Academic Passive Grammar

The basic passive structure

  • Structure: verb to be + past participle
  • active
  • Mrs Harris     cooks       our food
  • Subject           verb          object

 

  • passive
  • Our food      is cooked                by Mrs Harris
  • object           passive verb          subject (agent)

 

  • RULE: The main use of the passive is to say who / what was affected not who did the action (the doer)

 

The passive

Structure: verb to be + past participle (3rd verb form)

Active sentence: Hurricane kills 3,000 people

 

NEWSPAPER ARTICLE

Passive sentence: 3,000 people are killed by a hurricane

Rule: focus of the passive sentence is on the object - in this case the object is more important than the cause

Basic Passive Rules

Explain why the passive is used in each of these sentences

  1. My car was stolen last night
  2. Hamlet was written by Shakespeare
  3. All the computers are checked before they leave the factory
  4. The Prisoner is being taken to Jail
  5. The problem is being dealt with in our accounts department
  6. Smoking is prohibited in the station

Basic Passive Rules - Answers

The passive is used in each of these sentences because...

  • 1. My car was stolen last night
  • We do not know who stole it
  • 2. Hamlet was written by Shakespeare
  • The focus is on the book not Shakespeare
  • 3. All the computers are checked before they leave the factory
  • It is not important to know who - that Pete and John do it
  • 4.The Prisoner is being taken to Jail
  • It is known who takes the prisoner - the police
  • 5. The problem is being dealt with in our accounts department.
  • Formality less personal and friendly
  • 6. Smoking is prohibited in the station
  • Rules and regulations

Passive Tense Structures

Fill in the passive column

Tense

Active

Passive

Present simple People speak English in China English is spoken by people in China
Present Continuous Decorators are painting our house Our house is being painted by decorators
Past simple The police caught the thief The thief was caught by the police
Past continuous They were taking the dogs for a walk
Present Perfect simple The police have arrested the murderer
Past Perfect Simple I had told her to arrive at 9.00
Going to They are going to sell the car
Will He will buy the car tomorrow
Future Perfect Scientists will have built a space station by 2050
Modal present The committee should solve the problem
Modal perfect They may have sold the house

Passive Tense Answers

Passive Exercises

Use the verb in brackets and create a passive grammar structure in the correct tense

  1. The election ____________________(hold) next week
  2. Antibiotics _____________________(develop) in the 1930’s
  3. The new bridge _________________(open) by the Queen
  4. More and more cars ______________(produce) every year
  5. We ____________________ (invite) to Paul’s wedding
  6. Every car which left the ferry _________(stop) and searched
  7. The door ___________________(leave) open on purpose.
  8. Everyone who applies _____________(give) an interview
  9. Books _____________________(return) within 3 weeks
  10. He _________(promote) 3 times before becoming a director
  11. By 2050 the first space station _________________(build)

Passive Exercises ANSWERS

Use the verb in brackets and create a passive grammar structure in the correct tense

  • The election is being held next week
  • Antibiotics were developed in the 1930’s
  • The new bridge is going to be opened by the Queen
  • More and more cars are sold every year
  • We have been invited to Paul’s wedding
  • Every car which left the ferry was being stopped and searched
  • The door may have been left open on purpose.
  • Everyone who applies will be given an interview
  • Books must be returned within 3 weeks
  • He had been promoted 3 times before becoming a director
  • By 2050 the first space station will have been built

Please note there is more than one answer.

Passive Speaking

Use these questions to practice speaking in the passive...

Have you ever been....

  • attacked by a dog
  • hit by a teacher
  • interviewed for radio or TV
  • hit by a car
  • stopped by police
  • operated on
  • proposed to
  • told off by a teacher
  • arrested by the police
  • offered drugs / illegal products
  • taken to hospital by ambulance
  • given a prize
  • accused  of doing something you didn’t do
  • caught doing something illegal

Passive Speaking - processes

Answer these questions about your country...

  • What is manufactured in your country?
  • What are the main crops grown in your country?
  • What alcohol is produced in your country?
  • What is exported and imported in your country?
  • How is electricity generated in your country?

you create a question...

Academic Grammar Lessons

This section is more complex advanced structures and forms.

Passive Grammar is...

...common in academic English because it helps to create formality, focus on the object and develop an impersonal stance. This blog will look at impersonal passive structures and nominalisation (using the verb as a noun).

A common way of reporting what is said by people or by an unspecified group of people

 

It is said that….

[It + passive verb (be + past participle) + that clause]

They report the defense minister is to resign

It is reported that the defense minister is to resign

Nominalised: There is a report that the defense minister is to resign

Nominalised: One report is that the defense minister is to resign

 

To infinitive impersonal passives

The subject + passive verb (be+past participle) + to infinitive

They claim the terrorist is living abroad

It is claimed that the terrorist is living abroad

The terrorist is claimed to be living abroad

Nominalised: There is a claim that the terrorist is living abroad

Nominalised: One / a claim is that the terrorist is living abroad

 

Common verbs used in impersonal passive forms:

agree / allege / announce / assume / believe / calculate / claim / consider / declare / discover / estimate / expect / find / known / mention / propose / recommend / rumour / show / suppose / suggest / understand

Practice

Practice Exercises

  1. People believe the company stole over a million pounds

It _____________________________________________________________

The company _____________________________________________________

There __________________________________________________________

One____________________________________________________________

2. We expect the train strike will begin tomorrow

It _______________________________________________________

The Train Strike______________________________________________

There _____________________________________________________

One ______________________________________________________

Answers Practice:

  1. People believe the company stole over a million pounds

It is believed that the company stole over a million pounds

The company is believed to have stolen over a million pounds

There is a belief that the company stole over a million pounds

One belief is that the company stole over a million pounds

 

  1. We expect the train strike will begin tomorrow

It is expected that the train strike will begin tomorrow

The Train Strike is expected to begin tomorrow

There is an expectation that the train strike will begin tomorrow

One expectation is that the train strike will begin tomorrow

This is a worksheet with eight more similar exercises...

Academic Passive Structures / Nominalisation

An introduction to the impersonal passive structure 'it is said that...' and to infinitive passive form ' it is claimed to be...'. Also, how to nominalise verbs to nouns to show formality in writing. This worksheets provides key information and 10 writing questions. Level ***** [B1/B2/C1]      Example

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