The Passive 1: Present Simple and Past Simple

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In this lesson we’re looking at using the passive voice in English.

This is just the introduction to three passive voice lessons. You’ll find the others here and here. Make sure you’re comfortable using the present simple and the past simple before continuing.

Have fun with the lesson, and don’t forget to try the quizzes.

– James.

Lesson Contents

Passive and Active sentences

Look at this pair of sentences:

This is an ACTIVE sentence. somebody is the SUBJECT, the island is the OBJECT:

Somebody discovered the island in the 17th century.

This is a PASSIVE sentence. The island is the SUBJECT:

The island was discovered in the 17th century.

ACTIVE sentences are used to say what a subject does:

The postman delivers letters every day.

English people really love tea.

PASSIVE sentences are used to say what is done to a subject:

The letters are delivered every day.

Tea is really loved by English people.

Choose the verb in its correct form. The verbs will either be PASSIVE or ACTIVE, PRESENT or PAST.

Why do we use Passive sentences?

A PASSIVE sentence is used when we don’t know who does the verb, or it’s not important:

My car was stolen last night. 
(we don’t know who stole the car.)

Was this table built locally? 
(it doesn’t matter who built the table.)

If we want to mention who did the verb in a PASSIVE sentence, use BY.

My car was stolen by a local criminal.

This table was built locally by a family of carpenters.

Order the PASSIVE questions.

Forming Passive sentences

A PASSIVE sentence is formed by using BE + past participle:

was known / is spent / are shown / are produced etc.

The Present Simple passive is formed using AM, IS or ARE:

I am employed by a local company.

It is well known that tea is delicious.

We are gathered here today to celebrate Mark’s birthday.

The Past Simple passive is formed using WAS or WERE:

I was employed by a local company. Then I got fired.

We were known to be quite noisy as children.

Add the verbs to make PASSIVE sentences. Use PASSIVE sentences and either the Present Simple or Past Simple.


Your Words

cause damage hold invite make
overtake show surround translate write

  • ACTIVE sentences are used to say what a subject does.
  • PASSIVE sentences are used to say what is done to a subject:
  • We use PASSIVE sentences when we don’t know who does the verb, or it’s not important.
  • A PASSIVE sentence is formed by using BE + past participle.

All Quizzes

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Course Navigation
The Present and Past
The Present and Past Perfect
The Future
Modals
IF and WISH
The Passive
Reported Speech
Auxiliaries and Questions
Verbs
Nouns and Articles
Pronouns and Determiners
Relative Clauses
Adjectives and Adverbs
Prepositions
Phrasal Verbs
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