This is a page devoted to understanding how we use the verb the Passive Voice in English. Watch the following video to learn all about how we use this verb. Then sing a ‘karaoke’ song to recognize how the passive voice is used and then do some online exercises to make sure you’ve understand the important points. Good luck!
How do we use the Passive Voice?
1. We use the passive to express news events when we want to report what happened to someone and NOT who initiated the action:
2. We also use the passive voice to emphasize an object and not the action or to change the point of view.
Example: The play Romeo and Juliet was written by William Shakespeare. The International Herald Tribune is published by the New York Times. This book was edited by Oxford University Press.
3. We use the Passive to describe a process:
Example: First the grapes are harvested. Then they are crushed. The juice is put in vats which are stored in our warehouses. Sugar is added if the wine is too acidic. The wine is then put into bottles and aged in cellars. After 2 years of aging, the bottles are shipped to shops and supermarkets to be sold.
Learn about the basic usages:
4. We can add the preposition ‘by’ if we know who the active agent is:
Examples: She was given a medal of honor by the President. He was disqualified by the Olympic committee for taking drugs.
Example: My purse was stolen out of my office (the thief is not known); A lot of rice is eaten in China (‘by the Chinese’ is not needed as it’s obvious); An incision is made in the abdomen and then the appendix is extracted.
6. When do not use ‘by’ when we don’t want to mention the agent or perpetrator of an action:
Example: The school board agreed that the student had been disciplined unnecessarily. They admitted that mistakes had been made in the handling of the affair.
7. We do not use ‘by’ to avoid repetition:
Example: The Grand Louvre museum entrance was designed by the architect I. M. Pei. It was completed in 1989.
8. We do not use ‘by’ when we talk about general agents (readers, collectors, etc.):
Example: His paintings are considered to be the best (by art enthusiasts). Vitamins should not be considered a substitute for approved drugs (by doctors). His theories have never been questioned (by his readers).
9. We use the passive in ‘formal’ writings or circumstances with verbs such as ‘think’, ‘believe’, ‘expect’, etc.
Examples: It is believed that the earth is round. It is expected that he will win re-election with difficulty. It is thought that the board will decide in favor of the teachers. They are believed to be in Italy at the present time. I was asked to run for Mayor.
Now watch this video to practice using the passive in different verb tenses:
Now try doing some interactive exercises:
- English Grammar Secrets: 5 Exercises to Recognize Passive Voice
- A4ESL: Active or Passive?
- Enseignons.be (French Site): Rules for French Speakers + Exercise
- Michel Barbot’s Quiz
What about ‘Get’ used in the Passive Voice? Watch the following video to see how ‘get’ is used in passive constructions:
- English Daily: Transform from Active to Passive
- Active to Passive on ESL Quizzes
- ESL Lounge: Construct passive sentences
- Impact English: Quick exercise
- Englisch-Hilfen (German Site): Passive Voice Exercises
- English Grammar 4 U: Grammar rules + Exercises (scroll down to bottom of the page for exercises)
- Learn English and Feel Good: Intermediate grammar exercises
- Scientific Writing Tips Purdue University (advanced): Remove unneeded prepositions + Purdue University Owl Rules for the Passive Voice (PDF Document)
- E-Anglais (French Site): Exercises on Passive (intermediate level) + Exercise II
- Anglais Facile (French Site): Various exercises on Passive
- E-Grammar.org: Passive Voice Exercises (intermediate)
- NonstopEnglish.com: Intermediate to advanced exercises including phrasal verbs
- ToLearnEnglish.com: Passive Voice Exercise Series
- AutoEnglish: Sentence conversion (Active to Passive)
- Oregon State University: Using the Passive in Essay Writing (Advanced)
Are you ready now to sing? Here’s a song by James Blunt called “Goodbye My Love”. James uses some passive constructions. Can you find them? It’s been translated into Spanish to help you the words understand better…
at least those people who understand Spanish!