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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. 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

Grammar B1-B2: Passives: 2

Language level

Intermediate: B1

Comments

Hello, this sentence was shown as an example of a passive voice: "The fire service still haven't put out the fire". Where is the verb "to be" in this sentence?. Thank you very much for your help and support!.

Hello CGL

I'm afraid that the verb 'have not put out' is active, not passive. You could make it passive by saying something like 'The fire still hasn't been put out by the fire service.'

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Can we use present continuous passive for future arrangements? eg my car is being serviced next Monday

Hello Jenny,

Yes, that's perfectly correct. It's quite a common form when we don't know or don't want to say who or what is performing the action.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
Could you please direct me into a page here that explains how we change the passive sentences into active ones?
I use lots of passive sentences in my writing which I've been told weakens my essays.
Thank you for your help.

thank you

It's really awesome.

Hi, i got a question here.
Someone (saw) my talk at the conference and recommended me as a speaker. and Someone (had found) my wallet and left it at reception.
why the first sentence used the (saw) can not use by (was seen) or (had seen)
but the second sentence used (had found) not using (was found) or (found)?

Hello Pandalapd

The subject of the verb 'saw' is 'someone' and the object is 'my talk', so a passive verb such as 'was seen' is not correct there, because a passive verb only has a subject and not an object. 'had seen' is also a possible correct answer there, but is not an option for that question.

For the second sentence, 'was found' is not correct for the same reason that 'was seen' wasn't correct for the first sentence: an active verb is needed, not a passive one. 'found' is also correct, but is not an option for that question.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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