The Passive

The Passive

 A Quick View of the Basics

by Malcolm Pemberton

1. Perhaps the “doer” is unknown … or unimportant

Over €1,000,000 was stolen from a bank last night.

Thousands of gifts were sent to the victims.

The room was cleaned an hour ago.

The documents were delivered on time.

Many people were lost in the fog.

2. ..or the thing done is of primary importance.

Thousands of homes were flooded after heavy rain.

The minister was pelted with rotten fruit.

William and Kate were married last year.

A mosque was blown up in Bhagdad.

3. The doer can be mentioned… or not

These products are hand-made (by craftsmen).

Those products are mass-produced (by robots).

The snow had been cleared (by snow ploughs).

The ice was soon melted (by the sun).

Henry was given the job (by the boss).

The supplier was awarded the contract (by us).

4. be/been/being done (slightly different structure)

(Active) We must do something about it.

(Passive) Something must be done about it.

Active: We will do something about it.

Passive: Something will be done about it.

Active: We had done something about it.

Passive: Something had been done about it.

Active: We are doing something about it.

Passive: Something is being done about it.

5. And more…….

I was born in Newcastle.

I was born on the thirteenth of March.

The police were given the information.

The information was given to the police.

The man was given the medicine.

The medicine was given to the man.

6. …..ing

I don’t like people telling me what I should do.

I don’t like being told what I should do.

I remember the teacher telling me off at school.

I remember being told off at school.

7. Get versus Be
Get is not so correct – but is often used.

Three people were hurt in the accident.

Three people got hurt in the accident.

I was never invited to his house.

I never got invited to his house.

They were married in the church.

They got married in the church.

8. The object of an active sentence is the subject of the passive

Active: The builders built the house.

Passive: The house was built by the builders.

Active: The manager wrote the report.

Passive: The report was written by the manager.

Active: The boy was riding the bicycle.

Passive: The bicycle was being ridden by the boy.

Active: The girl kissed the boy.

Passive: The boy was kissed by the girl.

9. Verb “to be” + past participle

The passive (nearly) always uses the verb “to be” in some form, plus a past participle.

The house was built.

The report will be written.

The bicycle is being ridden.

The boy was kissed.

The verb “to be” sets the sentence form.

The past participle doesn’t change its form.

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