Active voice passive voice

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PASSIVE VOICE



The passive is formed with the appropriate tense of the verb to be + past participle. Only transitive verbs (verbs which take an object) can be put into the passive.




TENSES

ACTIVE VOICE

PASSIVE VOICE

Present Simple

Present Continuous

Past Simple

Past Continuous

Future Simple

Present Perfect

Past Perfect

Future Perfect

Present Infinitive

Perfect Infinitive

-ing form

Perfect -ing form

Modal + be + p.p.


He gives lectures.

He is giving a lecture.

He gave a lecture.

He was giving a lecture.

He will give a lecture.

He has given a lecture.

He had given a lecture.

He will have given a lecture.

He should give a lecture.

He should have given a lecture.

She remembers him giving a lecture.

Having given the lecture,...


He must give a lecture.


Lectures are given.

A lecture is being given.

A lecture was given.

A lecture was being given.

A lecture will be given.

A lecture has been given.

A lecture had been given.

A lecture will have been given.

A lecture should be given.

A lecture should have been given.

She remembers a lecture being given.

The lecture having been given,...

The lecture must be given.





Present Perfect Continuous, Future Continuous and Past Perfect Continuous are not normally used in the passive.

Get is used in colloquial English instead of be to express something happening by accident.



She'll get killed if she goes on driving like that.





THE PASSIVE IS USED


• when the person who performs the action (agent) is unknown, unimportant or obvious from the context


Her flat was broken into yesterday. (by a burglar - obvious agent)

• to emphasise the agent

Her wedding dress was delivered to her by the dressmaker herself yesterday.


• to make statements more formal or polite


My dress has been ruined. (more polite than saying ‘You have ruined my dress’.)

• when we are more interested in the action than the agent, such as in news reports, formal notices, instructions, processes, headlines, advertisements etc.


A Christmas bazaar will be held tomorrow.





CHANGING FROM ACTIVE INTO PASSIVE

• The object of the active verb becomes the subject in the passive sentence. The active verb changes into a passive form and the subject of the active verb becomes the agent, which is either introduced with "by" or is omitted.

Active Voice Passive Voice

Subject Verb Object Subject Verb Agent

John posted the letters. The letters were posted by John.

By + agent is used to say who or what did the action. She was knocked over by a car. With + instru­ment /material is used to say what the agent used or after past participles such as coloured, crammed, crowded, filled, flavoured, packed etc. She was killed with a hammer. By + agent is omitted when the agent is unknown, unimportant, obvious from the context or referred to by words such as: someone, people, I, etc. They revealed the truth.The truth was revealed. (‘by them’ is omitted)


• Verbs which take who objects (give, offer etc) form their passive in two ways; it is more usual to start the sentence with the person object, not the thing object. They offered Ann a bunch of flowers. Ann was offered a bunch of flowers. (more usual than: A bunch of flowers was offered to Ann.)

• Verbs followed by a preposition (accuse of, take down etc) take the preposition immediately after them when turned into the passive. She took down the minutes of the meeting. The minutes of the meeting were taken down.

• In passive questions with who, whom or which we do not omit by. Who gave you this information? Who were you given this information by?

• Hear, help, make, see are followed by a to-infinitive in the passive. She made me work overtime. I was made to work overtime. Note that hear, see, watch can be followed by a present participle in the active and passive. We saw her crying. – She was seen crying.

Write sentences in the passive as in the example:

1. (Her hair/dye/at the moment) – Her hair is being dyed at the moment.

2. (The Queen/not drive/to the embassy/yet)

3. (The Hay Wain/paint/Constable)

4. (Most olives/grow/the Mediterranean)

5. (The convict/take/to prison/now)

6. (His wound/not treat/yet)

7. (My car/break into/last night)

8. (The trees/prune/a tree surgeon/last week).

9. (Reservations/can/make/by dialling 001 now)

10. (Our house/clean/weekly)

11. (He/bring up/his grandparents)

12. (The book/not write/yet)

13. (The building/demolish/by next year)

14. (The new school/open/next week/the mayor)

15. (Sally's shoes/re-heel/last Saturday)

16. (The dustbins/empty/recently)


2. Put the verbs in brackets into the correct passive form.
1. Holland ...is said... (say) to be one of the prettiest countries in Europe.

2. I hate ……………………………….. (tell) lies.

3. My television …………………………...... (deliver) tomorrow.

4. Their telephone …………………….. (install) yesterday.

5. Teachers ought …………………….. (pay) a higher salary.

6. Hotel rooms must ………………………… (vacate) by 12 noon.

7. The villa ………………………….... (sell) by public auction next week.

8. She hopes her home ……………….. (build) by May.

9. Heartbreak House ……………………. (write) by George Bernard Shaw.

10. My car ………………………... ……. (respray) at the moment.

11. Hopefully, she …………………….. (promote) by the end of next month.

12. I wish I ……………………… (teach) how to type when I was at school.

13. Your application should …………... (hand in) last Monday. It's too late now I'm afraid!

14. The wedding reception must ………. (book) a month before the wedding.

15. The building …… (evacuate) ten minutes before the explosion took place.

16. Polar bears ………………….. (hunt) for their fur.

17. A lecture …………………….. (give) in the main hall at the moment.

18. After ................... (award) a medal for bravery, he became a local hero.

19. Her ankle …………………………. (hurt) when she fell down.

20. She thinks her car ………………………... (steal) by someone she knows.

21. The apartment ……………………... (sell) last week.

22. I hate ………………….. (lie to) by my friends.

23. Nurses really ought ……………………….. (pay) more than they are.

24. The music must ……………………. (turn down) by 12 o'clock at the latest.

25. Your free gift ………………… (send) to you in the next few days.

26. I wish I ……………....... (teach) how to use a computer when I was at school.

27. Human bones ………………………. (find) by archaeologists yesterday.

28. My car ………………… (repair) at the moment, so I can't give you a lift.

29. New York ……………... (say) to be one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

30. Hopefully, all forms of discrimination …… (wipe out) by the end of this century.


3. Change the sentences from the active into the passive. Omit the agent where it can be omitted.

1. The British eat over thirty million hamburgers each year.

...Over thirty million hamburgers are eaten by the British each year....

2. Who wrote "One Hundred Years of Solitude?"

3. The bad weather has spoiled my holiday plans.

4. Do they pay their workers on time?

5. The children picked the strawberries.

6. She saw them go out.

7. You should wash those walls before you paint them.

8. Penguin have translated all her books into English.

9. He objects to people telling him what to do.

10. Tesco are converting the old bank into a supermarket.

11. They told him not to say anything to her.

12. Did they give you a reward for finding their cat?

13. The nurses take very good care of the patients.

14. Everyone heard her shouting at the students.

15. Why have they given him a promotion?

16. I love people giving me presents.

17. When we got to the theatre, they had sold all the tickets.

18. The police have just arrested the man who broke into our house.

19. What did he tell you to do?

20. Oxlam will hold a fashion show next week.

21. They are holding the next World Cup in France.

22. When did they demolish that building?

23. The officers took the suspect in for questioning.

24. Will they hand out free T-shirts at the concert?

25. Does the school provide accommodation for all new teachers?

4. Change the sentences from the passive into the active.

1. Why was James asked to leave the club?

...Why did they ask James to leave the club?...

2. They love being invited to parties.

3. The best cream cakes are made by Sayers.

4. By the end of the party all the food had been eaten.

5. Sanchez was beaten by Graff in the Women's Tennis Final.

6. My glasses must have been thrown away by mistake.

7. The building is being examined by Health and Safety experts this week.

8. Who was the television invented by?

9. She was heard complaining about the new timetable.

10. She was sent a telegram by the Queen on her 100th birthday.

11. The English language is now spoken by over two billion people worldwide.

12. My overdraft is being extended by the bank tomorrow.

13. Hundreds of free gifts are being given away by Donels this Saturday.

14. Why haven't the beds been made yet?

15. I hate being taken for granted.

16. The tickets should have been booked weeks ago.

17. A new shopping centre is being built on the outskirts of town.

18. Why wasn’t I told about the meeting?

19. Further information can be obtained from your local post office.

20. When will you be interviewed for the post?

21. Who was Gilbert interviewed by?

22. She hasn't been christened yet.

23. A new shampoo is being developed in the lab.

24. The awards will be presented by Tom Hanks.

25. Rainforests are being cut down in the Amazon.

5. Fill in ‘by’ or ‘with’.

1. This suit was designed ...by... Armani.

2. This cake is filled …………. fresh cream.

3. Who was Australia discovered ………….?

4. Ford cars are made ………… experts.

5. The baby was covered ……………. a blanket

6. 'Carmen’ was composed ………... Bizet.

7. The coat was lined ………… fur.

8. The food will be provided ………... caterers.

9. The stew was flavoured …………. garlic.

10. The Royal Wedding was watched …………....... millions.

6. Change the sentences from the active into the passive. Omit the agent where it can be omitted.


  1. Santa Claus will leave your presents in the stocking.

...Your presents will be left in the stocking by Santa Claus…

  1. Bad organisation spoiled their holiday.

  2. Teachers mark hundreds of exam papers every year.

  3. Who wrote Romeo and Juliet?

  4. You should dry your hair before you go out.

  5. You mustn't tell him the truth.

  6. She likes people taking her to the theatre.

  7. Why didn't they give her the job?

  8. She told them not to tell anyone.

  9. They should have given us a bonus.

  10. The doctors will bring him in for an examination.

  11. Fog has delayed all flights.

  12. She didn't send me any parcels.

  13. She had cleaned the house before I got there.

  14. When we arrived at the hotel, they had filled all the rooms.

  15. Why haven't you invited Mary to the party?

  16. Paula will help you finish your project.

  17. The mayor is opening the new community centre next week .

19.We heard her complaining strongly to the manager.

20.You can leave your bags at the left-luggage office.

21.Workmen found some antique vases in the old house.

22.The architects have drawn up plans for the new library.

23.Who gave him the new car?

24.They are going to set the lion free next week.



25.What time do you expect him to arrive?

7. Change the sentences from the passive into the active.

  1. Who was the Mona Lisa painted by?

...Who painted the Mona Lisa?...


  1. The old barn has been pulled down.

  2. The results will be published in July.

  3. The trip was ruined by bad weather.

  4. The letter should have been posted last week.

  5. Who was the money raised by?

  6. Why hasn't the house been painted yet?

  7. She was heard shouting.

  8. How much were you paid?

  9. His car has been stolen.

  10. I can't bear being cheated.

  11. A famous actress will be chosen to advertise the product.

  12. John was made to do the washing up.

  13. The ozone layer is gradually being destroyed by pollution.

  14. A bring-and-buy sale is being held next month.

  15. Our house was done up by a famous interior decorator.

  16. The cracks in the wall were caused by the earthquake.

  17. Thousands of rare birds are killed by hunters every year.

  18. Her purse was stolen on the bus.

  19. When will we be told the time of his arrival?

  20. An ancient village has been uncovered by archaeologists.

  21. Why hasn't the dishwasher been repaired yet?

  22. A new drug is being developed by scientists.

  23. A new breed of cow is to be introduced into the country by farmers.

  24. The furniture will have been removed by noon.

  25. Who were you going to be replaced by?

  26. The island is being ruined by tourists.

  27. Two rooms had been booked for her by her travel agent.

  28. She was seen to leave the building.

  29. Seats should have been reserved a week ago.


8. Fill in ‘by’ or ‘with’.

  1. The Magus was written ...by... John Fowles.

  2. Who was the radio invented …………..?

  3. The cyclist was knocked down …………… a bus.


  4. Soup is eaten ………….. a spoon.

  5. The car was fixed …………. a mechanic.

  6. The glass was cut …………….. a special tool.

  7. Her hair is coloured ………….. henna.

  8. ‘Born in the USA’ was sung ……………. Springsting.

  9. The roast was flavoured ……………… wine.

  10. Music will be played ………………… the local band.

9. Change into the passive.

A Police are investigating a series of break-ins in the Hattersby area. Residents have heard noises, but nobody has actually seen anything suspicious. The recent rise in crime in the neigh­bourhood has shocked residents. Locals are discussing mat­ters of security with the police and they have requested greater police presence in the area.

B A wealthy businessman has just bought the Black Swan Hotel. The Barrett family owned it for many years, and they should have restored the building many years ago, but they couldn’t find enough money. The new owner is closing the hotel for a few months for redecoration. At the moment workmen are polishing the floors and redecorating all the rooms.

C Mr Owen Gibbon has discovered a valuable oil painting in the attic of his house in Rochester. George Stubbs, the famous animal artist, painted the work in 1760. Mr Gibbon's great-grandfather bought the picture in the 1890s, but after his death the family stored it away in the attic. Art historians are examining the painting, and have valued it at £500,000. Mr Gibbon has offered the work to the National Gallery, where experts will restore the picture to its former beauty. They will have finished the restoration work by June.

D The Winter Production Company has finally released the film which the public has been waiting for so long: The Hawk. The Winter Company was originally going to release the film in August but they decided to wait until October, as they know that fewer people go to the cinema in the summer. Richard Able directed The Hawk and critics are encouraging people to see it. Cinemas report that British audiences have bought a lot of tickets and that they are sure The Hawk will be a success.

E Over the past ten years oil spills have polluted the seas surrounding Britain. The tankers spill oil onto the coast and this harms many forms of wildlife. Environmentalists say that they need a lot of volunteers if they are to minimise the damage. In future, the government has promised that it will prosecute the owners of any tankers that pollute the North Sea in this way. The government also hopes that they can prevent such incidents by building more lighthouses along the coastline.

10. Change into the passive.

A Last month Samuel Block opened a restaurant in the centre of Macclesfield. He had planned it for over five years but he only completed it after local businessmen raised a large sum of money. A top hotelier has trained the waiters and they will wear specially designed uniforms to fit in with the restaurant's modern look. They have brought in a famous chef from France and they are going to give him complete control over the daily menu.

B After 20 years of civil war the Lebanese government is rebuilding Beirut. They will construct new offices and hotels. The authorities must also expand Beirut airport. Luckily, bombing did not destroy archaeological sites. By the year 2000, building companies will have completed most of the work. Lebanon's new look will attract many tourists in the future. A few groups have already visited this Middle Eastern paradise.


C The critics have greeted with enthusiasm "Turning Point", Marvin Morion's new play. They regard it as his most mature work. Morton wrote it after he had studied people's behaviour for a considerable time. On the opening night the audience called Morton onto the stage and applauded him loudly. They are staging the play at the Apollo Theatre where they expect thousands of people to see it. Film companies have asked Morton to write a script for a film based on the play. We do not know yet whether Morton will seriously consider the proposal.
11. Put the transitive verbs into the passive. Do not mention the agent unless it seems necessary.


  1. The milkman brings the milk to my door but the postman leaves the letters in the hall.

  2. In future, perhaps, they won't bring letters to the houses, and we shall have to collect them from the Post Office.

  3. People steal things from supermarkets every day; someone stole twenty bottles of whisky from this one last week.

  4. Normally men sweep this street every day, but nobody swept it last week.

  5. The postman clears this box three time a day. He last cleared it at 2.30.

  6. Someone turned on a light in the hall and opened the door.

  7. Women clean this office in the evening after the staff have left; they clean the upstairs offices between seven and eight in the morning.

  8. We never saw him in the dining-room. A maid took all his meals up to him.

  9. Someone left this purse in a classroom yesterday; the cleaner found it.

  10. We build well over 1,000 new houses a year. Last year we built 1,500.
  11. We serve hot meals till 10.30, and guests can order coffee and sandwiches up to 11.30.


  12. Passengers leave all sorts of things in buses. The conductors collect them and send them to the Lost Property Office.

  13. An ambulance took the sick man to hospital. (Mention ambulance.)

  14. We kill and injure people on the roads every day. Can't we do something about this?

  15. Dogs guard the warehouse. The other day a thief tried to get in and a dog saw him and chased him. (A thief who …)

  16. The watchman called the police. The police arrested the man.

  17. Tom had only a slight injury and they helped him off the field; but Jack was seriously injured and they carried him off on a stretcher. (Tom, who had. . . , but Jack, who was . . .)

  18. You can't wash this dress; you must dry-clean it.

  19. They are demolishing the entire block.

  20. He recommends fitting new tyres. (Use should)

  21. He suggested allowing council tenants to buy their houses.

  22. Men with slide rules used to do these calculations; now a computer does them.

  23. The court tried the man, found him guilty and sent him to prison.

  24. The hall porter polishes the knockers of all the flats every day. - Well, he hasn't polished mine for a week.

  25. They are repairing my piano at the moment.

  26. Passengers shouldn't throw away their tickets as inspectors may check these during the journey.

  27. They invited Jack but they didn't invite Tom.

  28. The guests ate all the sandwiches and drank all the beer. They left nothing.

  29. Has someone posted my parcel?

  30. Why did no one inform me of the change of plan?

  31. Tom Smith wrote the book and Brown and Co. published it.

  32. We shall have to tow the car to the garage.
  33. I'm afraid we have sold all our copies but we have ordered more.


  34. We will prosecute trespassers.

  35. Someone stole my car and abandoned it fifteen miles away. He had removed the radio but done no other damage.

  36. You must keep dogs on leads in the gardens.

12. Put the transitive verbs into the passive. Do not mention the agent unless it seems necessary.

  1. They haven't stamped the letter.

  2. They didn't pay me for the work; they expected me to do it for nothing.

  3. He escaped when they were moving him from one prison to another.

  4. She didn't introduce me to her mother.

  5. A frightful crash wakened me at 4 a.m.

  6. When they have widened this street the roar of the traffic will keep residents awake all night.

  7. They threw away the rubbish.

  8. A Japanese firm makes these television sets.

  9. An earthquake destroyed the town.

  10. A machine could do this much more easily.

  11. Visitors must leave umbrellas and sticks in the cloakroom.

  12. We ask tenants not to play their radios loudly after midnight.

  13. We can't repair your clock.

  14. We cannot exchange articles which customers have bought during the sale. (Articles...)

  15. We have to pick the fruit very early in the morning; otherwise we can’t get it to the market in time.

  16. The police shouldn't allow people to park there.

  17. They are watching my house.

  18. The examiner will read the passage three times.

  19. Candidates may not use dictionaries.

  20. You need not type this letter.
  21. This used to be number 13, but now I see that someone has crossed out ‘13’ and written ‘12A’ underneath.


  22. You mustn't move this man; he is too ill. You'll have to leave him here.

  23. They searched his house and found a number of stolen articles.

  24. Nobody has used this room for ages.

  25. They took him for a Frenchman, his French was so good.

  26. You should have taken those books back to the library-.

  27. They brought the children up in Italy.

  28. They have taken down the For Sale notice, so I suppose they have sold the house.

  29. Someone broke into his house and stole a lot of his things.

  30. We have warned you.

  31. A lorry knocked him down.

  32. They returned my keys to me; someone had picked them up in the street.

  33. We had to give the books back; they did not allow us to take them home.

  34. You shouldn't leave these documents on the desk. You should lock them up.

  35. They handed round coffee and biscuits.

  36. They have tried other people's schemes. Why have they never tried my scheme?

13. Change into the passive with phrasal verbs.

  1. The government has called out troops.

  2. Fog held up the trains. (agent required)

  3. You are to leave this here. Someone will call for it later on.

  4. We called in the police.

  5. They didn't look after the children properly.

  6. They are flying in reinforcements.

  7. Then they called up men of 28.

  8. Everyone looked up to him. (agent required)

  9. All the ministers will see him off at the airport. (agent required)

  10. He hasn't slept in his bed.
  11. We can build on more rooms.


  12. They threw him out.

  13. They will have to adopt a different attitude.

  14. He's a dangerous maniac. They ought to lock him up.

  15. Her story didn't take them in. (agent required)

  16. Burglars broke into the house.

  17. The manufacturers are giving away small plastic toys with each packet of cereal.

  18. They took down the notice.

  19. They frown on smoking here.

  20. After the government had spent a million pounds on the scheme they decided that it was impracticable and gave it up. (Make only the first and last verbs passive.)

  21. When I returned I found that they had towed my car away. I asked why they had done this and they told me that it was because I had parked it under a No Parking sign. (four passives)

  22. People must hand in their weapons.

  23. The crowd shouted him down.

  24. People often take him for his brother.

  25. No one has taken out the cork.

  26. The film company were to have used the pool for aquatic displays, but now they have changed their minds about it and are filling it in. (Make the first and last verbs passive.)

  27. This college is already full. We are turning away students the whole time.

  28. You will have to pull down this skyscraper as you have not comlied with the town planning regulations.

The verbs believe, expect, feel, hope, know, report, say, think etc are used in the following passive patterns in personal and impersonal constructions.

• subject (person) + passive verb + to –inf (personal construction)

The police report that she is in France.

She is reported to be in France.


• it + passive verb + that-сlause (impersonal construction)

It is reported that she is in France.

14. Turn the following sentences into the passive as in the example:

  1. They think he is lying.

He …is thought to be lying…. It …is thought that he is lying

  1. They believe he got lost in the forest.

He ……………………… It ………………………

  1. They say she has been very ill.

She ……………………… It ……………………..

  1. They said the president had been shot.

The president …………… It ………………………

  1. They believe she was taking drugs.

She ……………………… It ………………………

  1. They expect he will pass his driving test.

He ………………………… It …………………………

  1. They said she was wrongly accused.

She ……………………… It ………………………..

  1. They believe he is leaving soon.

He ………………………… It ………………………

  1. They say his health is very poor.

His health ………………….. It ………………………

  1. They report that some papers have been stolen.

Some papers ………………… It ……………………

  1. They say he is a millionaire.

He ………………………… It ………………………

  1. They expect the plane will be landing soon.

The plane ………………… It ………………………

  1. They believe he was working illegally.

He ………………………… It ………………………
  1. They say he is feeling better.


He ……………………… It …………………………

  1. They thought he had been brave to do so.

He ……………………… It ………………………..

  1. They think he has escaped from prison.

He ……………………… It ………………………

  1. They expect he'll pass his exams.

He ……………………… It ………………………

  1. They say she lied to the police.

She ……………………… It ……………………

  1. They say they miss too many lessons.

They ……………………… It ……………………

  1. They know she was always late for work.

She ……………………… It ……………………




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