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 Jim Wombie le jeu 14/04/2016 - 10:31

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I have a question, which I suspect is related to passive voice, but is about a past participle relative clause. Taken from a Guardian article: "The Scream will join a select group of works that have sold for more than $100m, including Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust, which sold in 2010 for $106.5m." Specifically, my question is about why it is acceptable to say "which sold" instead of "which was sold"? I can think of some other examples which work, but not all verbs seem to fit this paradigm. Maybe, "the movie, which played in theaters" as opposed to "the movie, which was played in theaters" or "the program, which aired last night" (which was aired last night). But, for instance, if we said "the man, who was nominated chairman,..." we couldn't say "the man, who nominated chairman, " with the same meaning. Maybe this is a question about verbs? Why can something simply "sold".

Hello Jim,

The issue here is that 'sell', 'play' and 'air' are all ergative verbs, which are verbs that are both transitive and intransitive and 'whose subject when intransitive corresponds to its direct object when transitive' (see the wikipedia entry for more details). In the sentence that you found in the The Guardian, 'sold' is used intransitively, and the same is true for 'played' and 'aired' in the examples you extrapolate from that. 'nominate', unlike those other verbs, can only be used transitively, which is why you must say 'was nominated' and cannot say just 'nominated'.

So your suspicion that this is related to the passive voice is close to being correct, because only transitive verbs can be used in the passive voice. Good work!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par kumwanya le jeu 31/03/2016 - 15:40

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Kindly help me to change this question People say the bridge is unsafe.(change into passive) Baraka E. New learner

Hello kumwanya,

We generally don't do transformation exercises like this as we try to avoid doing people's homework or tests for them! I will tell you how to begin the passive sentence and you can reply with your answer, which I will comment on:

It is...

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter, Will be the answer: "It is said that the bridge is unsafe" Best Regards.

Soumis par chris kim le mer 30/03/2016 - 09:43

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hi intransitive verbs do not have passive form and go is an intransitive why is go passive here? i was only gone for five minute

Soumis par Kirk le jeu 31/03/2016 - 06:37

En réponse à par chris kim

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Hello chris,

'is gone' looks like a passive form here, but is actually the verb 'be' + an adjective – many past participles such as 'gone' can also be used as adjectives. So 'I was gone' is another way of saying 'I wasn't there' or 'I was away'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Lamastry le mer 09/03/2016 - 01:37

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hello may you please help me put the next sentence into second conditional "She will kill me if she finds out"

Hello Lamastry,

I'm afraid we don't answer questions like this which seem to us to be from tests or homework. If we tried to do so then we'd have no time for anything else! However, if you transform the sentence yourself we'll tell you if it is OK or not.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Muhammad Azkaar le mar 01/03/2016 - 06:35

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please change voice of these sentences. 1. they came to school in time. 2.this cloth is selling cheap. 3.you deal in sugar. 4.the train has not started.

Hello Muhammad Azkaar,

I'm afraid we don't complete users' exercises for them. If we started to offer this kind of service then we would have endless numbers of people asking us to do their homework for them!

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Jincy Mathew le jeu 25/02/2016 - 03:27

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If u can help me with this that helping verb must be used before the main verb, in passive voice

Hello Jincy,

Are you asking which helping verb is used in the passive voice? If so, the answer is 'be' – this is explained above where it says 'The passive forms are made up of the verb be with a past participle'. In fact, you can see this in the first two sentences of my reply: 'is used' and 'is explained' are both in the passive voice. Notice how both use 'is', which is a form of the verb 'be'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Lamastry le mar 23/02/2016 - 19:02

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Hello may you help me change the next sentence into passive voice : "She will kill me if she finds out"

Hello Lamastry,

amoli's reply is a good one! You could also 'if it is found out by her', but that would be a bit unusual.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Jincy Mathew le mar 23/02/2016 - 14:20

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How to change the following sentences into passive voice: 1. She moved closer when Jane arrived. 2. He strode, out of the sight. Please help

Hello Jincy Mathew,

I'm afraid we don't help people with tasks like this which they may have in school or in tests! We're happy to tell you if you have transformed the sentences correctly, however, so if you try to do it then we will tell you how you did.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Peter M. le jeu 25/02/2016 - 06:13

En réponse à par Jincy Mathew

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Hello Jincy Mathew,

For a sentence to have a passive form, it must have a transitive verb (a verb which has an object). These sentences have intransitive verbs, which do not have objects, and therefore have no passive forms.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

You can't change any of these two sentences because the verbs used are intransitive verbs. Intransitive verbs include all verbs of movement, in which their action does not have a recipient, someone or someone who receives the action expresses by the verb. If I say "I am eating an apple", the apple receives the action expressed by the verb, therefore the passive voice would be "The apple is being eaten by me", but in your two sentences it is not possible. I hope it clarifies. Keep asking and trying!!

Soumis par Mehdi400 le mar 16/02/2016 - 14:25

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Good evening Sirs, As I know, each letter within the cluster is pronounced individually. But I found a definition in which the letters of the clusters are not pronounced individually ‘splash’, and four at the end, as in 'twelfths'. How come? http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/consonant-cluster

Hello Mehdi400,

I'm not sure why you would think that consonants together are pronounced individually. Several consonants together can produce one phoneme, such as 'sh' /∫/ or 'ph' /f/.

Incidentally, it is possible to have consonant clusters longer than four when compound words are included. For example, we can find 'tchst' in the word 'matchstick'.

 


Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Cheetah3693 le jeu 11/02/2016 - 10:23

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Hi, could someone please tell me the passive voice of this sentence ? Thank you " The teacher had to explain this difficult rule twice."

Hello Cheetah3693,

What do you think it should be? Have a go at it and then we can correct if you've made a mistake. I'll give you a hint: make the noun phrase that is the direct object into the subject and keep 'had' and use a passive infinitive for the verb.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Ajagalle le mer 03/02/2016 - 17:35

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what is the passive voice of Sunil wants that should he be rewarded ?

Hello Ajagalle,

There are several verb forms in this sentence: 'want' and 'should be rewarded'. The second one is already in the passive voice, and although 'want' could be made into a passive form 'is wanted', the resulting sentence 'That he should be rewarded is wanted by Sunil' is so tortuous that no one would ever use it. I'd strongly recommend 'Sunil wants him to be rewarded' instead.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par surendra kumar le sam 23/01/2016 - 16:55

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He made me a picture. Are both passive constructions of this sentence correct- A picture was made for me by him.I was made a picture by him.please explain.

Hello surendra kumar,

Yes, both of those are correct passive sentences.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Mehdi400 le sam 09/01/2016 - 11:05

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Pleased to keep in touch with you. when avoid writing the object "them" in the passive voice. thank you in advance

Hello Mehdi,

I'm afraid I don't understand your comment. Please feel free to ask again, but please write complete sentences and enclose the forms you're asking about inside inverted commas to make it easier for us to understand what you're asking.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par surendra kumar le ven 01/01/2016 - 01:38

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You say the indirect object is made the subject of passive voice. Can't we make the direct object the subject of passive voice?For example:A book was given to me by him.I think this sentence is correct.If it is so then why you mentioned only indirect object?It creates confusion and one thinks that direct object can't be made subject.

Hello surendra kumar,

I'm sorry if the explanation confused you. The explanation says that an indirect object can become the subject of a passive sentence because many think that only the direct object can become the subject, and so this explanation emphasises the fact that indirect objects can also become the subject. In any case, we plan to revise the grammar section soon, so I'll make a note of your comment and we'll try to make it clearer in the new explanation. 

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par surendra kumar le jeu 31/12/2015 - 13:47

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Hello Sir, "I want to play football." Is the passive construction correct of this sentence:"I want football to be played."

Hello surendra kumar,

The sentence you propose is grammatically correct (though unusual) and is the only one that I can think of that could be a passive voice version of the first off the top of my head.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par nourhanbadawy le ven 11/12/2015 - 18:55

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Hello teachers, I have a problem with this sentence ( British ship leaves every day) i can't turn it to passive And thank you for your effort

Hello nourhanbadawy,

I'm afraid we don't help users with exercises from elsewhere. I will tell you that not all sentences can be transformed into passives. If the verb is intransitive (without an object) then passive voice is not possible.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Karzan_Camus le ven 20/11/2015 - 08:10

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Hello, teachers. I wonder if this sentence is in Future Continuous or in Passive Voice! here is the sentence (How much money will be sending to the project tomorrow?) Pleased to give me a clear explanation! Thanks.

Hello Karzan_Camus,

I'm afraid that the verb form in that sentence is not correct. 'will be sent' would be in the passive voice and a form like, for example, 'will you be sending' would be in the future continuous.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par S.Umashankar le jeu 05/11/2015 - 07:21

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Hi, All these days, I have been of the opinion that perfect continuous of all three tenses and future continuous (present/ past/ future) do not have passive forms but in your site on active and passive I noted all the forms said above do have passive. Is it accepted in the standard English and practiced by Native English speakers in writing? Please explain.

Soumis par Peter M. le jeu 05/11/2015 - 09:09

En réponse à par S.Umashankar

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Hi S.Umashankar,

It is perfectly possible to use passive voice with continuous forms. As an aside, i would not use 'tense' to describe all of these - English has only two tenses (past and present), with various forms used to talk about the future including present continous, present simple, modal verbs etc.).

When something is in the process of completion, for example, we can say:

It is being done.

If we want to describe the same situation in the future then we can say:

It will be being done.

If we want to describe the same situation in the future, but looking back from a further point in the future then we can say:

It will have been being done.

However, as you can see these forms can get quite long, with multiple auxiliary verbs making them clumsy and inelegant. We tend to avoid overlong verb structures like this, preferring to use a simpler form such as an active form or an alternative phrasing.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par S.Umashankar le sam 07/11/2015 - 05:29

En réponse à par S.Umashankar

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Hi Peter, I am thankful to you for the great, detailed explanation about active/ passive which I was a bit confused. Regards S.Umashankar

Soumis par Moosa_Hosseini le mer 04/11/2015 - 05:50

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Hello, I have difficulty with the passive form of verb spend. look at the sentence bellow: 1.He's spent over an hour looking for the pen that he lost. but I found this structure "spend time doing sth" in Longman dictionary. then we can say: 2. He spent over an hour ... what is the difference between 1 and 2? I think sentence No. 2 sounds more natural because when we are looking for something we allocate time deliberately in order to a find the lost thing.

Soumis par Peter M. le mer 04/11/2015 - 06:23

En réponse à par Moosa_Hosseini

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Hello Moosa_Hosseini,

Neither of these sentences is a passive form. The first sentence has a present perfect verb ('He has spent') and the second has a past simple form ('He spent'). Neither is incorrect.

The difference between the two is whether the action is seen as something which has a current result such as the man being tired or frustrated (sentence 1) or is seen as something in the past which is finished an no longer relevant (sentence 2).

For more information on these forms take a look at our sections on the present perfect and past simple in the Verbs part of the English Grammar section.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

thank you Peter for your prompt response. my mistake was that I thought "he's spent" is the abbrevation for "he is spent" which does not make sense in this case. It could be and in this sentense It must be considered as the short form of "He has spent". Regards, Moosa

Soumis par Darshan Sheth le ven 23/10/2015 - 03:16

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Hello sir, Can every transitive verb be changed into the opposite voice? If someone says "It is time to do your duty.", can this/these type of sentences be also changed to the opposite voice?