Advanced passives review

C1 grammar: Advanced passives review

Do you know how to use all the different forms of the passive? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how the passive voice is used.

The interview was recorded yesterday.
Cleaner sources of energy must be developed.
An electrical fault is believed to have caused the power cut.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

C1: Advanced passives: 1

Grammar explanation

We can use the passive voice to change the focus of the sentence.

Aliya Monier directed the film.
(focus on Aliya Monier)

The film was directed by Aliya Monier.
(focus on The film)

We often use the passive:

  • so that we can start a sentence with the most important or most logical information
  • 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)
  • in more formal or scientific writing.

Be + past participle

The most common way to form the passive is subject + be + past participle. 

The new smoke alarm was installed yesterday.

The 'doer' of the action is called the agent. Most of the time, the agent is not mentioned, but if important, the agent can be mentioned using the preposition by.

The new smoke alarm was installed yesterday by the company director herself.

We can also use the passive voice with modal verbs such as can, must and should, by using modal + be + past participle.

A podcast can be made with minimal resources. 
The accident must be reported to the police.
New laws should be created to regulate electric scooters.

The passive with get

In informal English, get is sometimes used instead of be to form the passive.

My bicycle got stolen last night.
(= My bicycle was stolen last night.)

The impersonal passive

The impersonal passive is used with reporting verbs such as allege, believe, claim, consider, estimate, expect, know, report, say, think, understand, etc. It reports what an unspecified group of people say or believe.

The impersonal passive has two forms:

it + be + past participle + (that) + subject + verb:

It is estimated that millions of people visit the site every year.
It is believed that the walls date from the third century BCE.
It is reported that mosquitoes transmit the disease.

someone/something + be + past participle + infinitive:

Millions of people are estimated to visit the site every year.
The walls are believed to date from the third century BCE.
Mosquitoes are reported to transmit the disease.

Note that the infinitive can be simple (as above), perfect (for a past action) or continuous (for an action in progress).

Millions are estimated to visit the site this year. (simple infinitive)
The walls are believed to have been built in the third century BCE. (perfect infinitive)
Mosquitoes are reported to be transmitting the disease. (continuous infinitive)

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

C1: Advanced passives: 2

Language level

Average: 4.4 (114 votes)
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Profile picture for user Abdelsabour

Submitted by Abdelsabour on Fri, 12/07/2024 - 22:59


Why there are no PDF sheets for the grammar lessons?! 

Hello Abdelsabour,

Creating pdf worksheets is a very time-intensive process for us. Sometimes we publish a page without the pdf worksheets and try to add them when time allows.



The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user FrancisOfonmah

Submitted by FrancisOfonmah on Sun, 07/07/2024 - 13:57


Quite intriguing

Profile picture for user Alesawe

Submitted by Alesawe on Sun, 07/07/2024 - 10:27


Hi there, 

Can someone explain the difference between:

He looks forward to be spoiled when he visits his family. 

He looks forward to being spoiled when he visits his family. 

Thank you

Hello Alesawe,

The first example is not correct. In this phrase 'to' is a preposition which requires an object (here, an -ing form) and not part of an infinitive verb form.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mohamedalserraffey on Sun, 19/05/2024 - 11:07


Is it possible to use impersonal passive with the past perfect tense?

Hello Mohamedalserraffey,

Yes, in the right context that's fine.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mohamedalserraffey on Sun, 19/05/2024 - 11:06


Can I say:

It was believed that Ahmed had robbed a bank?

Hello Mohamedalserraffey,

Yes, that sentence is grammatically correct. Of course, it would need to be used in an appropriate context.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by marcelomartel86 on Thu, 14/03/2024 - 19:57


Hi, I'd like a clarification on the last example of the second test. This is it:

People said the creatures came out at night. The creatures _____ out at night.

are said to have come
were come
were said to come

The third option is highlighted as the correct answer, but I'm not sure I undestand why.

As I read it, the first phrase ("People said the creatures came out at night") refers to a past statement ("said") about a single action that took place in the past ("came out"). But if "were said to come out" is the correct answer, the meaning changes. The past statement ("were said") now refers to a general observation ("the creatures come out at night").

It seems to me that the first answer ("are said to have come") fits the meaning of the first sentence better. Or, if we were to consider the third answer as the correct one, then the first sentence should read as "People said the creatures come out at night.".

Am I wrong?