The Passive Voice

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Copy of SIMPLE

The passive voice is used to show interest in the person or object that experiences an action rather than the person or object that performs the action. In other words, the most important thing or person becomes the subject of the sentence. It’s a very common verb tense to present the news: The bank was robbed by two thieves last night.

To form the passive, it’s necessary to change the position of the subject and the object in a sentence.

I         made       a cake. (active)

subj.                       obj.

A cake was made by me. (passive)

obj.                         subj.

However, we don’t always need to mention the subject, for example:

When we don’t want to say who performed the action – Was Simon invited?

When we don’t know who the subject is – My sister’s bike was stolen yesterday.

Here is how it works:

Tense Active Passive
present simple

is/are + pp

They always invite grandma. Grandma is always invited (by them).
present continuous

is/are + being + pp

My aunt is doing the washing-up. The washing-up is being done (by my aunt).
past simple

was/were + pp

They invited uncle Adrian. Uncle Adrian was invited (by them).
past continuous

was/were + being + pp

My uncle was cleaning the car. The car was being cleaned (by my uncle).
present perfect

have/has + been + pp

My cousin has sent the invitations. The invitations have been sent (by my cousin).
past perfect

had + been + pp

Our friends had taken the twins to the zoo. The twins had been taken to the zoo (by our friends).

will + be + pp

They will / won’t invite the neighbours. The neighbours will / won’t be invited (by them).
going to

is/are + going to + be + pp

They are going to invite Bill to the party. Bill is going to be invited to the party.

can + be + pp

We can hold the party at my house. The party can be held at my house.

should + be + pp

We should tell Jerry about the party. Jerry should be told about the party.

might + be + pp

They might invite Kyle to the party. Kyle might be invited to the party.

must + be + pp

We must tell Bob about the concert. Bob must be told about the concert.

Watch out!

We use the preposition by to say who does something.

The room was painted by my parents.

We use with to emphasize what someone uses:

Soup is usually eaten with a spoon.


To practice the passive in different verb tenses, click here.


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