Look at these examples to see how the passive voice is used.
A lot of olive oil is produced in Italy.
This book was written by Angela Davis.
The suspect will be released tomorrow.
This product has not been tested on animals.
Try this exercise to test your grammar.
- Grammar test 1
Read the explanation to learn more.
We use the passive voice to change the focus of the sentence.
My bike was stolen. (passive – focus on my bike)
Someone stole my bike. (active – focus on someone)
We often use the passive:
- when we prefer not to mention who or what does the action (for example, it's not known, it's obvious or we don't want to say)
- so that we can start a sentence with the most important or most logical information
- in more formal or scientific writing.
How we make the passive
We make the passive using the verb be + past participle. We start the sentence with the object.
|Avatar||was||directed by James Cameron.|
|Object||+ be +||past participle|
It is not always necessary to add who or what did the action.
|Object||+ be +||past participle|
Only the form of be changes to make the tense. The past participle stays the same. Here are examples of the passive in its most common tenses.
|Present simple||Alioli is made from oil, garlic and salt.||is/are + past participle|
|Present continuous||The hall is being painted this week.||is/are being + past participle|
|Past simple||John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.||was/were + past participle|
|Past continuous||The signs were being put up last week.||was/were being + past participle|
|Present perfect||Oranges have been grown here for centuries.||has/have been + past participle|
|Past perfect||When he got home, he found that his flat had been burgled.||had been + past participle|
|Future simple||The work will be finished next week.||will be + past participle|
Do this exercise to test your grammar again.
- Grammar test 2
Thank you for your time, British Council.
English was very hard for me, but thanks to you I understand it better.
I will never forget you, Kirk
This will be my last comment
Kind regards, EnglishZABJAA
Hello, I have a question in the sentence below:
*If my modem......, I would send email to Emma.
A) didn't break down
B) weren't broken down
As I know, a thing "break down" means it stops working. While something "be broken down" means someone has damaged it so it stop working. So I my answer is A due to this explanation. But my teacher said B is true.
Could you explain this for me? Thank you.
As far as I know 'to be broken down' doesn't imply that someone damaged the object; it just means that the object has stopped working.
In this case, the sentence only makes sense if the modem has already stopped working. Option A) doesn't talk about the state of the modem, but option B) does and so is the correct answer.
'break down' has several different uses, but when it means 'stop working', it's an intransitive verb. Since it's not possible to use an intransitive verb in the passive voice, it's quite common to use 'be' + past participle, which acts as an adjective. That is the grammar behind 'weren't broken down' here. In other words, 'broken down' is an adjective and 'weren't' is a past form used in a second conditional.
Does that make sense?
All the best,
I am a learner too. But I think the explanations is as follows>
Both passive and active fit the sentence. But A does not fit because there is a need to meet conditionals structure. Even if it is ok from the POV of passive/active, the correct form were "If my modem has not break ... (to be in line with the rest of the sentence). We need a tense that happen in the past but consequences to be visible now.
Then, indeed, option B considers the passive voice and it is ok from all the perspectives.
Please give me your feeedback on this explanation.
Hi David Radu,
It's a good idea to consider the conditional structure. However, it would need to be a third conditional here: If my modem hadn't broken down ... (see this page for more about the third conditional). The third conditional is needed because we are imagining an unreal past action.
About option B, as Kirk mentioned in his comment, it is not a passive structure, even though the structure looks identical to the passive: weren't broken down (be + adjective). The word "broken down" exists as an adjective (see this Cambridge Dictionary page - here, it is hyphenated as "broken-down" because the dictionary describes its use before a noun).
Another way we know that If my modem weren't broken down ... is not a passive is that with the passive, we can optionally add "by" to show who did the action, e.g. The meal was cooked (by the chef). However, it doesn't make sense to say e.g. If my modem weren't broken down by (somebody) ... . That's because "break down" in the meaning of "stop functioning" is intransitive, as Kirk mentioned. It means that the stopped functioning was because of some internal reason (not some external reason caused by somebody/something else, such as somebody causing damage).
Does that make sense?
Best Jonathan, how do you say:
I love Mr. Spaninks because of his big, bald head; in the passive?
LearnEnglish is a site for helping learners with the structures and use of English and we do our best to provide that help. Our focus is on the rules and systems of the language, not on giving answers to individual questions. Otherwise we would end up doing users' homework and tests for them, and that's not our role.
The LearnEnglish Team
Best Kirk, how do you say:
I want to marry you, in the passive.
Is that even possible?
Hello again EnglishZABJAA,
What do you think? I think you'll learn more if you try to transform the sentence and then ask us about it.
How do you say: 'I am the joker of the bingo club.' in the passive?