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Events may be related in the active or the passive voice. In the passive, the person or thing receiving the action becomes the grammatical subject.

For example (the entity receiving the action is in boldface):

  • active voice: Eric Rohmer made this film.
  • passive voice: This film was made by Eric Rohmer.

    One forms the passive by conjugating the verb "to be" before the past participle of the principal verb. the tense of the verb "to be" will determine the tense of action. When an agent of the action (that is, the person or entity performing the action) must be described, one does so by using the preposition "by":

  • This industry will soon be developed in the third world.
  • Sorry, but this car has been purchased by another customer.

    English uses the passive voice frequently, although it is best to avoid it when possible. An option is to use an impersonal subject, such as "one" or "someone"

  • (passive voice): This job needs to be done.
  • (active voice): Someone needs to do this job.
    The passive voice is used to show interest in the person or object that experiences an action rather than the person or object that performs the action, e.g.

  • The passive is used ...:
    We are interested in the passive, not who uses it.

  • The house was built in 1654:
    We are interested in the house, not the builder.

  • The road is being repaired:
    We are interested in the road, not the people repairing it.

    In other words, the most important thing or person becomes the subject of the sentence.

    Sometimes we use the passive voice because we don't know or cannot express who or what performed the action:

  • I noticed that a window had been left open

  • Every year people are killed on our roads.

    If we want to say who or what performs the action, we use the preposition by:

  • "A Hard Day's Night" was written by the Beatles

  • ET was directed by Spielberg

    The passive voice is often used in formal or scientific texts:

  • A great deal of meaning is conveyed by a few well-chosen words.

  • Our planet is wrapped in a mass of gases.

  • Waste materials are disposed of in a variety of ways.

Infinitive form: infinitive of 'to be' + past participle: (to) be cleaned

    This form is used after modal verbs and other verbs normally followed by an infinitive, e.g.

You have to be tested on your English grammar
John might
be promoted next year.
She wants to
be invited to the party.

Gerund or -ing form: being + past participle: being cleaned

    This form is used after prepositions and verbs normally followed by a gerund


a. Most film stars hate being interviewed.
b. I remember
being taught to drive.
c. The children are excited about
being taken to the zoo.

NOTE: Sometimes the passive is formed using the verb to get instead of the verb to be:

a. He got arrested for dangerous driving.
They're getting married later this year.
c. I'm not sure how the window
got broken.

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