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Active voice | passive: grammar rules with examples


Form
Present simple and continuous: The car is repaired. The car is being repaired.
Past simple and continuous: The car was repaired. The car was being repaired.
Present perfect: The car has just been repaired.
Past perfect: The car had been repaired.
Future simple: The car will be repaired.
Future perfect: The car will have been repaired.
Present and perfect conditional: The car would be repaired. The car would have been repaired.
The passive voice in English is formed with the verb to be and the past participle, which is
different for regular verbs (translated, mended) and irregular verbs (taken, thrown).
Statement: The letter is written. This shop has been opened. It will be done in time.
Question: Is the letter written? Has the shop been opened? Will it be done in time?
Negative: The letter is not written. The shop has not been opened. It will not be done in time.
The continuous is as follows. (Other continuous tenses are normally used in the active voice, not
in the passive.)
Present: A new houseis being built in our street.
Past: A new house was being built in our street.
In all the examples above the agent is not mentioned. We do not know who has written the letter
or opened the shop.
Similarly: Flowers were planted in the garden. (We do not know who did it).
If we want to say who planted the flowers we mention the agent at the end of the sentence and
use the preposition by.
The flowers were planted by my mother.
But: The window was smashed with a stone. (The stone is not the agent. We do not know who
smashed the window. We only know how he or she did it).
Direct and indirect objects
If there are both direct and indirect objects in the active voice (My friend sent me a letter), the
indirect object (my friend), not the direct object (a letter), becomes the subject in the passive
voice.
Active: My friend sent me a letter.
Passive: I was sent a letter by my friend. (Not: A letter was sent to me by my friend. This
sentence does not sound natural in English.)
Similarly: They offer Trevor a place. - Trevor is offered a place.
The infinitive without to
In the active voice some verbs are followed by the bare infinitive (infinitive without to). In the
passive form we use most such verbs with the infinitive with to.
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Active: We saw them come. She made him do it.
Passive: They were seen to come. He was made to do it.
But: They let us go. - We were let go.
Use
The passive is used:
1. If the action is more important then the agent.
A demonstration has been held. This theatre was built in 1868.
The important thing is what happened, not who did it.
2. If the agent is not known.
He was offered a job. (Someone offered him the job.)
They are supposed to be good students. (Some teachers suppose that.)
The difference in meaning between the simple and continuous
A new house is built in our street. (The house is finished.)
A new house is being built in our street. (They are building it these days, it is not finished.)
I was being introduced to Mrs. Jones when her husband arrived. (Her husband arrived in the
middle of the introduction.)
When her husband arrived I was introduced to Mrs. Jones. (Her husband arrived first and then
she introduced me.)
Notes
This form is typical of an impersonal and formal style, that is why you can often find it in
public notices, announcements, instructions or scientific articles.
English is spoken in this shop. Visitors are not allowed to smoke. The seal must be removed.
In a less formal style the active voice is more usual.
English is spoken in this shop. - We speak English in this shop.
He was seen in Dover. - They saw him in Dover.
The seal must be removed. - You must remove the seal.
In the English language this form is more frequent than in many other languages. Moreover,
you can find some stuctures in English which are not possible in some languages.
I am told that you are going to have a baby. It is thought that the crises will end soon.




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Passive test 1, exercise 1
Complete the sentences in passive voice with the verbs in brackets.
Example: Ten houses .............. here last year. (build) - Ten houses were built here last year.
Letters by the postman at 8 every day. (deliver)

This bag in the bus yesterday. (find)

The dress in hot water. (cannot wash)

your motorbike yet? (repair)

The message tomorrow. (send)

These offices now. (clean)

This report in time if you didn't help me. (not finish)

Why the TV ? (turn on)

This building since the 1930's. (not reconstruct)

Bags in the cloakroom. (must leave)

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The engine just when the manager saw it. (test)

The last umbrellas in the morning. (sell)

You to arrive so late if you worked for me. (not allow)

The plan in two days. (announce)

All the halls at the moment. (paint)

What were we doing at 11 o'clock? We . (interview)

After the window pane someone smashed the window again. (replace)




























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Letters by the postman at 8 every day. (deliver)
Right: are delivered

This bag in the bus yesterday. (find)
Right: was found

The dress in hot water. (cannot wash)
Right: cannot be washed

your motorbike yet? (repair)
Right: Has; been repaired

The message tomorrow. (send)
Right: will be sent

These offices now. (clean)
Right: are being cleaned

This report in time if you didn't help me. (not finish)
Right: would not be finished

Why the TV ? (turn on)
Right: is; turned on

This building since the 1930's. (not reconstruct)
Right: has not been reconstructed

Bags in the cloakroom. (must leave)
Right: must be left

The engine just when the manager saw it. (test)
Right: was; being tested

The last umbrellas in the morning. (sell)
Right: were sold

You to arrive so late if you worked for me. (not allow)
Right: would not be allowed

The plan in two days. (announce)
Right: will be announced
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All the halls at the moment. (paint)
Right: are being painted

What were we doing at 11 o'clock? We . (interview)
Right: were being interviewed

After the window pane someone smashed the window again. (replace)
Right: had been replaced






















































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Passive test 2, exercise 1
Rewrite the sentences. Use the passive voice and keep the same tense.
Example: They closed the shop at 5 o'clock. - The shop was closed at 5 o'clock.

They make these cars in Japan.

You must not drop litter in the street.

Someone smashed our window last night.

They have already mended the TV set.

People will need public transport.

They are decorating the wall.

You should not replace the roof.

People are spending less money this year.










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Passive test 2, exercise 1
They make these cars in Japan.
Right: These cars are made in Japan.

You must not drop litter in the street.
Right: Litter must not be dropped in the street.

Someone smashed our window last night.
Right: Our window was smashed last night.

They have already mended the TV set.
Right: The TV set has already been mended.

People will need public transport.
Right: Public transport will be needed.

They are decorating the wall.
Right: The wall is being decorated.

You should not replace the roof.
Right: The roof should not be replaced.

People are spending less money this year.
Right: Less money is being spent this year.
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Passive test 1, exercise 3
Use by or with to complete the sentences.
The room was tidied up my brother.

A lot of goods have been stolen customers.

The tree will be cut down a saw.

This dictionary is often used our students.

He was hit in the eye a snowball.

The mixture must be stirred a fork.
























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Passive test 2, exercise 3
Make questions in passive voice.
A: There was a storm on the coast last night.
B: ? (anything/damage)
A: Yes. Some trees fell on cars. Fortunately, nobody was killed.

B: How many cars during the storm? (crush)
A: Three or four.

B: ? (the trees/remove/yet)
A: Yes, they have. But the cars are still there.

B: When ? (the cars/remove)
A: Tomorrow, I hope.

B: ? (the cars/badly/damage)
A: Yes, they are. One of them is completely destroyed.













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Passive test 2, exercise 3
Make questions in passive voice.
A: There was a storm on the coast last night.
B: ? (anything/damage)
A: Yes. Some trees fell on cars. Fortunately, nobody was killed.
Right: Was anything damaged / Has anything been damaged

B: How many cars during the storm? (crush)
A: Three or four.
Right: were crushed

B: ? (the trees/remove/yet)
A: Yes, they have. But the cars are still there.
Right: Have the trees been removed yet

B: When ? (the cars/remove)
A: Tomorrow, I hope.
Right: will the cars be removed

B: ? (the cars/badly/damage)
A: Yes, they are. One of them is completely destroyed.
Right: Are the cars badly damaged







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Passive test 2, exercise 4
Rewrite the sentences in passive voice.
Example: The university has accepted me. - I have been accepted by the university.

clear

Ford offered Bill a job.

My partner will send you the fax.

My parents give me some pocket money.

The mayor promissed new flats to people.

The teacher will show slides to students.

The bank will lend them enough money.

The manager gave them a discount.











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Passive test 2, exercise 4
Rewrite the sentences in passive voice.
Example: The university has accepted me. - I have been accepted by the university.
Ford offered Bill a job.
Right: Bill was offered a job by Ford.

My partner will send you the fax.
Right: You will be sent the fax by my partner.

My parents give me some pocket money.
Right: I am given some pocket money by my parents.

The mayor promissed new flats to people.
Right: People were promissed new flats by the mayor.

The teacher will show slides to students.
Right: Students will be shown slides by the teacher.

The bank will lend them enough money.
Right: They will be lent enough money by the bank.

The manager gave them a discount.
Right: They were given a discount by the manager.
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Passive test 3, exercise 1
Rewrite the sentence given in the example in passive voice. Use the correct tense.
Example: They make cars here. - Every day cars are made here.

At the moment .

When I was here last time .

Next week .

If we got the licence .

Before our company went bankrupt .

Normally, .

Last week .

Since 1995 .







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Passive test 3, exercise 1
At the moment .
Right: cars are being made here

When I was here last time .
Right: cars were being made here

Next week .
Right: cars will be made here

If we got the licence .
Right: cars would be made here

Before our company went bankrupt .
Right: cars had been made here

Normally, .
Right: cars are made here

Last week .
Right: cars were made here

Since 1995 .
Right: cars have been made here
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Passive test 3, exercise 4
Rewrite the sentences in the more natural form of passive voice.
Example: A parcel was delivered to me. - I was delivered a parcel.
A postcard has been sent to Jill.
Right: Jill has been sent a postcard.

A new chance will be given to me.
Right: I will be given a new chance.

Bad news was told her.
Right: She was told bad news.

Millions of books are bought for students each year.
Right: Students are bought millions of books each year.

His place will be offered to Alan.
Right: Alan will be offered his place.

This information must be sent to Ann.
Right: Ann must be sent this information.

Such a present had been given to my mum.
Right: My mum had been given such a present.
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The garden was sold to the Simpsons.
Right: The Simpsons were sold the garden.

A letter has been shown to his parents.
Right: His parents have been shown a letter.

Higher wages will be promised to workers.
Right: Workers will be promissed higher wages.

This book is lent to readers very often.
Right: Readers are lent this book very often.