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Passives

Do you know how to use the passive voice to change the focus of a sentence?

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

Grammar B1-B2: Passives: 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

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.

My flight is cancelled.
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.

Tense Example Structure
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. 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

Grammar B1-B2: Passives: 2

Language level

Intermediate: B1

Comments

To ask a following question about what I asked before,
Another similar usage came up to me was that, why that we more often say “things have changed” but not “things are changed”?

Hello Fiona,

Both forms are possible, depending on the context, of course.

The present perfect (have changed) is used when we are talking about the present result of a past action or event.

The present simple passive (are changed) tells us about the current situation. Normally, it does not necessarily mean that there is something different about the present as compared to the past. However, the verb 'change' already contains this meaning, so we have a situation in which the lexical item (the word) carries meaning which is normally part of the verb form. Even so, the present perfect is more common, with change as much as with other verbs.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Team,
"are/is called" or "have/has been called"
What is the difference?
When to use each?
Thanks

Hello DaniWeebKage,

The first form is a present simple form and the second is a present perfect form. There's an explanation of the different uses of these forms in the Present tense section of our English grammar.

If you have any other specific questions, please let us know.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
I have a question and I hopes the learnEnglish team to answer me.
In grammar test 2, in the example which it says, someone _ my wallet and left at reception, here the correct answer is " had found" ok, although the structure here is had been+ past participle, then how it used had found.
Thanks for you.

Hello Pola,

This page is about how to correctly form and also use the passive voice. It's not correct to use it in a sentence like this one, and that's what this question is testing.

If you already knew this, that's great! It shows that you understand this important point.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi!
What’s the difference between
A lot of time is wasted on pointless meetings in this company.
VS.
A lot of time have been wasted on pointless meetings in this company.

Hello Fiona,

The difference is the difference between the present simple ('is') and the present perfect ('has been' -- notice that 'have been' is not correct because 'time' takes a singular verb). The first one is a more general statement that could refer to a long period of time and the second one refers to a more specific time that began sometime in the past and is still happening now.

I'd suggest you read more a bit more about this on our Present simple and Present perfect pages.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Another similar usage came up to me was that, why that we more often say “things have changed” but not “things are changed”?

Thanks for replying! Your explanation is helpful!

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