The Passive 1: Present Simple and Past Simple

   

 
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Welcome to your Passive 1: Present Simple and Past Simple lesson! In this topic we talk about:
• Passive and Active sentences
Why do we use Passive sentences?
Forming Passive sentences
Take the quizzes when you’re ready! If you’re having problems, use the comment box to contact our English Teachers.

Passive and Active sentences

Look at this pair of sentences:

“Somebody discovered the island in the 17th century.”

This is an active sentence. “somebody” is the subject, “the island” is the object.

The island was discovered in the 17th century.

This is a passive sentence. “The island” is the subject.

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.”

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.”

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.”

Recap

  • 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”.