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Active and Passive

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    Teacher: Chris

    The passive voice

    When we want to produce a sentence that focuses on the action more than the person or thing that does the activity or thedoer' is unknown or unimportant, we use the passive voice. The passive voice like the active voice can be formed in the present tenses, past tenses, and future tenses. There can sometimes be value in comparing the active voice with the passive.


    The passive voice: Present simple and continuous

    Form of the present simple passive:


    Subject + ‘to be' + past participle + (by + object)


    Present simple active sentence

    Present simple passive sentence


    A Japanese company makes these toys

    These toys are made by a Japanese company


    The speaker wants to focus on the process of toys being made rather than the Japanese company that makes them

    The police arrest criminals

    Criminals are arrested

    The passive voice is used here because it is obvious/unimportant who thedoer' (the police) in this situation

    Holland makes cheese

    Cheese is made in Holland


    We can use the passive voice in this way when we do not know, or do not care who did the activity



    Form of the present continuous passive:


    Subject + is/are + being + past participle + (by + object)


    Present continuous active sentence

    Present continuous passive sentence


    They are cooking food right now

    The food is being cooked


    The passive voice is used here because the process, not the person doing the cooking, is more important for us. In both situations the speaker want to emphasis the process in the present so uses present continuous passive



    Is anyone using this desk today?

    Is this desk being used today?



    The passive voice: Past simple and present perfect

    Form of the past simple passive: 


    Subject + was/were + past participle + (by + object)


    Past simple active sentence

    Past simple passive sentence


    Someone told us the meeting was 12pm

    We were told that the meeting was at 12pm 

    Either thedoer' in this situation is unknown or unimportant so the passive voice is used

    I saw him at the train station

    He was seen at the train station

    The emphasis of this sentence is on the fact that somebody was seen not who did the seeing



    Form of the present perfect simple passive: 


    Subject + have/has + been + past participle + (by + object)


    Present perfect active sentence

    Present perfect passive sentence


    No has asked me about my birthday

    I have not been asked about my birthday

    The passive voice is used here to describe the fact the activity has not happened, the speaker is less interested in the people involved

    They have finished the project

    The project has been finished

    The passive voice is used here because the people who finished the project are less important than the actual activity



    Future forms

    Form of thewill' passive:


    Subject + will/won't + be + past participle + (by + object)


    will' active sentence

    will' passive sentence


    The company will pay the staff when  job is completed

    Staff will be paid when the job is completed

    A common use of the passive voice is to only describe the activity because it is clear who is going to be doing the task, this sentence does this with an emphasis on the future

    The manager won't give interviews today

    Interviews won't be given by the manager today


    The speaker wants to put more emphasis on the activity, an activity that is not happening n this case, while thedoer' (the manager) is less important.



    Form of thegoing to' passive:


    Subject + ‘going to' + be + past participle + (be + object)


    going to' active sentence

    going topassive sentence


    Many people are going to visit Spain this year

    Spain is going to be visited this year

    In this situation is very clear who is going to visit Spain so the passive voice is used to focus on the activity of going which for this speaker is more important

    The president is going to give a speech about the situation tomorrow

    A speech about the situation is going to be given by the president


    The activity of the speech is of primary importance to the speaker in this situation. Thedoer' (the president) is either obvious or less important


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