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Active and Passive

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Verbs are either in the active voice or in the passive voice. In the active voice the relationship between the verb and the subject is clear:
The company gave Paul a car.
This sentence is active. The company (subject) gave (verb)

In the passive the subject of the sentence is not the 'doer'; the person doing the action.
Paul was given a company car.

The passive is used when the action is the focus, not the subject. It is not important or not known who does the action.

The window is broken. (It is not known who broke the window.)
The show has been cancelled. (The focus is on the show. It is not important who did the action)
We introduce the doer with 'by' in the passive.
Paul was given a car by the company.

The passive is used to stress an action, to make a sentence more polite and when the doer is not known or not important. The passive is also used when it is clear who the doer is.
The theatre was built in 1732.
The car was invented over a hundred years ago.
I was told that Sarah no longer worked here.
He was fired because he stole some money.
Smoking is not allowed in the building.

To make the passive the verb is changed to 'be + past participle'. The subject of the verb is left out or introduced with 'by'.

A teenager designed this new car.
This new car was designed by a teenager.

An Italian architect designed the cathedral.
The cathedral was designed by an Italian architect.

Lesson by Tristan, teacher at EC Malta English School

Now choose the correct sentence from each pair:

  • 1) Which is correct?

  • 2) Which is correct?

  • 3) Which is correct?

  • 4) Which is correct?

  • 5) Which is correct?