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English Grammar in Use – Unit 42: Passive Voice

 Part A:

Study this example:

This house was built in 1961.

Was built is passive.

Compare and passive:

Somebody built this house in 1961. (active)

subject object

This house was built in 1961. (passive)


When we use an active verb, we say what the subject does:

My grandfather was a builder. He built this house in 1961.

It’s a big company. It employs two hundred people.

When we use a passive verb, we say what happens to the subject:

How old is this house?’ ‘It was built in 1961.’

Two hundred people are employed by the company.


Part B:

When we use the passive, who or what causes the action is often unknown or unimportant:

A lot of money was stolen in the robbery. (somebody stole it, but we don’t know who)

Is this room cleaned every day? (does somebody clean it? – it’s not important who)

If we want to say who does or what causes the action, we use by:

This house was built by my grandfather.

Two hundred people are employed by the company.


Part C:

The passive is be (is/was etc.) + past participle (done/cleaned/seen etc.):

(be) done (be) cleaned (be) damaged (be) built (be) seen etc.

For irregular past participles (done/seen/known etc.), see Appendix 1.

Study the active and passive forms of the present simple and past simple:

Present simple

active clean(s) I see(s) etc.

pass1ve am/is/are + cleaned/seen et c.

Many accidents are caused by careless driving.

I’m not invited to parties very often.

How is this word pronounced?

Past simple

active cleaned/saw etc.

passive was/were + cleaned/seen et c.

Somebody cleans this room every day.

This room is cleaned every day.

Somebody cleaned this room yesterday.

This room was cleaned yesterday.

We were woken up by a loud noise du ring the night.

‘Did you go to the party?’ ‘No, I wasn’t invited.’

How much money was stolen in the robbery?

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This topic contains 1 reply, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Sasan 17 hours, 55 minutes ago.

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  • #40593

    Dr. Hariri

    Would you rather be happy yet slow-witted and unimaginative, or unhappy yet bright and creative? For instance, would you rather live the life of a brilliant yet tortured artist, such as Vincent van Gogh, or that of a happy but carefree soul who is a bit simple-minded?

  • #40672


    I prefer to challenge this question at first and bring up my viewpoint next.
    There are different successful people in the world who reached the apex through different procedures. Although some have faced torture to reach their goals, it does not mean we have to necessarily lose something in our life to climb the ladder of success. Anyway, I suppose the most enjoyable part of life is making progress and relying on your abilities to flourish and thrive. So, I personally go for intelligence and innovation rather than happiness along with naivety. Many people have lived an ordinary life so far and repeating this story can never excite me at all. We need to gain new adventurous experiences and foster our abilities so as to break out of comfort zone.

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