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The Passive

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The passive is formed by the verb be in an appropriate tense and the past participle (third form of the verb).

The passive is used:

When we don't know or are not interested in the person or people doing the action.
Her car was stolen yesterday.
(we don't know who stole her car)
A lot of beer is produced in Germany.
(it’s not important who produces the beer)

When the main topic of the sentence is not about the person doing the action.
' Facebook' was created by Mark Zuckerberg.
(The main topic is 'Facebook' not its creator) – it is usual in English to always put the main topic of a sentence at the beginning even when not using the passive.

In formal and semi-formal written English more than in spoken English.
'Iron man 3' is expected to do well in the box office when it is released.
(text books and scientific texts often use the passive)

The Passive can be used in most tenses. The form of 'be' changes accordingly.

List of verbs in active and passive:

Tense Active Passive
Present simple They design software there.  Software is designed there.
Present continuous They are building the new theatre.   The new theatre is being built.
Present perfect They’ve stolen my car.  My car has been stolen.
Past simple They built the church in 1566. The church was built in 1566.
Past continuous They were restoring the painting. The painting was being restored.
Will+base form They will hold the concert for two weeks. The concert will be held for two weeks.
Going to+verb They are going to announce the winners. The winners are going to be announced.

Lesson by Tristan

Select the correct word or phrase to form the passive in these sentences:

  • 1. Yesterday the concert ___ due to bad weather.

  • 2. The Gothic cathedral ___.

  • 3. We ___ . Call the police.

  • 4. The new console ___ next month.

  • 5. The members of the drug cartel ___ last night.

  • 6. The documents ___ within a week.

  • 7. The power ___ for a whole day.

  • 8. ___ about the changes to the schedule?