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Personal and Impersonal Passive [2021 UPDATE]

Published by My Lingua Academy on

Personal and Impersonal Passive
Personal and Impersonal Passive

I’m sure you know all about passive and passive constructions for all verb forms. But what do you know about special passive forms such as personal and impersonal passive? Even if you are an advanced English learner, you probably have doubts about these constructions. So, let’s look at this topic one more time.

When do we use personal and impersonal passive forms?

Like most passive sentences, these passive forms are used when we want to avoid mentioning the doer of the action. They are most commonly used in news reports. 

Look at this sentence:

They say he is a good man.

Now look at its impersonal passive construction:

It is said that he is a good man.

Structure: It + passive verb + that clause  

We can state the same using a personal passive construction:

He is said to be a good man. 

Structure: subject + passive form + to-infinitive

You can use these structures with a number of verbs such as believe, expect, know, think, report, consider, understand, say, consider, decide, allege, recommend, propose, assume, mention, suggest, hope, find, show, etc. 

Personal and impersonal passive constructions in different tenses

Simple Present Tense

Active: This company makes a lot of profit.

Impersonal passive: It is assumed that this company makes a lot of profit.

Personal passive: This company is assumed to make a lot of profit.

Present Continuous Tense

Active: The sea level is rising every day.

Impersonal Passive: It is well known that the sea level is rising every day.

Personal passive: The sea level is well known to be rising every day.

Future Simple Tense

Active: They predicted that the weather will change soon.

Impersonal passive: It is predicted that the weather will change soon.

Personal passive: The weather is predicted to change soon.

Simple past Tense

Active:  Columbus discovered America.

Impersonal passive:  It is known that Columbus discovered America.

Personal passive:  Columbus is known to have discovered America. 

Past Continuous Tense

Active: The famous rock star was having breakfast when the news about the accident arrived.

Impersonal passive: It was mentioned that the famous rock star was having breakfast when the news about the accident arrived.

Personal passive: The famous rock star was mentioned to be having breakfast when the news about the accident arrived.

Present Perfect Simple

Active: This school has always had good teachers.

Impersonal passive: It is said that this school has always had good teachers.

Personal Passive: This school is said to have always had good teachers.

Present Perfect Continuous:

Active: Sean has probably been waiting in the queue for hours.

Impersonal passive: It is believed that Sean has probably been waiting in the queue for hours.

Personal passive: Sean is believed to have been waiting in the queue for hours.

Be supposed to

We also use be supposed to in this way say what is arranged or expected.

For example:

  • I was supposed to finish this report today, but I’m afraid I won’t have time.
  • Janet is supposed to be at work before nine.
  • We are not supposed to wear casual clothes in this company.
  • Mum, you are not supposed to lift anything heavy. Remember what the doctor said.

Exercise:

Make personal and impersonal passive constructions using the reported verb in the brackets:

1) We asked them to arrive on time. (expect)

2) The charity is building a block of flats for the homeless. (find)

3)  The government has reached their decision about the new law. (report)

4) Thomas hit a man in the pub last night. (allege)

5) Tom is a very considerate man. (believe)

6) The fans would like the Red Socks to win the match. (hope)

7) The thieves got in through the window. (report)

8) Brenda speaks three languages. (mention)

9) The presidents of two countries have a meeting. People hope that they will find a common language. (hope)

10) John knows Maths well. (think)

11) The town was hit by an earthquake. (report)

12) The press thinks that the government is planning a new law on advertising. (assume)

Download the PDF with the lesson and answer key here

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My Lingua Academy is an online school of English language. We give one-on-one lessons to students of English of all ages and all levels of knowledge all around the world. With us you can prepare for written assignments and exams, attend a general or business English course, or have conversation classes with qualified English teachers who have years of experience.

2 Comments

Geetanjali Sharma · 4 Jul 2018 at 11:17 am

Thank you sir
You are doing good job, Now a days English is very essential for all . You are not helping the students but teachers are also get a lot of help..Have a good n blessed day ahead.

It is said... - NTEMID · 5 Aug 2021 at 6:28 am

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