Grammar - Intermediate
We form the passive using the relevant tense of the verb to be, plus the past participle of the main verb.
So for the verb clean, we would have:
To form the question, we put the auxiliary verb first:
Is it being cleaned today?
Look at this sentence:
They will deliver the letter tomorrow.
"the letter" is the object of the sentence. "they" is the subject. We can make "the letter" the subject:
The letter will be delivered tomorrow.
And if we want, we can include the subject of the first sentence:
The letter will be delivered by them tomorrow.
So we use the passive to say what happens to the subject of a sentence.
The bridge was painted in 1999.
And we use an active sentence to say what a subject does:
John Exmoor painted that bridge in 1999.
Sometimes, active sentences sound unnatural because who does the action is not important or not known. The action itself is important.
Tickets can be purchased from the booth at the entrance.
The same sentences rewritten using the active would not be wrong, but the subject of these sentences would sound strange:
You can purchase tickets from the booth at the entrance.
Remember that the verb "to be" has to be used in all passive sentences and must be plural if the subject is plural:
This phone is made of plastic.
After the verb "to be", you must use the past participle in all tenses.
Vintage wine is sold on the second floor.
The passive is used in the present often to describe processes:
The half-finished machine is then sent to Room 4 for painting.
Remember with the passive that the past participle is always the same. You can see a list of common irregular verbs on this page.
It is the verb "to be" that changes:
I was driven around in the taxi at high speed.
Note how the passive in English is more flexible than in other languages. Look at these two sentences:
The letter was sent by Express Post and arrived at 9am.
In the first, it's clear that the subject of the passive sentence is the letter. In the second, it is not "I" that is sent, but, again, the letter. English allows for this type of construction. Other examples:
They were given a new TV for Christmas. (the TV is given, not 'they')
In English, the passive can always be made using the verb "to be". In informal English, "get" is also often used to construct passive sentences. But it's not always possible.
We use "get" in a passive sentence when we talk about something that happened or something that changed, so it is NOT used for verbs such as 'like', 'believe' or 'say'.
It also changes the focus from "what happened" to "the person/thing something happened to". It's not usual to see a "by" clause saying who did it. Look at the difference between:
The window was broken by those naughty children. (focus on event)
Note: It's not normal to use a "by" clause with the "get" passive.
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