hello Sofia,

As Peter said, the tense of the reporting verb has more to do with the event of reporting than with what is being reported. So, for example, you could say:

  1. It is reported that most villagers suffer from allergies ...
  2. It was reported that most villagers suffer from allergies ...
  3. It has been reported that most villagers suffer from allergies ...
  4. (etc.)

You must choose the most appropriate tense for the verb 'report' depending on how you see the event and what you want to say.

I expect I haven't given the answer you wanted, but if I understand what you're asking for correctly, it's something that I can't really answer! I'm sorry in advance if I'm just not understanding you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par henny maida le ven 20/05/2016 - 16:39

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Is it correct to make passive sentence like this : We have been prepared for the test.

Soumis par SophyaGreen le ven 20/05/2016 - 04:12

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Hello Kirk, I have a doubt about usage of reported speech as it follows. DiCaprio said in a interview that he would love to work with Scorsese again. Does it make any difference if I said - It is reported that DiCaprio would love to work . . . (I don't like very much this one) - It was reported that DiCaprio ... - It has been reported that DiCaprio ... - It had been reported that DiCaprio ... I understand that there are subtle difference in their meanings but from point of view of a reader would them make any difference? Thanks in advance Sofia

Hello Sofia,

The differences here are in the reporting word, not the reported words. In other words, it changes what you are saying rather than what DiCaprio said. Each verb form functions nomally - if you use the present perfect ('it has been reported') then it is a normal present perfect use - showing new information, or a part action which is relevant now, for example. The fact that it is introducing reported speech does not change the meaning of each verb form.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team