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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

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

hello,
thanks for these valuable lessons. I have a small question here. which of these sentences are right?
"The fire service still hasn't put out the fire."
"The fire service still haven't put out the fire."

Hello ahmed hefny,

Organisations like the fire service can be treated as both singular (an organisation or an institution) or plural (a team of people). Thus, both has and have are possible.

Other organisations like this include sports teams, governments, international organisations, the police, the army and others.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I really appreciate your help. Thank you

Hello,
I have a very simple question
Can I say
My cat eats fish afternoon.
And how to change into passive.

Hello M.Ayman

That's close to being correct. Instead, I would recommend something like 'My cat eats fish in the afternoon'. In the passive, that would be 'Fish is eaten by my cat in the afternoon'. I can't think of a time anyone would likely say that in the passive, though.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
Many a times it becomes difficult to state whether past participle is used verbially(for passive voice construct) or used adjectivally. Example-He was rattled by the news. Here "rattled" can be taken to be an adjective although it fits the passive structure also.
Is there any way to draw a distinction or it has to be understood from the context?

Hello Bharati,

Obviously, only transitive verbs can be used in passive voice, so if the adjective/participle comes from an intranstive verb then it must be an adjective rather than a passive construction.

It's true, however, that it's often unclear if a sentence is a passive construction or simply [be + adjective]. I'm not sure it really matters, to be honest, as it's simply a question of nomenclature.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter,
In your explanatory example-"My flight is cancelled" it (cancelled) can be interpreted both as passive verb as well as participle adjective ,if i understand correctly.

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