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The Passive voice

by John December 15, 2020

Do you know what the passive voice is?
It is a grammar term that comes up time and time again.

Today we are going to have a look at what it is and when we use it.

Passive voice

The most common sentence in the passive voice in English is:

“I was born.”

Being born is something that happens to you. You don’t do the action yourself but you receive it.

This is what the passive voice is all about, receiving an action.

We normally use the active voice in English:

“I opened the window.”

I am doing something to the window, so it has a subject => doing some action => to the object.

In the passive voice, this would become:

“The window <= was opened.”

We see that the action happened to the window, the window did nothing itself, it remained passive.

Passive voice

We use to be + past participle to form the passive voice

Uses of the passive voice

There are 4 common uses for the passive voice:

  1. When we don’t know who does the action
  2. When we don’t want to say who does the action
  3. When it is not important who does the action
  4. When it is obvious who does the action.

Here are some examples:

  1. The Car has been stolen. (we don’t know who stole the car)
  2. You were seen leaving work early. (The boss doesn’t want to say who saw the person)
  3. The spire was built in 2000. (It is not important who built it)
  4. The criminal was arrested yesterday. (It’s obvious that the police arrested him)

 

We from the passive voice using: the verb to be + past participle.

The passive voice can be used for all tenses but only the verb to be changes:

Present simple : am/is/are + past participle – “The food is eaten”

Present continuous: to be+ being + past participle – The food is being eaten”

Past simple : was/were + past participle – “The food was eaten”

Past continuous: was/were + being + past participle – “The food was being eaten”

Future simple: will be + past participle – “The food will be eaten”

Present perfect: has/have + been + past participle – “The food has been eaten”

Past perfect: had + been + past participle – “The food had been eaten”

Future perfect: will have + been + past participle – “The food will have been eaten”

Test Yourself

Take a look at the following situations and think of what you would say:

Example: You made cookies and some of them are gone. What could you say?

Answer: “My cookies have been eaten.”

 

  1. You are a tour guide giving information about a landmark in your town/city. What could you say?
  2. The news report is telling a story on how the firemen saved the family. What will the reporter say?
  3. The president apologizes for mistakes that someone made. What might he say?

Test Yourself

Choose the correct from of the passive voice.

2

Passive voice

1 / 5

I have made the dinner. The dinner _____(make).

2 / 5

The family is eating the meal.

3 / 5

The French built the statue of liberty in 1875.

4 / 5

The mechanic has fixed the car.

5 / 5

The team rescued the mountaineers from the mountain.

Your score is

Vocabulary

Time and time again: repeatedly

Landmark: A building or place that is famous in a city

I hope you enjoyed the blog post. If you would like to check out some more of our grammar posts head on over to the grammar section on our website.

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