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The passive Tense

The passive
We use the passive when we are more interested in the action than in who did it

Form of the passive: be + -ed (past participle)

Almost all the tenses used in the active may be used in the passive.

  1. Mary helps John - John is helped by Mary.
  2. Mary is helping John. - John is being helped by Mary.
  3. Mary has helped John. - John has been helped by Mary.
  4. Mary helped John. -- John was helped by Mary.
  5. Mary was helping John. -John was being helped by Mary.
  6. Mary had helped John. - John had been helped by Mary.
  7. Mary will help John. - John will be helped by Mary.
  8. Mary is going to help John. - John is going to be helped by Mary.
  9. Mary will have helped John. - John will have been helped by Mary.


  1. Last weekend my flat was painted (I'm not interested in who painted it.) I can add the information about who did the action with + person.
  2. My flat was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci.
  3. Dinner is being served.
  4. The meeting will be held in the library.

In the passive the object of an active verb becomes the subject of the passive verb. Consequently, only transitive verbs (which are followed by an object) are used in the passive. It is not possible to use verbs such as "happen, sleep, come and seem (intransitive verbs) in the passive." Since, as mentioned above, we use passive when we are more interested in the action than in who did it the by phrase can easily be omitted if the information is not important. Eg. Someone invited you to go to a party. - You were invited to a party (by someone).

Do you understand? - Try the passive tests.

Complete these passive and active sentences"; passive or active quiz"; Note: Although 'make' usually takes "; a bare inifitive "That loud noise made me jump" it takes a to + infinitive in the passive voice: "I was made to do it."

The passive Tense

When we are more interested in what was done than the people doing it we can use the passive.

Form (is done/was done)

use an active verb to say what the subject does
use a passive verb to say what happens to the subject

Form: be (is/was/have/been) + the past particliple. (done/built/made etc.,)

passive Voice - Examples

Mr Brown made these cakes today.
These cakes were made today.

The second sentence is the passive voice. Notice that the person doing the action is not important in this form. If we want to speak about the person doing the action then we can add it to the end.

These cakes were made today, by Mr Brown.

Active to passive

  1. Once a week, Tom cleans the house.
  2. Right now, Sarah is writing the letter.
  3. Sam repaired the car.
  4. The salesman was helping the customer when the thief came into the store.
  5. Many tourists have visited that castle.
  6. Recently, John has been doing the work.
  7. George had repaired many cars before he received his mechanic's license.
  8. Chef Jones had been preparing the restaurant's fantastic dinners for two years before he moved to paris.
  9. Someone will finish the work.
  10. Sally is going to make a beautiful dinner tonight.
  11. At 8:00 pM tonight, John will be washing the dishes.
  12. At 8:00 pM tonight, John is going to be washing the dishes. - The dishes are going to be being washed by John.

Making passive sentences

Make more pairs of sentences like this:
The shop which sells meat. >>> The shop where meat is sold.

Passive sentences with direct and indirect objects

There will be two Passive Voice sentences for the sentences with two nouns.

There are few verbs which take two objects, a Direct object and an Indirect object.

For such sentences, there will be two forms in Passive Voice sentences.


Verbs with two objects:

  1. I gave him five dollars. (Active voice)
    Five dollars were given to him by me. (Passive Voice)
  2. She has told me the truth. (Active voice)
    I was told the truth by her. (Passive Voice)
  3. They lent me their car. (Active voice)
    I was lent a car by them. (Passive Voice)
  4. A car was lent to me by them. (Passive Voice)
    The Government has sent him a message. (Active voice)
  5. He was sent a message by the government. (Passive Voice)
    A message was sent to him by the government. (Passive Voice)

Imperative sentences (Commands and requests)

There is special formula for changing the imperative sentence into passive voice.
Please open the door. (Active voice)
Let the door be opened by you. (Passive Voice)
Here the sentence in active-voice has been changed into a sentence in passive-voice.

Please understand the formula which has been followed to change the active-voice to passive-voice.

"Let" is used to convert the active voice sentence into a passive voice sentence.

Examples: Answers
  1. Do not mistake me. (Active voice)
    Let me not be mistaken. (Passive Voice)
  2. Cut your nails. (Active voice)
    Let your nails be cut. (Passive Voice)
  3. Do not ignore my suggestions. (Active voice)
    Let not my suggestions be ignored. (Passive Voice).

These sentences have been changed into passive voice sentences by adding "let".

With Modal verbs:

The verbs can, could, may, might, and must are known modal verbs. In the following sentences, these verbs are changed into passive voice.


  1. You can take the book. (Active voice)
  2. The book can be taken by you. (Passive Voice).
  3. Everybody must obey the rules. (Active voice)
  4. The rules must be obeyed by everybody. (Passive Voice).
  5. They might have studied their lessons. (Active voice)
  6. Their lessons might have been studied by them. (Passive Voice).
  7. He may not accept this plan. (Active voice)
  8. This lesson may not be accepted by him. (Passive Voice).


Passive forms Two objects (let)

The Passive Tense in Reporting

the Passive tense is often used to report or make a documentary about something. In this report. Which numbered lines are:
  1. passive
  2. Relative clauses, which give extra information
  3. Positively promoting the company
  4. Phrases and idioms
  5. Sequencing events

Tiptree Farm. The Text

  1. Each strawberry field may be selectively picked up to five times during the short season,
  2. which means that only the best ripe strawberries are chosen
  3. , ensuring perfect quality at all times.
  4. Experience is the name of the game.
  5. Some of the strawberry pickers
  6. , you see here,
  7. have been doing the job for over 25 years. As soon as the strawberries have been picked,
  8. the race is on to preserve them.
  9. As it arrives at the factory from the surrounding farms,
  10. the fruit is unloaded ready to begin the jam making process.
  11. First the strawberries are washed and every one is carefully checked by hand.
  12. Everyone is involved in quality assurance.
  13. Once washed and sorted
  14. the fruit is taken to be cooked.
  15. The main aim of the boiling room staff, is to get as many whole strawberies in each jar as they possibly can.
  16. After weighing each batch, fruit and sugar are mixed in these carefully controlled pans.
  17. Cooking in small quantities means that the fruit is less likely to be crushed.
  18. The jam is transferred to the filling room,
  19. where it enters a small reservoir to be inspected again.
  20. Slow turning paddles make sure that the fruit is evenly distributed in it's juice.
  21. Before filling, the jars are automatically loaded into the conveyor system.
  22. On the way to the filler they are checked by hand for any defects in the glass,
  23. and then air blasted to guarantee cleanliness.
  24. Less than one hour ago we saw these strawberries in the fields.
  25. Since then we have seen them carefully selected, picked, washed, sorted and cooked, to ensure the whole fresh flavour for which Tiptree is so well known.
  26. Here the stream capper creates a vacuum under the lid and seals the jar.
  27. For four minutes the jars move along the line allowing them to cool down.
  28. For half of that time they are up-side-down to sterilise the space between the jam and the lid.
  29. 60,000 will come off this line today.
  30. Whenever possible the fruit is grown on the Tiptree farm, but some fruits have to be imported.
  31. Between december and march, truck loads of fresh Seville oranges arrive from Spain, to be made into delicious marmalade.
  32. Every batch of jam and marmalade is sampled by a director.
  33. This experience and assessment maintains flavour and consistency to the Tiptree standard.
  34. After cooling the jam is given a final check, and then taken on pallets to the warehouse.
  35. With such a short season for each fruit, one years supply of each product must be made and stored here.
  36. For example a full years stock of strawberry jam is made and stored over a period of just 3-5 weeks in the summer.
  37. From the warehouse the jars are taken to the labelling and packing area achording to orders received.
  38. Both main lines here can label up to 300 jars a minute.
  39. The jars are labelled and bar coded
  40. then packed in shrink wrapped trays or export cases.
  41. Tiptree preserves are sold to over 50 countries throughout the world.
  42. Of course, today all orders deliveries and accounts are processed automatically,
  43. and even some of the cooking pans are controlled by computer,
  44. but the Wilkin family never employs technology where a pair of hands can do the job better.
  45. Wilkin and sons , is still and independant family business,
  46. which owes it's success to the principle that
  47. it's the quality that counts.
  48. Professional management, dedicated staff and investment in technology all help to achieve efficient operation at every level.
  49. To ensure that a jar of Tiptree jam is, and always will be known throughout the world, not only as something special, but as a benchmark for quality.
  50. Well I must say this Tiptree jam is absolutely delicious. You can taste the fruit as if it has just been picked from the field, which of couse it has.
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