Adults|Grammar|Pre-Intermediate|30. Passive

Passive Voice

Functions of the passive voice

The passive voice is used to show interest in the person or object that experiences an action rather than the person or object that performs the action. In other words, the most important thing or person becomes the subject of the sentence.


Examples

  • The passive voice is used frequently. (= we are interested in the passive voice, not in who uses it.)
  • The house was built in 1654. (= we are interested in the house, not in who built it.)
  • The road is being repaired. (= we are interested in the road, not in the people who are doing the repairs.)

The passive voice is often used in formal texts. Switching to the active voice will make your writing clearer and easier to read.

Passive Active
A great deal of meaning is conveyed by a few well-chosen words. A few well-chosen words convey a great deal of meaning.
Our planet is wrapped in a mass of gases. A mass of gases wrap around our planet.
Waste materials are disposed of in a variety of ways. The city disposes of waste materials in a variety of ways.

If we want to say who or what performs the action while using the passive voice, we use the preposition by. When we know who performed the action and are interested in him, it is always better to switch to the active voice instead.

Passive Active
«A Hard Day’s Night» was written by the Beatles. The Beatles wrote «A Hard Day’s Night».
The movie ET was directed by Spielberg. Spielberg directed the movie ET.
This house was built by my father. My father built this house.

Forming the passive voice

The passive voice in English is composed of two elements: the appropriate form of the verb ‘to be’ + past participle

Affirmative Negative Interrogative Negative interrogative
The house was built in 1899. The house wasn’t built in 1899. Was the house built in 1899? Wasn’t the house built in 1899?
These houses were built in 1899. These houses weren’t built in 1899. Were these houses built in 1899? Weren’t these houses built in 1899?

Example: verb to clean — Passive Voice

Subject + to be + past participle + rest of sentence
Present Simple
The house is cleaned every day.
Past Simple
The house was cleaned yesterday.
Future Simple
The house will be cleaned next week.

💡Using «to be born»

«To be born» is a passive form and is most commonly used in the past tense. However, in some cases, the present or future tense is appropriate.

Examples

  • I was born in 1976.
  • Where were you born?
  • Around 100 babies are born in this hospital every week.
  • We don’t know on exactly which day the baby will be born.

Useful Video

Learn English Grammar: What’s the difference between ACTIVE & PASSIVE?


Quiz. Test your understanding of this English lesson

Choose the correct answer


Complete the sentences using the Passive voice


Complete the sentences with the correct phrase

Choose active or passive voice

Ask questions using the passive voice

ask question


If you open the lesson plan you will be able to assign separate pages as homework or all the homework pages at once.

Урок Homework Курс
  • Rules: Passive Voice
  • Complete the sentences
  • Choose active or passive voice
  • Ask questions
  • Homework