Passive forms

Passive forms

Instructions: 

As you watch the video, look at the examples of passive forms. They are in red in the subtitles. Then read the conversation below to learn more. Finally, do the grammar exercises to check you understand, and can use, passive forms correctly.

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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?

Yes.

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: 694

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Discussion

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

Comments

armandoaq's picture
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Hi..

I have a question. Why this sentence is related with passive voice "When will lunch be ready?". I found it in the exercise section "Check your grammar: ordering"

Best regards.

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62 users have voted.
Jo - Coordinator's picture
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Hi armandoaq,
Thanks for pointing this out. You're completely right! That sentence is not a passive. I have removed it from the online exercise and worksheet now. Thanks a lot for your help!
Joanna (LearnEnglish Teens team)

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58 users have voted.
Anette99's picture
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Im a 16 year old student from Estonia and i ran into a situtation with my teacher in english class. We are studying passive voice right now and we had a sentence 'That question has never been asked from me.' I thought it was the correct form but our teacher insisted it was 'That question has never been asked to me.' So i just wanted to ask the professionals. Whats the right form?

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61 users have voted.
JoEditor's picture
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Hi Anette99,
Your teacher is right - you can't say 'That question has never been asked from me.' Possible options here are to us to or of  instead of from. Alternatively you could say, 'I've never been asked that question before.' To me, this option sounds a bit more natural than your original sentence.  
I hope that helps. Best wishes, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team) 

 

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55 users have voted.
Dalmar's picture
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I don't understand well but I have a great passion to learn english.
Here is more opportunities to improve englsh, thanks LearnEnglish Teens team

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63 users have voted.
JoEditor's picture
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Hi Dalmar,
Welcome to LearnEnglish Teens. We're pleased you're using our website to help you improve your English. 
Best wishes, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team) 

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63 users have voted.
JoEditor's picture
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Hi 3lx__
There are examples of the passive form in the past in the video. Have you read the explanation that is under the video? You will see examples like Avatar was made by James Cameron.  If you want more information about the passive form you can have a look here:  http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/quick-grammar/passives I hope this helps. 
Best wishes, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team) 

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66 users have voted.
Nanonano's picture
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"Hotarubi No Mori E" was the last anime movie that I've watched. The film was directed by Takahiro Omori on September 17, 2011. It was based on a shoujo manga written by Yuki Midorikawa. I really love this movie, it's about a sad love story between a human girl and a yokai (a spirit in Japan). This movie made me cry everytime I watched it. :'D

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Jeniffer's picture
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This website is fantastic. It has helped me to be fluent and improve my English skills. I am really happy.
I have also scored the highest in my English test. Thank you Learn English Teens !

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Jo - Coordinator's picture
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Hi Jeniffer,
Thanks so much for your comment. It is really nice to hear your positive feedback about the site. And congratulations on your test result!
Joanna
(LearnEnglish Teens team)

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patchyplum's picture
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A few days back I watched Little women filmed by oscar nominated Winona Ryder.I've read the book and the story's allover inspiring as it is in the book.The actresses are really pretty and better than the plain Jane Eyre in the film Jane eyre thought it's reasonable for that film.My pick is the conservative Meg from the beginning but I found Jo more spiritful and outpoken ,<which I personally like>however,I enjoyed both the film and book.

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kenzo's picture
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This video is really helpful. I am very interested in watching and reading it. Thank you so much for creating this website to help anyone can learn English as well.

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JoEditor's picture
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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) 

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199 users have voted.
Jo - Coordinator's picture
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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)

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Silvermist's picture
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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.

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184 users have voted.