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Changing from active into passive

The object of the active verb becomes the subject in the passive sentence. The active verb changes into a passive form and the subject of the active sentence becomes an agent. The agent can be used (if it adds information) or omitted (if it does not add information).

  Subject Verb Object Agent
Active Bell invented the telephone.  
Passive The telephone was invented   by Bell.

The agent is introduced with “by” (to say who or what did the action) or “with” (to say what instrument or material the agent used):

e.g. He was knocked down by the lorry. (The lorry did the action.)

e.g. The door was locked by the man with a key. (The key is the instrument the agent used.)

e.g. The cake was made with flour, sugar and eggs. (They are the materials the agent used.)

2.1 Fill in "by" or "with":

1. The window was broken with a hammer.

2. He was knocked down _____ a car.

3. The lion was shot _____ a rifle.

4. That novel was written _____ D. H. Lawrence.

5. The garden was dug _____ a spade.

6. The city was attacked _____ the enemy.

7. The pudding was made _____ fruit and chocolate.

8. He was hit _____ a handbag.

9. The picture was painted _____ Jackson Pollack.

10. The house was built _____ wood and bricks.

2.2 Turn from Active into Passive:

1. An expert is restoring the antique car. – The antique car is being restored by an expert.

2. Steven Spielberg has directed a lot of successful films.

3. The judge has fined him £300.

4. A number of reporters will meet the professor at the airport.

5. A famous designer is going to redecorate the President's house.

6. The Romans founded Bath in the first century A.D.

7. A nightmare woke Mary up.

8. The Muslims celebrate Ramadan.

9. Van Gogh painted "Sunflowers".

10. Astronauts are exploring space.

2.3 Make the sentences passive. Use the by-agent only if it is necessary:

1. Shakespeare wrote 'Hamlet'.

2. A drunken motorist knocked her down.

3. They have arrested her for shoplifting.

4. Liverpool beat Manchester 3-0 yesterday.

5. They are repairing your car now.

6. People in Chile speak Spanish.

7. The Chinese invented paper.

8. Has anybody asked Peter?

9. You need hops to make beer.

10. My mother made this ring.

11. They don't sell stamps in bookshops.

12. Electricity drives this car.

13. The directors are still considering your application.

14. Somebody will tell you where to go.


3.1 Make sentences from the words in brackets. Sometimes the verb is active, sometimes passive:

1. There's somebody behind us. (I think / we / follow) – I think we are being followed.

2. This room looks different. (you / paint?) – Have you painted it?

3. My car has disappeared. (it / steal!) It __________!

4. My umbrella has disappeared. (somebody / take) Somebody __________.

5. Tom gets a higher salary now. (he / promote)

6. Ann can't use her office at the moment. (it / redecorate)

7. The photocopier broke down yesterday, but now it's OK. (it / work / again; it / repair)

8. The police have found the people they were looking for. (two people / arrest / last night)

9. A tree was lying across the road. (it / blow down / in the storm)

10. The man next door disappeared six months ago. (nobody / see / since then)

11. I was mugged on my way home a few nights ago. (you / ever / mug?)

3.2 Rewrite these sentences in the passive:

1. Someone broke this mirror last night. – This mirror was broken last night.

2. Someone washes the towels in the hotel every day.

3. Someone built the house ten years ago.

4. They grow this fruit in very hot countries.

5. They pay the office workers weekly.

6. Someone bought all this cheese in France.

7. Someone found Emily's bike in the river.

8. Someone visits most of the prisoners once a week.

9. Someone cleans this car every week.

10. They play a lot of sport on the beach.

11. Someone stole all my best jewellery.

12. They carried the children all the way home.

13. Someone watches the palace twenty-four hours a day.

14. They leave the grapes to dry in the sun.

3.3 Turn from Active into Passive:

1. The ancient Greeks built the Acropolis.

2. Martin is writing the company report this year.

3. Somebody will clean the room tomorrow.

4. They put fresh flowers in the hotel rooms every day.

5. Bad weather may delay your flight.

6. They gave Sandy a present.

7. They think the President is dying.

8. They made her cry.

9. The mechanic has repaired the car.

10. The bomb destroyed the building.

3.4 Circle a passive or active verb form:

1. Derek posted / was posted his letter to the university today.

2. We did a lot of work for the school, but we didn't pay / weren't paid.

3. My friend Douglas speaks / is spoken seven languages.

4. The letter H doesn't pronounce / isn't pronounced in French.

5. A new hospital will build / will be built in the town centre.

6. You can't come in here – the room is cleaning / is being cleaned.

7. We have invited / have been invited to John's party tonight.

3.5 Put simple present, simple past or future passive verbs into these sentences:

e.g. 'Frankenstein' was written by Mary Shelley. (write)

1. Butter ___________ from milk. (make)

2. Last night two men ___________ in a fight in a nightclub. (kill)

3. One day all our work ___________ by machines. (do)

4. English _________ as a second language by millions of people. (speak)

3.6 Circle the best way to continue:

5. I was really hungry. – A I ate six eggs. B Six eggs were eaten by me.

6. George Yeo's new book is very good. – APeople bought 10,000 copies in the first week. B 10,000 copies were bought in the first week.

7. This milk tastes funny. – A I think someone has left it out of the fridge for too long. B I think it's been left out of the fridge for too long.

8. Zoe takes good care of her car. – A She checks the oil and tyres every week. B The oil and tyres are checked by her every week.

3.7 Put present perfect or present continuous passive verbs into these sentences:

e.g. 'Is the Army Museum still in Green Street?' – 'No, it has been closed.' (close)

1. Don't look now, but I think we __________ . (follow)

2. Hello, police? I'd like to report a theft. My handbag __________. (steal)

3. 'Why did you take the bus?' 'My car __________.' (repair)

4. I think someone's been in my room – some books __________. (move)

5. 'There's nobody here.' 'No, all the students __________ home.' (send)

6. 'When _____ you _____.' 'Tomorrow morning.' (interview)

3.8 Use the words in italics as the subjects and verbs of passive sentences:

e.g. Nedjma is sure she's going to get a pay rise. (promise) – Nedjma has been promised a pay rise.

22. All the passengers received meal tickets. (give)

23. Ellen has seen the plans for the new building. (show)

24. Someone has promised all the office workers a week's holiday. (promise)

25. Someone sent a bill for the repairs to Laura. (send)

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