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/ Grammar Focus

THE PASSIVE VOICE


520

ACTIVE:

Ceruantes

wrote

Don Quixote.

PASSIVE: Don Quixote was written by Cervantes.

Read the two paragraphs below. Which version flows bettefi

I.

The first horses in North America arrived in the 1500s. They were brought by Spanish
sotdiers and [ater used by missionaries for transportation. Soon, they were adopted
by Native Americans at[ over the western territories. They became part of the great
buffalo cutture of the Ptains lndians.

ll.

The first horses in North America arrived in the 1500s. Spanish sotdiers brought them,
and later missionaries used them for transportation. Soon, Native Americans at[ over
the western territories adopted them. They became part of the great buffato culture
of the Ptains lndians.

1.

Verbs that

cant be used in the passive

Most transitive verbs can be used in the passive. A transitive verb is one which has an object, e.g.

atch

The police caught the thief.

The thief was caught by the police.

Intransitive verbs cannot be used in the passive. An intransitive verb is one which does not have an
fall ) Rodney fell and hurt his leg.

object, e.g.

Here are some intransitive verbs. None of these verbs can be used in a passive form:

appear
collide
die
fall
lie
rise
stand

arrive
come
disappear
happen
look
seem

sit

collapse
constitute
exist
last
resemble
sleep

take place

vanish

wait

become
consist of
emerge
have
occur

Forming the passive

The passive is formed with the verb to be in the appropriate tense + the past participle of the main
verb. In the case of modals, e.g. could, musfi it is formed with the modal + be + past pafticiple.

Tense
present simple

Subiect Verb'to be'


Past Paftici
Letters
are
delivered
twice a day
I

present continuous I The old

castle

is

being

past

simple

I The Parthenon

past

continuous

I Our hotel room was

present

perfect

perfect

was

built in the

being

I Two paintings have

restored.

been

Sth

century BC.

cleaned when we arrived.

stolen from the gallery.

They

had

been

warned about the danger.

future

You

will

be

paid next Friday.

modals

Food

should

past

be

consumed before the sell-by date.

l[OfE: In informal English, get can sometimes be used instead of be to form the passive. The agent is
not generally mentioned: Tom got stopped for speeding on the highway.

3.

Choosing an active or passive form

In an active sentence, the subject is the person or thing that does the action:
Liverpool beat Manchester United last Saturday.
In a passive sentence, the subject of the verb is the person or thing that is affected by the action:
Manchester United were beaten by Liverpool last Saturday.
When we want to focus on the person or thing affected by the action instead of the doer of the action,
we use the passive.

4.

Including the agent (doer)

When we use the passive, we can choose to include the agent or not. The agent is the person or thing
responsible for the action: The record is held bv Sheila Richards.
We do not include the agent:

a.

When the agent is not impoftant.


Trespassers will be prosecuted by the landowner.

b.

When we

don't know who the agent

is and

we would have to use the words'somebody' or'a

person'. My car has been stolen by somebody.

c.

When the

d.

When the

agent is obvious.
The thief was sentenced to five years in prison by the judge.

agent has already been mentioned.


Some of Stephen King's books have been written by Stephen King under the
pseudonym Richard Bachman.

Exercises
A.

,1

What do these words mean? Use

it can ... or it can't ... . Use a dictionary if

necessary.

If something is

,2

Complete these sentences with the following verbs (in the correct form):

arrest carry cause +c

make repair -sa+ spend

wake up

Sometimes you need have (might have. should have etc.).

2
3
4
5
6

The situation is serious. Something *wt .....b-q...dp..n9-.... before it's roo late.
I haven't received the letter. It might ....h*.:f.p..k?&n....?.9\|.... to rhe wrong address.
A decision will not
........... unril rhe next meeting.
Do you think that more money should
on education?
This road is in very bad condition. It should
a long time ago.
The injured man couldn't walk and had to ..................-....

electrical fault.
I told the hotel receptionist I wanted to

at 5.30 the next morning.

Rewrite these sentences. lnstead of using somebody or they etc., write a passive sentence.

Somebody is using the computer at the momenr.

4 I didn't

.............-.--..

realise that somebody was recording our conversation.

'V7hen

They are building a new ring road round the city.

They have built a new hospital near the airport.

we got to the stadium, we found that they had cancelled the game.

Malce sentences from

the words in brackets. Sometimes the verb is active, sometimes passive.

There's somebody behind

This room looks different. (you / paint / the walls?)

4 I"Iy umbrella
5
7

us. (i think / we / follow)

has disappeared. (somebody /

.....1....tI9I1k....W.k.r-9.*#5....fu11.o.y.d-,...

.....H.*.y9...9.q*....P.Unk.&...fu-e-..w.&f.1........

take) Somebody

Ann can't use her office at the moment. (it / redecorate) It .........................
The photocopier broke down yesterday, but now it's OK. (it / work / again; it / repair)
It,...............................

8 \7hen I went into the room, I saw that

the table and chairs were not in the same place.

The man next door disappeared six months ago. (he

10 I wonder how Jane is these days. (I I not I see / for

not

see

/ since then)

ages)

11 A friend of mine was mugged on his way home a few nights ago. (you I

ever I mug?)

B. Active vs Passive: Error Corrcction


Correct the errors in these senfences:

I'll never forget the earthquake that was happened in Turkey in 1999. It occurred on August

2.

The earthquake was taken place in the middle of the night causing my city to vanish over night.

3.

17.

Evefihing was shaken and was moved around. Our car outside was collided with other cars that
were parked on the street.

4. The eafthquake

was lasted only a couple minutes but in that short time every thing was destroyed.

5.

After it stopped, I looked around. The house I had been sleeping in was destroyed, The house was
resembled a house made of cards that had fallen down.

6. I looked outside for something

familiar. Everything was disappeared. There were just stones and

rocks on the ground.

7. I heard people walking around and shouting, I was afraid. Suddenly my father was appeared

in

front of me. I was so relieved.

B.

In the next few hours, people were emerged from the fallen buildings and were walking in the
street looking for family.

9.

My family, which was consisted of five people, was now only made up of two.

C, Omifting

the agent

Why is there no agent in the following senfences? Match the sentence with the most appropiate reason,
a-d. There may be more than one reason.
Example: The secretary was given a pay

raise.

c,

The agent

is

obvious.

lt

must have been her

employer.

1, Gauguin's most impoftant paintings were produced during the years he spent in Tahiti.
2. Silence must be observed at alltimes.
3. The house had been redecorated since my last visit.
4. I was told to be there by five at the latest.
5. Oh my goodness - I've been robbed!
6. Smith was given a five-year sentence for his pat in the robbery.

D. Passives with'get'
Circle the correct verb forms to complete fhe senfences.
1. When two people first

meet

they... get acquainted

get

dressed

tired
lost

get worried

get drunk
2. When it's late at night, most people.,. get married get
get sunburned
3. People who stay out in the sun too long... get arrested get
get worried
4. Some people drink too much at a party and they... get crowded get
5. Married people who argue too often sometimes... get sunburned get scared get divorced
get
get bored
6. When a movie isn't very interesting, people... get
get replaced
7. Drugs that are trafficked illegally... get confiscated get

drunk

excited
scared
arrested

bored

gets married gets frustrated


8. If a person has a problem, he or she... gets
9. People who commit a crime should... get excited get arrested get tired
10. A couple who love each other very much usually ... get married get divorced get promoted

E. Active to Passive
Putthefollowing shorf fexfs intothepassive. Donotincludetheagentunless it'simportant.

1.

The police arrested Smith at Newtown Hospital last night. Doctors were taking him to the operating
theater when the police arrived. One of his accomplices had accidentally shot him in the knee during
the get-away. The police are interrogating Smith at Sunhill Police Station. They will charge him with
armed robbery. They have charged him twice for similar offences in the last five years.

Smith was arrested...

2,

The government will close three more coal mines over the next two years. They have already closed
a total of six since they came into office. They are asking miners to consider voluntary redundancy.

Three more coal mines...

3. Tlcket Event is a program that customers

use to draw the layout of their theater or concert hall,

including the stages and seats. For each seat they add the row and seat numbers, plus any other
special restrictions. With this electronic layout travel agents show the layout to ticket buyers and
reserve seats for them.
The Ticket Event program is connected to the BART system. Whenever customers change the
layout they notify the BART Ticket Event group. Ticket Event uses DistribSoft to distribute the
layout of the Ticket Event module of the BART system. Within 24 hourc, all booking agencies can
use the updated layout.

Ticket Event is a program that is used...