English Tenses

The Passive voice

Table of Contents


In this grammar section we will have a look at the tense The passive voice.

We will have a look at:

  • The form: how to make the passive in different tenses.
  • The meaning/usage: why use the passive.

Form Active vs Passive

He builds houses
Subject + verb + object
The subject is doing the action: He is doing the building

Object becomes the subject
Houses are built (by him)
The subject is NOT doing the action: The house does not built itself.


Houses are built (by him)
Subject + verb to be (in different forms) + Past Participle + (object)

Present simple
They make TVs in China: TVs are made in China.

Present continuous
They are checking his work: His work is being checked.

Present perfect
Someone has broken into my house: My house has been broken into.

Simple past
Someone stole my wallet: My wallet was stolen.

Someone will help you: You will be helped.

He can’t do it now. It can’t be done now.

-ing form
I don’t like people shouting at me: I don’t like being shouted at.

To + inf form
You need to give feedback: Feedback needs to be given,

By ….
Can be added if we do want to stress who is doing the action
Feedback needs to be given by your manager

Usage/ Meaning

When we don’t know who did it

My car was stolen.
We don’t know who stole the car.

When it is obvious

He has been arrested on suspicion of burglary
It is obvious: the police

Not important who does it

Many products are made in China
Who cares? Probably some people in some factory somewhere.

In news broadcasts or articles

No survivors have been found.

In academic writing

The theory was first proposed in the 19th century.

To avoid responsibility

Errors were made and will be dealt with.

With reporting verbs

  • It is said: It is said that the data may have been manipulated.
  • It is believed: It is believed that the origins of this tradition dates back to ancient times.
  • It has been reported: It has been reported that the new law will have a significant impact.
  • It is thought: It is thought that the effects of the policy will be far-reaching.
  • It is understood:It is understood that a consensus has been reached.
  • It is rumoured: It is rumoured there will be changes in the company’s leadership.
  • It is known: It is widely known that the climate is changing rapidly.

What do students find challenging?

The challenging part for the students is:

  • Selecting the correct tense
    • (present simple, past continuous,…) Not really making the passive voice.
  • When to use passive voice or active voice
    • Students mix them up sometimes

Spread the word

Kristof Abrath
Teacher, Trainer, Course Designer
Teaching in English on 4 different continents since 2006.

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