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!

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

Mamou1's picture
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Mamou1 22 July, 2021 - 12:11

Tell us about a film that you like. When and where was it made? Was it based on a true story or a book
the Titanic is and will always be my favorite movie. It's a romance drama film based on a true story and it's been made in USA in 20th centuryby james cameroon . Actually theI initial release were18 November 1997 (London) . Actually I think most of people watched it so I don't need to explain but if you haven't watched it I advise you to watch it. you may think it will be boring since everyone talk about it but really it not.

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M_FHR's picture
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M_FHR 18 July, 2021 - 23:12

The film that I like is "Hangover". It is a comedy film recommended for people over 15 years old. The film was made in 2009 in the United States, and it's not based on real events. The movie is about a group of friends going on a trip to Las Vegas for the bachelorette party of one of them. However, the next day they realize that their friend who is going to get married in two days is lost. With little time to find him, the three friends try to remember their steps and find his friend to return to Los Angeles for his wedding.

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AlumnaUne 16 July, 2021 - 09:44

There’s a movie that I really like, and it’s Forrest Gump, and it’s based on the novel by author Winston Groom. It was held on June 23, 1994 in Los Angeles, directed by Robert Zemeckins and filmed in Los Angeles. The story is fiction but some characters were based on real life, the character of the sergeant was taken from a general of the Confederate War Army section Nathan Bedford Forrest.
The novel and the film tell the story of a child who has a low IQ and has always been considered a fool, has a problem in his spine which prevents him from walking but one day just running he discovered that his spine fixed. After that the film are events that happen to him in life that by coincidence or luckily is becoming more and more important and richer, His great heart and kindness make him win the sympathy of people is with it he becomes a character loved by the public since it shows that no matter what coefficient you are assigned, if you believe in yourself you can achieve everything.

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Cfvdv 5 April, 2021 - 21:51

I like a film called `La Vita é Bella`, an Italian film based on a true story, of World War II. It was made about the year 2000 by Roberto Benini and it became very famous. The film tells a story about a father who was with his son in the concentrantion camp, and because his son was very young, this father tells to his son that the concentration camp was like a game, and they needed to follow the rules and do the tasks that the soldiors told them to do to win a prize at the end. This way, the son did not suffer too much and survived until the end of the war.

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JaimeMaya2001 16 July, 2021 - 04:01

The movie that I like the most is undoubtedly avengers end game, since all its characters, all its history is incredible, the war they face, but what I like the most is the great message that the film leaves since the message is about the union is strength and it is better to work as a team than to work alone and that we all need someone's help, to do something better, another point that I also like is that the film lasts more than three hours and the truth is that I hardly know feel, for that and more things is my favorite movie of these times.

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Didik 30 March, 2021 - 17:45

I like the films of Herry Potter, the witter is brithish but I think the film is made in the USA.
The films are ficctions about magic an witchcraft bassed on books thet were written around the years 2000.

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Arivelde 30 March, 2021 - 17:45

I like a film called "Zorba the Greek", it is based on the novel written by a Cretan author in 1946, but the film was produced in 1964. It is a story that tell the adventures of a writer an a misterios man called Zorba, a miner at the time. It is a kind of fiction, but brings real problems that the society had and still has sometimes in some places in these days. It's a piece of art and everyone shoud watch it.

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Andrii 19 November, 2020 - 16:50

I like the film called "Terminator". The last film "Dark Fate" was made in Hollywood in 2019. I'm sure that it wasn't based on a true story, but I don't know about a book. To be honest, I've never heard about the book, called "Terminator".

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Vuquan 8 September, 2020 - 11:45

My favorite film is Endgame. It was made in 2018. The film is so attractive and i very like it. I hope marvel will launch another film like Endgame.

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Giovannichoi 30 June, 2020 - 10:45

Percy Jackson is based on the novel series which were written by Rick Riordan. And those books are about the Greek mythology. Also -as you know,- Thor series is based on the Northern myths, too! So Thor:Ragnarok was setted in Austrailia, by Taika Waititi of MARVEL, stars by Chris Hemsworth, who roled the mighty THOR!!!!!
(I fixed my writing below 'cause I made a little mistake.)

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Nastya53 14 April, 2020 - 17:27

My favorite movie is "At Home". It tells of the adventures of a little boy, Kevin, who can protect himself. This movie is very hilarious and is being shown at the best time of the year - for Christmas. Therefore, it is very interesting to watch this film, completely fading into the festive Christmas atmosphere. On the other hand, this movie is instructive, because it teaches us to forgive, love and appreciate the most expensive people of the family, as well as to protect the home.

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languagelearner 17 March, 2020 - 06:34

so about the film that I like..
I like the film called Need for Speed
I am not sure where it was made
it is a realistic fiction

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Youjiro 2 February, 2019 - 11:21

I'm really confusing passive forms.I can't understand how to use passive in sentence .Anyway I like pirate of the caribbeans series .It was started 2003.It is not true story.It is fiction film,but It is funny and original .3D graphics design is also enjoyable .My best film is series is latest film.Story was made by same author in series.

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Mabdelaziz's picture
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Mabdelaziz 10 November, 2016 - 15:46

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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Jo - Coordinator 11 November, 2016 - 08:11

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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Mabdelaziz 12 November, 2016 - 12:01

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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Jo - Coordinator's picture
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Jo - Coordinator 14 November, 2016 - 08:27

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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Mabdelaziz 9 November, 2016 - 13:12

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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Jo - Coordinator's picture
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Jo - Coordinator 10 November, 2016 - 08:29

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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armandoaq 3 April, 2016 - 22:01

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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Jo - Coordinator 7 April, 2016 - 08:13

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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Teressa's picture
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Teressa 31 March, 2016 - 17:39

wow!Really difficult.Tomorrow i have got cat exam.I'm scared but the video helped me :)
thanks British Council

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Tina - Coordinator's picture
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Tina - Coordinator 1 April, 2016 - 07:11

HiTeressa!
Good luck with your exam - we hope it went well :)
Best wishes,
Tina (LearnEnglish Teen Team)

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Anette99's picture
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Anette99 21 March, 2016 - 15:33

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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