THE PASSIVE VOICE: theory sheet.



passive transform      standard passive     double passive   

personal passive      causative      printable worksheet    interactive quiz

grammar index



1. Introduction:                          T O P

passives are very abundant in English and occur more frequently than in Spanish in all kinds of contexts for several reasons:

1. impersonality: the speaker does not want to show his implication in the sentence:

ex: Tons of rubbish are thrown out to the sea every year.

2. focus: we want to put some emphasis on a certain part of the sentence.

Ex: The entire crop was damaged by the strong winds.

2. The passive transform

Basically, we will focus our work in what we we call PASSIVE TRANSFORM, that is, how we come from an active sentence to a passive sentence.



In other words, a Direct Object becomes the Subject of the new passive sentence and the passive auxiliaries take the tense, person and number of the active verb, then the past participle of the active verb is added : let's go gradually:

Verb tense in active

Passive auxiliary:be-get

Past participle

Simple present

He cooks breakfast

Breakfast Is / Gets


Simple Past

He cooked breakfast

Breakfast Was were


Simple future

He will cook breakfast

Breakfast will be


Present Continous

She is cooking

Breakfast is being


Past continous

They were cleaning the streets

The streets were being


Present perfect

They have forbidden cigarrettes

Cigarrettes have been


Past Perfect

The fuel had damaged all the coast

All the coast had been


'Have to'

You have to close doors

Doors have to be



You don't need to finish your chores

Your chores don't need to be


Must, will, should, can (modals)

Passengers must fasten their seatbelts

Seatbelts must be/can be/would be/should be


Note that it is also possible to have a perfect infinitive after such verbs as CAN or HAVE for a past reference:

Ex: The wind must have destroyed all those building

All those buildings must have been destroyed by the wind

'going to'

The Town Hall is going to repair the pipelines.

The pipelines are going to be


3. Different kinds of passive.     T O P

1. standard passive.

Any of the above sentences could serve as an example.

Ex. Seatbelts must be fastened

2. double passive: occurs whenever a verb has two objects DIRECT and INDIRECT. Passive transform takes place in two different ways.

2.1 direct object becomes the new subject:





Note that if we have an object personal pronoun, it will become subject pronoun and change in form(him------ --he)     T O P


3 personal passive or passive with verbs of saying and believing, such as














Elephants are known to have good memory.

Mary is said to have a new boyfriend

Life is believed to have started in the sea.

You are supposed to arrive on time (=conveys an obligation meaning)


As we see in the example, The new passive is formed with a verb of saying or believing in the passive form followed by the 'to-infinitive' of the verb.

4. causative                                                        T O P      

The causative is similar to passive. It uses auxiliaries, but we focus on the fact that someone does something for you.

Ex: I'm having my car serviced at the moment has a typical causative structure .


No need to say that HAVE/GET CAN take any tense whatsoever:



Different shades of meaning are possible:

1. experience:

You've had that explained often

2. allow

I won't have the piano played by anybody.

3. result of past action

Other combinations of GET + PARTICIPLE.


GET somebody/something TO DO something means 'persuade' or 'manage to'

Ex: I got the children to sit and read the lesson.



interactive quizzes            T O P

1. mixed  passive quiz(1)

2. mixed passive quiz (2)

3. passive of continuous forms

4. passive of modal verbs

5. personal passive or passive followed by the 'to-infinitive'(1)

6.  personal passive (2)


1. Write the following sentences in passive (6 marks)

1. They were writing all the names of the students on a list.


2. They serve breakfast at seven o'clock here.


3. There are a lot of things to say about this subject.


4. 'Valencia buildings' has repaired these houses.


5. Everybody gave him the address.


6. Carpenters used to build furniture by hand but now they don't.


7. Men wore hats in the old days.


8. Professor Johnson is marking all the exams.



2 Put the following sentences into the passive mode or add the most suitable causative. ( 7 marks )

1. Once they asked me to introduce my closest friend to my oldest friend.

Once I_______________________________________________________________.

2. They have a special firm which delivers quality wine for their restaurant.

They ________________________________________________________________.

3. People believe that whales can talk to each other.


4. An American company employed him since he left school.


5. A group of workers were filling the holes in the pavement under the sun.

The holes_______________________________________________________________.

6. Can we paint these walls with plastic paint ?

Can these walls__________________________________________________________.

7. I am writing all those letters to send them tomorrow.

All those letters__________________________________________________________.

3. Rewrite these verbs as passives, keeping them in the same tense, and


1. Someone has given him a lot of money


2. The police arrested two hundred people.


3. We check every car engine thoroughly.


4. They paid me a lot of money to do the job.


5. Fortunately they didn't damage the machinery.

6. We have told him not to be late again.


4. Finish the following sentences in a meaningful way, making use of a causative form GET / HAVE SOMETHING DONE.

1. We got tired of the old wallpaper so (decorate)______________________________.

2. Our car had a serious breakdown (repair)____________________________________.

3. So you have a toothache, I think (see)_______________________________________.

4. Peter went to the mechanic and (service)____________________________________.

5 Are those shelves new ? When did you (do)__________________________________?

6.Susan is at the optician's (test)____________________________________________


5. Create a passive sentence with the words in bold character.

1. They recommended us a wonderful Colombian restaurant very near our place.

2. We feel that some species of sea animals are in danger of extinction.

3. They believe that whales communicate with each other under the sea.

4. You should always wear gloves at ski resorts.

5. Several skilled workers are flattening (=allanando) the ground in order to build the new park.

6.Do they clean the tables thoroughly after the classes finish ?

7. The Senate will stop the proceedings against President Clinton.

8. They say that garlic (=ajo) keeps your blood and liver in perfect working condition     


1. Write a suitable reply to the following sentences using the causative voice. (have+objet+done)

1.  My motorbike is making very strange noises. (repair)

 I think________________________________________.


2. What's that noise? (floor-change)

My neighbours________________________________________.


3. How is your back? (massage)

Pretty  well, I________________________________________.


4. Your dog looks beautiful! (wash)

Oh, yes! I like________________________________________.


5. What about your son's teeth? (see)

Not bad, he is________________________________________.


6. Your trousers are too long. (shorten=acortar)

Yes, ________________________________________.


2. Transform into passive. (I)

1. They were cleaning   the streets after the carnival.


2. We will pay our bills before they cancel our accounts.


3. Farmers have seen a wolf around their farms and are all very scared.


4. We are going to take strict measures against smokers in this school..


5. A technician is fixing our computer at the moment.


6. We advise our clients to turn off their mobiles inside the theatre.


7. Why did your sister pick up your daughter yesterday?



3. Transform into passive.(II)

1. They are constantly offering her new and exciting jobs.


2. You must give the teacher your personal details after the class.


3. We've found her guilty of the crime and has to pay for it.


4. What time do they feed (-fed-fed:alimentar) the animals?


5. Has anybody put the cases upstairs?





4. Transform into passive (III)


1. The locals (=gente del pueblo) believed a witch lived in that house.


2. We thought that life on Mars wasn't possible, but we were wrong.


3. They expected the students wouldn't interrupt the performance


4. You should be punctual for your English class. (use SUPPOSE for obligation)


5. Most people claim that hydrogen engines will substitute fuel engines


6. In his time the audience thought that Houdini had special powers.



     T O P