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: 746

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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

Mabdelaziz's picture
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Hi Learn English team ,
First of all let me thank you for your great efforts.

Please I have other question if you do not mind.
In the transcript" What are you up to tomorrow?"I know what does it mean ,but I wonder which tense has been used in this,Also if we say "What are you doing tomorrow?"is there a different between them.

Also one more question please. I’ll call tomorrow and I’m back on Saturday.
My question about the second sentence"I 'm back on Saturday" is it right?or we should say I'm will be back on Saturday.

Finally thank in advance for your help.

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Jo - Coordinator's picture
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Hi Mabdelaziz! Glad that explanation about the passive was useful. :) 'What are you up to tomorrow?' is the same as 'What are you doing tomorrow?'. This is an example of present continuous for the future — we use it to talk about things that have been arranged. Have a look at Future forms for more information on that.

'I'm back on Saturday' is correct, and is also an example of using a present tense to talk about the future. It would be present continuous, except we don't use the continuous form with certain verbs, including 'be', because it's a state verb. Check out The present continous to refresh your memory on that.
Best wishes, Joanna (LearnEnglish Teens team)

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Mabdelaziz's picture
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Hi Jo,
First let me thank you for your assistance.
I have got what you mean that we could use the present simple to express about future in case of timetabled and we could use also the present continuous to express about the future for arrangement with people, but one last question please. What are you up to tomorrow? This is a present simple tense.right?
Thank you once again

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4 users have voted.
Jo - Coordinator's picture
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Hi Mabdelaziz, another very good question! 'What are you up to?' is used to say 'What are you doing?', so it's actually like present continuous, not present simple. This expression doesn't exist in present simple, because it doesn't work for regular activities or things that are generally true - it's about a particular moment or short period of time. Note that it does work for present perfect continuous: 
What have you been up to? (=What have you been doing?)

And past continuous:
A: I saw Clare and Simon in the park yesterday.
B: Ah! What were they up to? (= What were they doing?)

And past perfect continous:
He had a guilty look on his face. I wonder what he had been up to. (= he had been doing)

So, even though it doesn't look like a continuous structure, that's how it's used.
Best wishes, Joanna (LearnEnglish Teens team)

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Mabdelaziz's picture
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Hi Learn English teen team ,Hope you are fine.
Please I have a question.My room is being cleaned.
Could I consider "is being" as a one verb to be, not two separate verbs "is "and "being" Could you explain it to me.

Thank you for your usual assistance.

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4 users have voted.
Jo - Coordinator's picture
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Hi Mabdelaziz, good question! Thinking of 'is being' as one verb is a good way of looking at it. 'cleaned' is the main verb and 'is being' is the form of 'be' that you need to make the passive in present continuous. We call 'be' the auxiliary verb in this case - you need it to form the sentence but the main meaning comes from the other verb.

She is cleaning my room now. 
(Present continuous)

My room is being cleaned now.
(Passive present continuous = am/ is/ are + being + past participle)

Best wishes, Joanna (LearnEnglish Teens team)

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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