Passive Voice

Hello English learners. Welcome to the new lesson. We are having an interesting grammar lesson today – passive voice.

Do you know what passive is? Well, sentences can be active and passive. What is the difference between them? Word order in a passive sentence is subject + verb + object (the subject is performing an action over an object), while in a passive sentence object “pretends” to be a subject + to be + past participle; the doer of the action (agent) is omitted in most cases. What does it mean? Why would anybody use it? It’s so complicated. Well, there are a few reasons for using passive or active sentences in speaking or writing; but let’s look at the active and passive sentence structures first.

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Active structure

Subject + verb + object

Mary pushed the door.

Mary = subject (doer of the action)

pushed = past simple verb

the door = object.

In order to make this sentence passive, we need to place the object in the first place, to use the auxiliary to be in the tense the active sentence is in and the verb in the past participle.

Passive structure

Object + to be + past participle

Let’s just apply the formulae to our sentence

The door was pushed.

The doer of the action can be introduced using “by” or omitted.

The door was pushed by Mary

Passive Voice

Present SimpleShe rides a bicycleA bicycle is ridden
Present ContinuousShe is riding a bicycleA bicycle is being ridden
Present PerfectShe has ridden a bicycleA bicycle has been ridden
Past SimpleShe rode a bicycleA bicycle was ridden
Past ContinuousShe was riding a bicycleA bicycle was being ridden
Past PerfectShe had ridden a bicycleA bicycle had been ridden
Future SimpleShe will ride a bicycleA bicycle will be ridden
To be + going toShe is going to ride a bicycleA bicycle is going to be ridden
Modal verbShe can ride a bicycleA bicycle can be ridden

We use the passive:

1. when the agent (subject) is unimportant, unknown or obvious.

  • Michael’s car was stolen last night. (we don’t know who stole it)
  • The church was built in the 11th century. (it is unknown who built it)
  • The thief was arrested. (it is obvious that the police arrested him)

2. when the action is more important than the doer of the action, especially in the news, reports, advertisements, etc.

  • Twenty villages along the coast were flooded.
  • The new car model is made in China.

3. to emphasise the doer of the action.

  • The film was directed by Almodovar.
  • The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell.

Passive Voice

4. to make our statements more polite.

  • Your house needs to be cleaned and tidied. (it is more polite than you need to clean and tidy your house)
  • Teeth should be cleaned at least twice a day.


Do the exercise to perfect your knowledge. Turn active into passive:

1. Simon damaged his car last night.

2. They make this car in Italy.

3. Sara posted the letter yesterday.

4. Mary is baking a pie.

5. Picasso painted Guernica.

6. They will address Mrs Smith.

7. They cancelled the flight because of the weather.

8. They were watching TV when we arrived.

9. When he came home, he realized that someone had robbed his flat.

10. You should always lock the door.

11. I am going to send the parcel on my way to work.

12. Someone will steal your bicycle if you leave it there.

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Download the PDF with the lesson on passive voice and the answer key here

Passive Voice
Passive Voice

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