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 English Grammar for ESL learners 


Passive Form of Verbs

Formation and use, with examples and exercises.



The passive form (voice) of verbs is made with the appropriate tense of BE + the past participle :
For example : English is spoken here.

Only verbs which take an object (transitive verbs) can be put into the passive.
(for example: Tom catches the ball. / The ball was caught by Tom.)

Verbs that have no object (intransitive verbs) such as: come, go, happen, live, sleep, etc. cannot be put into the passive.

Please note that the Present Perfect Continuous, the Past Perfect Continuous and the Future Continuous are not usually used in the passive form.

  • We use the active form of a verb to say what a subject does:
    • The chef cooks food every day.
  • We use the passive form to say what happens to the subject:
    • Food is cooked every day.
  • The subject of a passive verb corresponds to the object of an active verb :
    • Food is cooked every day.  (Passive).
    • The chef cooks food every day.  (Active)

  • We sometimes used get to form the passive:
    • Be careful with that sharp knife. Someone might get hurt!
    • The cat got run over by a car.

  • We use the passive form of a verb

    -
    when the person who performs the action (agent) is unknown.

    -
    when it is not important who does the action,or

    - when we are more interested in the action that in the agent (instructions, reports, etc.)

    • The letter was delivered at 9 a.m.
      The identity of the person who delivered the letter is unknown or unimportant.
      If we want to say who delivered the letter, we use 'by':
      The letter was delivered by the postman.
    • The tax reforms were announced today, or
      The tax reforms were announced by the Prime Minister.

Verb Tense Active Passive
Infinitive To cook To be cooked
Present Simple I cook food in the kitchen. Food is cooked in the kitchen.
Present Continuous I am cooking  food in the kitchen. Food is being cooked in the kitchen.
Present Perfect Simple I have cooked food in the kitchen. Food has been cooked in the kitchen.
Past Simple I cooked food in the kitchen. Food was cooked in the kitchen.
Past Perfect I had cooked food in the kitchen. Food had been cooked in the kitchen.
Future I will cook food in the kitchen. Food will be cooked in the kitchen.
Future Perfect I will have cooked food in the kitchen. Food will have been cooked in the kitchen.
Conditional I I would cook food in the kitchen Food would be cooked in the kitchen.
Conditional II I would have cooked food in the
kitchen.
Food would have
been cooked
in the kitchen.

  exercise n°1      exercise n° 2        exercise n°3   

    back to Grammar 






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