Grammar I the Passive. We form the passive with the verb to be


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I The Passive.
We form the passive with the verb to be and the past participle of the main verb.



Present Simple

He delivers the parcels.

The parcels are delivered

Present Continuous

He is delivering the parcels.

The parcels are being delivered.

Past Simple

He delivered the parcels.

The parcels were delivered.

Past Continuous

He was delivering the parcels.

The parcels were being delivered.

Future Simple

He will deliver the parcels.

The parcels will be delivered.

Present Perfect

He has delivered the parcels.

The parcels have been delivered.

Past Perfect

He had delivered the parcels.

The parcels had been delivered.

Future Perfect

He will have delivered the parcels.

The parcels will have been delivered.

Present Infinitive

He is expected to deliver the parcels.

The parcels are expected to be delivered.

Perfect Infinitive

He is said to have delivered the parcels.

The parcels are said to have been delivered.

Simple –ing form

I object to his delivering the parcels.

I object to the parcels being delivered.

Perfect –ing form

Having delivered the parcels,…

The parcels having been delivered,…


He must deliver the parcels.

The parcels must be delivered.

Modal perfects

He must have delivered the parcels.

The parcels must have been delivered.

The present perfect continuous, the future continuous, the past perfect continuous, and the future perfect continuous are not normally used in the passive.

We can use the verb to get instead of the verb to be in everyday speech when we talk about things that happen by accident or unexpectedly.

e.g. Four people got hurt in the car crash.

NB. However, we cannot use get to describe states.

e.g. That house is (NOT gets) owned by my uncle.
We use the passive:

a) When the person who carries out the action is unknown, unimportant or obvious from the context (the doer (agent) of the action is not mentioned).

e.g. a) My flat was broken into last week. (We do not know who broke into the flat.)

b) Coffee beans are grown in Brazil. (It’s not important to know who grows the coffee.)

c) My car was serviced yesterday. (It is obvious that a mechanic serviced it.)

b) When the action itself is more important than the person who carries it out, as in news headlines, newspaper articles, formal notices, instructions, advertisements, processes, etc.

e.g. The new hospital will be opened by the Queen on May 15th. (formal notice)

c) when we refer to an unpleasant event and we do not want to say who or what is to blame.

e.g. A lot of mistakes have been made. (instead of “You have made a lot of mistakes”.)
Changing from active into passive.
Only transitive verbs (verbs followed by an object) can be changed into the passive.

e.g. Grandma knitted my jumper. → My jumper was knitted by Grandma.

BUT: They travelled to Lisbon last summer (intransitive verb). → no passive.
Some transitive verbs such as belong, have (=own), fit (=be the right size or shape), lack, resemble, seem, suit, cannot be changed into the passive.

e.g. I have a shower every morning (NOT A shower is had by me…)

The verb let has no passive form, so we use a passive form of allow/permit/give permission.

e.g. The teacher let us leave early. → We were allowed to leave early.
When the verb of the active sentence is followed by a preposition, the preposition is kept in the passive sentence as well. We never separate the verb and preposition(s) in the passive.

e.g. They took the company over in 2001. → The company was taken over (by them) in 2001.
The verbs hear, see, make are followed by the bare infinitive in the active, but by the to-infinitive in the passive.

e.g. They saw him leave the building. → He was seen to leave the building.
1. Complete the sentences using words from each group.
build design direct discover discover invent name paint play write
the Ancient Egyptians Crick and Watson Marie Curie Gustave Eiffel Eric the Red Angelina Jolie Akira Kurosawa Guglielmo Marconi Picasso Philip Pullman

  1. Greenland…………………………….

  2. Northern Lights

  3. The Pyramids

  4. The wireless

  5. Guernica

  6. Lara Croft

  7. The Statue of Liberty

  8. The structure of DNA

  9. The Seven Samurai

10 Radium
2. Imagine you are in a busy hotel at midday. Make sentences to say what is being done, using words from the two groups and the present progressive passive.

Beds are being made.
beds bills coffee drinks food luggage money new guests reservations rooms tables
bring down change clean lay make order pay prepare serve take welcome

3. Imagine that, rich and famous, you return to your old home town after fifty years. A lot of things are different. Make sentences, using words below and the present perfect passive.


The Cafe Royal has been turned into a casino.
Cafe Royal houseboats new car park new schools opera house old fire station ring road station streets town centre statue of you Super Cinema your house
build modernise put up in park rebuild widen turn into casino / floating restaurants / museum / supermarket / theatre / pedestrian precinct
4. Put the verbs into the correct passive form.
1 I've collected all the documents that (need) for the house sale. Can you take them to the lawyer's office (sign)?

2 Look, this is a secret. Come into the garden where we (not / overhear).

  1. If you hadn't been so late for work, you (not / sack).

  2. This office is very inefficient. The phone (never / answer) promptly, no proper records (keep), and, worst of all, no reports (written) since I started work here.

5 I was so worried about my garden while I was in hospital, but I have very good neighbours. When I got home, I could see that the vegetables (water) every day and the grass (cut) regularly.

6 Can you come to the police station? The man who (suspect) of stealing your wallet (arrest) and (question) at the moment. The police hope he (identify), either by you or another witness.

7 We had hoped to see several famous paintings, but the gallery (reorganised) at the time of our visit and most of the really valuable works (move) for safe keeping.

8. Aunt Dinah (not like) by my father’s family; she (consider) vulgar.

9. After his brother’s departure Paul sat for a long time thinking about what (say).

10. “I’m not prepared,” my father said, “to listen to your suggestions that you never (treat) fairly at school.”

11. But there were signs that order (restore) in the town.

12. He went into the bedroom. The bed (turn) down for the night by the maid many hours before.

13. Please, find out if my father (see) to leave.

14. She could have gone to Cambridge if she had wanted, she (offer) a scholarship.

15. Ahead of us the port lay in a flood of lights. Two cargo ships (unload).

16. I felt I (catch) out boasting.

17. I could not tell him that I had spent the money I (leave) in order to get myself a house.

18. She (operate) on at seven o’clock next morning.

19. The days that followed afterward (look) back on by Philip as a kind of nightmare.

20. You have hardly any right to talk to me about the children. They (see) to all right, and it will be me that sees to them, not you.

21. Somewhere from far away in the town came the sound of shots. “Somebody (kill),” I said.

22. The boy who put a frog in the teacher’s desk (ask) to return the frog to the pool.

23. He watched Jack while the film (run).

24. I discovered that a similar message (send) to my office.

25. Our garden was all weeds, but the one next door (look) after to perfection.

5. Complete the second sentence so that it has a similar meaning to the first sentence. Do not use by unless it is important to the meaning.
1 The teacher has marked all the homework.

All the homework

2 My boyfriend kept me waiting for half an hour.


3 The students must pay all their own fees for this course.

All the fees for this course

4 Do you suppose your brother could have written that email?

Do you suppose that email ?

5 They use a computer to do that job nowadays.

A computer

6 During the summer, the cafe was employing more waiters every week.

During the summer, more waiters

7 Nobody informed the police that there had been a mistake.

The police

8 Where will your company send you next year?

Where will you ?

9 The news about the war worried Josephine.


10 I've still got the camera because no-one has claimed it.

I've still got the camera because it

11 Has anyone ever asked you for your opinion?

Have you ?

12 The children shouldn't have opened that parcel.

That parcel

13 All visitors must wear identity badges.

Identity badges

14 Someone must have changed the time of the meeting.

The time of the meeting

15 Is anyone using this computer?

Is this computer ?

16 The managing director promised me a pay-rise.

…………………. ……………………by the managing director.

17 They sent me the contract by courier the next day.

The contract

18 A multi-national company is taking over our firm.

Our firm

19 Several people noticed the man trying to climb in the window.

…………………………………………………………….by several people.

20 They awarded David a medal for bravery.


21 They made Sylvia take the exam again.


22 An elderly aunt gave Paul the paintings.


23 The police are going to look into the case

……………………………………………………by the police.

24 They considered any further rescue attempts pointless.

Any further

25 They elected George president for a second term.


26 You can't see the house from the street.

The house

27 'They won't correct your papers before Friday.'

He said our papers

28 Someone must have taken the towels out of the dryer.

The towels…………………………………………………..

29 Nobody's going to steal your books from this room.

Your books……………………………………………….

30 People were telling me what to do all the time and I didn't enjoy it.

I didn't enjoy……………………………………………….
6. Rewrite each sentence using appreciate, deny, enjoy, like or remember and the word in capitals.
1 Thanks for taking me to the station. TAKEN

2 I was shown around the school, and I enjoyed it. BEING

3 I don't remember when they arrested me! BEING

4 He said he liked it when people took him seriously. TAKEN

5 Tina said she hadn't been paid to appear in the play. HAVING

6 I don't remember when they gave me the anaesthetic. BEING

7 Thanks for giving me another chance. GIVEN
7. Complete the text with expressions from the box.
had been given had been told had never been taught was given (twice) was offered was promised was sent was shown wasn't being paid

I'll never forget my first day at that office. I (1) to arrive at 8.30, but when I got there the whole place seemed to be empty. I didn't know what to do, because I (2) no information about the building or where I was going to work, so I just waited around until some of the secretaries began to turn up. Finally I (3) dirty little office on the fifth floor, where I (4) a desk in a corner. Nothing happened for an hour; then I (5) some letters to type on a computer by one of the senior secretaries. This wasn't very successful, because I (6) how to use a computer. (In the letter I (7) when I (8) the job, I (9) computer training, but they'd obviously forgotten about this.) By lunchtime things hadn't got any better, and I decided that I (10) enough to put up with this nonsense, so I walked out and didn't go back.

8. Choose one passive verb phrase for each space in these sentences (from a report on the use of DNA testing by the police).
is also called has also been used can he used

is believed have been shown may have been convicted

was released had been sentenced would never have been solved
DNA is the chemical in the cells of plants and animals which carries inherited characteristics, or genetic information. DNA testing (l) to identify each person as a unique individual on the basis of that genetic information. It (2) 'genetic fingerprinting'. The results of DNA testing are now being accepted as evidence in cases where it (3) that the wrong person (4) of a crime. In recent years, more than seventy people (5) to be innocent through DNA testing. Many of those people (6) to life in prison. In one case, a man (7) after nineteen years in prison. DNA testing (8) in some murder cases that (9) without it.
9. Complete this news report with these verbs in the passive.
block close destroy expect flood injure knock leave report rescue
Many homes on the island of Jamaica (l) by hurricane Lester yesterday. Today, high winds (2) to bring more rain and problems for the island's residents. Some parts of the island (3) without electricity last night and many roads (4) by fallen trees that (5)……… down during the storm. The area around Savanna-La-Mar on the south coast (6)…………and some residents have had (7) ………..from the roofs of their houses. Most businesses and schools in Kingston (8)………….today as people emerge from their battered homes to survey the damage. More

than 100 people (9) , but no deaths (10)

10. Put the verbs into the most suitable passive tense.

Alana has just met her boyfriend Grant at a cafe.

ALANA Hi! Sorry I'm late.

GRANT: What kept you?

ALANA: I came on the bus and it (l) (stick) in a traffic jam for forty minutes.

GRANT: Why didn't you just walk across the park as usual?

ALANA: Because the park (2) (close) since last weekend.

GRANT: Why's that?

ALANA: A film (3) (shoot) there.

GRANT: Do you know who it (4) (direct) by?

ALANA: No, but I think Leonardo DiCaprio is in it. Someone told me he

(5) (see) at the Royal Hotel at the weekend.

GRANT: Really?

ALANA: Yeah. He (6) (fly) here in a private plane by the film company.

GRANT: Well, if it's true, we're not going to the disco at the Royal this Friday.

ALANA: Why not?
GRANT: If he's there, the hotel (7) (surround) by fans and security guards.

ALANA: But we might meet him if we go.

GRANT: Don't be silly. He won't be at the disco. And we certainly (8) (not invite) to his room.

ALANA: I suppose not. But we can go to the park gate now and see what's happening. Perhaps we (9) (ask) to act in a crowd scene. I heard that some local people (10) (employ) as extras yesterday, but I was too busy to go.

GRANT: OK, if you want to. But I don't think we (11) (allow) anywhere near the filming.
11. Complete the text with a suitable passive form of the verb in brackets.

The Academy Awards Presentation (1) (first/organise) in 1929 and since then, it (2) (hold) every year. The presentation (3) (attend) by those at the top of the film industry and (4) (watch) on TV by millions of viewers who want to see who (5) (present) with the golden statue which (6) (desire) by everyone in the motion picture world.

The voting for the Academy Awards (7) (conduct) secretly and the results (8) (not/reveal) to anyone until the envelope (9) (open) on stage in front of the audience. Awards (10) (give) for the best individual and collective work and (11) (separate) into different categories. Up to five nominations (12) (make) in each category. The awards, which (13) (know) as Oscars, (14) (consider) to be the highest honour anyone in the film industry can (15) (give).


Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai (1) (award) the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. She (2) (praise) by the Nobel committee as 'a source of inspiration for everyone in Africa fighting for sustainable development, democracy and peace'. When she started her Green Belt movement in 1977, Kenya was suffering from deforestation and desertification. Thousands of trees (3) (cut down) and many families (4) (leave) in poverty as a result. Since then, her successful campaign to mobilize women to plant some 30 million trees (5) (copy) by other countries. During that time the movement (6) (transform) into a campaign on education, nutrition and other issues. Her campaign has not always been popular. Mrs Maathai (7) (arrest) several times for campaigning against deforestation in Africa, and once she (8) (beat) unconscious by heavy handed police. But in elections in 2002, she (9) (elect) as an MP as part of an opposition coalition which swept to power, and she (10) (appoint) as a deputy environment minister in 2003.


Blocked drains shut gallery link

A multi-million pound underground tunnel connecting two of Edinburgh's art galleries (1) (close) for two weeks so that blocked drains which have dogged the building from the outset can be fixed. The repair work (2) (estimate) to cost around £100,000 but it is unclear who will foot the bill. Major losses (3) (expect) at the museum and at the gallery restaurant, which

(4) (house) in the link and (5) (force) to shut whilst the work (6) (carry out). The head of buildings said it was likely that the fault had occurred while the tunnel (7) (construct) 'It probably happened while it (8) (build) because we have had blockage problems since it opened. We (9) (tell) it will cost around

£100,000 - who will pay for it will be the issue.' A spokeswoman for the National Galleries said: 'Everything (10) (do) to ensure minimal disruption to visitors. Many of the educational workshops and events (11) (accommodate) elsewhere in the galleries. The National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy Building (12) (not affect) by the work, and will open as normal throughout.' The work to the faulty drainage system at the Weston Link, which (13) (only complete) in August 2004, will take eight weeks from mid-February until the start of March.

12. Put the verbs in brackets into the correct passive or active tense.


Coffee (1) (say) to originate from Kaffa in Ethiopia and most species of coffee plant (2) (find) in the tropics of the Eastern Hemisphere. The species which (3) (think) to be the earliest coffee plant (4) (ever/cultivated) by man is Coffea arabica. Today it (5) (grow) mostly in Latin America.

The coffee shrub (6) (reach) a height of 8 – 10 metres and (7) (have) white scented flowers. It (8) (produce) a red fruit which (9) (call) a cherry. The cherry (10) (contain) two seeds which (11) (join) together. These seeds, which (12) (also/know) as beans, (13) (first/roast) and then they (14) (grind) to make coffee. The grounds (15) (then/process) in a variety of different ways. Sometimes they (16) (filter) and sometimes they (17) (soak) in water to make the drink which is popular with so many people. Coffee is available as grounds or as instant coffee powder and (18) (drink) by one third of the world’s population.


Slowly but surely the coastline of Britain (1) (wear away) by an advancing sea. The country which once 'ruled the waves' now (2) (rule) by them, with huge forces threatening to destroy vast areas of human and wildlife habitat. Already some of Britain's last wild, natural areas (3) (disappear), and experts (4) (fear) that this is just the beginning. It (5) (estimate) that there will be a 38-55 cm rise in average sea levels by the year 2100. According to the Department of the Environment, during the next 50 years at least 10,000 hectares of farmland (6) (turn into) mud flats and salt marshes by the increases in sea levels. Rather than trying to prevent the erosion, the present government (7) (use) a method of 'managed retreat' by creating new defences further inland and allowing low-lying coastal farm land (8) (abandon) to the sea. However, many of the country's major cities could also (9) (affect). London, Bristol and Cardiff all (10) (expect) severe flooding as our sea defences (11) (destroy) by the rising tides.


Local cheeses

Traditional cheeses (1) (produce) in many regions of the UK and (2) (name) after the area in which they (3) (first develop) Cheddar, a hard cheese with a strong, nutty taste, is the most popular and (4) (now make) all over the world. A 'true' Cheddar must come from the counties of Somerset, Dorset or Devon in southwest England or specifically from the Somerset village from which it (5) (take) its name. Wensleydale (6) (come) from the Yorkshire Dales (valleys) in northern England. Originally made from sheep's milk, it (7) (base) on a recipe introduced by the Cistercian monks in the 11th century and has a mild refreshing flavour. Traditional Lancashire, from northwest England, has a light, salty flavour. During the Industrial Revolution (around 1760-1830), Lancashire cheese (8) (become) the staple food of the mill workers. Caerphilly, a crumbly cheese, (9) (first produce) in the Welsh town of that name in about 1831. The cheese (10) (soak) overnight in salt water to seal in the moisture. It was popular with the local coalminers who (11) (lose) a lot of salt during their work underground. Blue Stilton, made only in the counties of Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, (12) (prize) as the 'king' of British cheeses.

NB Hearsay reports describe what people say, report, believe, think, consider, know, etc., and are often used in news reporting. They are introduced by a passive form of the report verb, either in present simple or past simple form with a to-infinitive. The report can refer to the present or past, or a time before the time of reporting. Different forms of the infinitive are used to show the relation of the report to the report verb:
e.g. The patient is said to be as well as can be expected. (That’s what people say now about the present situation).

The robbers are thought to have stolen more than £3 million. (That’s what people say now about the past situation).

Last week the Prime Minister was said to be undecided (That’s what people said in the past about the situation then).

Mr Smith was believed to have taken the car by mistake (That’s what people said then about something that had happened earlier).
13. Rewrite each sentence so that it begins with the words underlined.
1 People say that the company's European division is having a good year.

2 In contrast, they say that the Far East division has been suffering from rising costs.

3 People believe that the company has been talking to a competitor about a possible merger.

4 People know some directors have been thinking on these lines for some time.

5 People believe the CEO. Carl Graham, is making an attempt to focus the business more sharply in some areas.

6 People say he is also looking at the possibility of job cuts.

7 People think the company is holding a top-level meeting about these matters next week.

14. Complete the sentence so that it means the same as the first sentence.


1 It is said that house prices are too high.

House prices

2 It is thought that the hospital is short of money.

The hospital ,

3 It was alleged that the athlete had cheated.

The athlete

4 It is reported that the prime minister is resigning.

The prime minister

5 It is expected that the new sports stadium will be finished soon.

The new sports stadium

6 It is generally considered that sixteen is too young to get married.


7 It was thought that the book had been destroyed.

The book

8 It is believed that the children had been hiding for two weeks.

The children


1 Oak Island in Canada is one of many places in the world which people think is the site of buried treasure.

Oak Island in Canada is one of many places in the world which …….........

2 People say that the treasure is in a place called 'the money pit'.

The treasure ………………………………………………

3 People think that pirates buried the treasure centuries ago.

Pirates ………………………………………………………

4 The money pit story dates back to 1795, when people report that a local youth fell into a hole at the foot of a large tree.

The money pit story dates back to 1795, when a local youth………………

5 People believe that he and a friend discovered traces of treasure in the hole.

He and a friend ………………………………………….

6 People say that the two men found a treasure chest in later excavations.

The two men …………………………………………….

7 However, before they could open the chest, people say that water flooded in.

However, before they could open the chest, water ………………………..

8 Since then, people believe that more than a dozen groups of treasure hunters have searched for the treasure.

Since then, more than a dozen groups of treasure hunters …………………..

9 People think that some explorers found old pieces of metal in the hole.

Some explorers ……………………………………….

10 However, people now report that the pit is a natural phenomenon, or the remains of old colonial fortifications.

However, the pit is now……………………………….

15. Rewrite each sentence so that it is a hearsay report, using a form of the verb in capitals.
1 Two suspects have been arrested. THINK

2 The plane crashed into the sea near a small island. BELIEVE

3 The minister is considering changing the laws on smoking in public. SAY

4 Yesterday the situation had improved. REPORT

5 Whales have been seen in the area for the first time. SAY

6 The fire broke out at 3 am. BELIEVE

7 Last year the company recorded rising profits. REPORT
NB Verbs such as give, hand, lend, offer, send, throw, ask, teach, etc. take two objects and have two corresponding passives:
e.g. Alice gave us that vase. → 1) We were given that vase (by Alice). 2) That vase was given (to) us (by Alice).
The verbs announce, demonstrate, describe, dictate, explain, introduce, mention, point out, propose, repeat, report, suggest also take two objects (direct (referring to a thing) and prepositional (with the preposition “to”) (referring to a person)). These verbs have only one passive form.
e.g. He explained the problem to me. → The problem was explained to me (NOT I was explained the problem).
16. Make one corresponding passive sentence or two, if possible. Look carefully at the tense in the sentences given.

  1. Someone handed me a note

  2. Someone offered her a second-hand bicycle

  3. Someone has proposed improvements to the developers.

  4. Someone suggested some interesting changes to me.

  5. Someone awarded him a prize.
  6. Someone will announce the President's arrival to the waiting journalists.

  7. Someone had mentioned the password to the thieves.

  8. Someone has lent me some skis.

  9. Someone is sending him threatening letters.

10 Someone is going to explain the changes to the students.

11. He explained to me that almost everything the children were taught at school was unnecessary.

12. I mentioned the fact to my friends.

13. The lawyer explained the new law to us.

14. People expect you to meet the boss.

15. A guide pointed out the Pyramids to us.

16. They gave his little daughter a present.

17. At lunch somebody mentioned to me that the Johnsons had come from abroad.

18. Somebody reported the accident to the police.

19. They promised the workers higher wages.

20. Someone pointed out to us that the camp was deserted.

21. Then someone suggested that we drop the discussion and talk about something else.

22. They will show the visitors all the new pictures.

23. It was not easy to see what to do about Jack, and someone proposed that he should come and stay with us.

24. They explained to us that the men in those days had almost no chance of protecting themselves against such monsters.

25. They gave me two shillings change at the shop.

17. Choose an appropriate form of one of these verbs to complete the sentences and write a corresponding passive sentence starting with the word(s) given. Use each verb once only.
appoint bring declare demonstrate help introduce see tell
1 People …..Bobby to his feet after the accident.


  1. Tony me to Mrs Jennings at his birthday party.

I …………………….

  1. Has anyone Chris this morning?

Has Chris. ……………………………?

  1. The Romans may rabbits to Britain as a source of food.


5 People the story of Father Christmas to young children to explain the presents they receive.

The story of Father Christmas……………………………….

6 They Martin Johnson team captain for the whole of the World Cup.

Martin Johnson……………………………………………

7 I am certain that Sarah ……her suitability as company director to those who still have any doubt.

I am certain that Sarah’s suitability as company director……………………

8 They Alan Watson winner of the election after a recount.

Alan Watson…………………………………………

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