What are passives?
All English verbs are either active or passive. When a sentence or clause starts with the subject, we use an active verb. For example:
Someone broke the window.
In this sentence, “someone” is the subject, so we use an active verb with it — “broke”.
But when a sentence or clause starts with the object, we use a passive verb.
The window was broken.
This sentence starts with the object (“the window”) so we used a passive verb (“was broken”).
How do we make passives?
Passives are always a combinations of two parts: a “be” verb and a past participle. Don't be confused by the term past participle. A past participle isn't past — that's just its name. We can use a past participle in a past situation, a present situation, a future situation — anything.
1. Some examples of 'be' verbs.
|is, am, are
|has been, have been
|can be, could be, might be, should be, etc
Complete Exercise 1: Passive Times now and then close the window to continue with the lesson.
2. Some examples of past participles.
|Past Simple Form
Complete Exercise 2: Past Participles now and then close the window to continue with the lesson.
3. Some examples of passives.
|They're paid every week.
|is being built
|Their house is being built right now.
|She was hired last week.
|will be finished
|We'll be finished next week.
|has been done
|The work's been done.
|can be bought
|Textbooks can be bought here.
Complete Exercise 3: Making Passive Sentences now and then close the window to continue with the lesson.
When do we use passives?
Passives have three basic uses: when we want to focus on the object, when we don't know the subject, and when we want to sound more formal.
|When we want to focus on the object.
|Cellphones are used all over the world.
|We want to focus on cellphones here, not on who uses them.
|When we don't know the subject.
|The window was broken last night.
|We don't know who broke the window, so we focus on the window instead.
|When we want to sound more formal or official.
|Students are provided with a textbook.
|This sounds more formal and impersonal than 'We will provide students with a textbook.'