Sophie is in China for work and phones home to tell Ollie about her trip.


We use the passive, rather than the active, to show that we are more interested in a certain part of the sentence. The passive is usually formed by the verb to be + past participle.

Can you give me some examples of the active and passive?

Yes, of course. Here’s a passive sentence:

My room is being cleaned.

'My room' is the main focus of the sentence. The active form would be 'The cleaners are cleaning my room'. This sounds strange because it is obvious that, if you are in a hotel, cleaners would clean your room. So we sometimes use the passive to avoid stating the obvious.

OK, that makes sense. Are there any other uses?

We also use the passive when we don’t know who did something, or when it isn’t important.

It’s the biggest outdoor elevator in the world, so I’ve been informed.

It doesn’t matter who told me.

I think loads of films have been made there.

The important thing is the films, not the film-makers.

Can you use a passive and also say who did the action?


Avatar was made by James Cameron.

Is the passive formal?

No, not necessarily. It can be formal or neutral or informal.

I hope to find everything clean and tidy … you’ve been warned!

But we often avoid the passive in very informal spoken language, for example, by using they.

They based the scenery in Avatar on the landscape here.

We don’t know exactly who they are, but we can guess that it’s the people who made the film.

I think I’ve heard people use you a lot too when they don’t refer to anyone in particular.

Yes, very good! That’s another way of sounding more informal. You is a bit different; it means 'people in general'.

Parcels can be collected from the Post Office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (more formal)
You can collect parcels between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (less formal)

One last question, what about the passive with get? Is that informal too?

Yes, when we’re speaking informally we also often use get rather than the verb be.

He was sacked from his job. = He got sacked from his job.

But be careful, not all verbs can be used in the passive with get - only verbs for talking about an action or a change.

She was knocked off her bike by a bus. = She got knocked off her bike by a bus.
Charlie Chaplin was loved by millions. Charlie Chaplin got loved by millions.

Phew, OK. I think my brain has been fried by all this!

Ah, OK, we’ll stop. But look - you’re using the passive correctly already!

Total votes: 456


Tell us about a film that you like. When and where was it made? Was it based on a true story or a book?


Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
Jonathan - Coor... 5 March, 2015 - 06:13

Hi kenzo. Thanks a lot for the nice comment! We hope you keep enjoying using the site. :)
Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

111 users have voted.
JoEditor's picture
JoEditor 19 November, 2014 - 07:53

Hi njone199,
Thanks for your comment. Why don't you like the video? It's always useful for us to hear your opinions on the material on our site so if you tell us a bit more about what you don't like that would be great. 
Best wishes, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team) 

36 users have voted.
Momin's picture
Momin 9 November, 2014 - 16:08

The pronunciation is a bit difficult like when she says
You've been warned ! = youf been woont
is that right

33 users have voted.
Jo - Coordinator's picture
Jo - Coordinator 9 November, 2014 - 18:01

Hi Momin! Yes you're right. It does sound like that. Well noticed! Listening to lots of English and noticing things like that is a great way to improve your own pronunciation, as well as your listening skills.

Joanna (LearnEnglish teens team)

37 users have voted.
Silvermist's picture
Silvermist 24 October, 2014 - 15:21

A recent book I've read THE JURRASSIC PARK by Micheal Crichton has been filmed ages ago. I actually read the book after watching the film which was released to the public back in 1993. It has been filmed in the Hawaiian island of Kauai. I really love both the film and the book involving the concept , the dinosaurs been brought back using genetic science. Both sequel films are interesting as well. I also heard that they will be releasing the last film of the series - JURRASSIC world on June 13, 2015.

46 users have voted.