Changing from active into passive
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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.                 


2.4 Using the passive, ask questions to which the bold type words are answers:


e.g. Columbus discovered America. – Who was America discovered by?


1. We keep money in a safe.

2. A bee stung her.

3. They speak Italian in Italy.

4. They have taken his aunt to hospital.

5. The boys damaged the television.

6. Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa.

7. He invited 30 people to his party.

8. They grow bananas in Africa.


After modal verbs we use “be + past participle” or “have been + past participle”.

e.g. They may close down the supermarket. – The supermarket may be closed down.

e.g. They may have reported the bank robbery. – The bank robbery may have been reported.


2.5 A florist is taking a telephone order from a customer:


Customer: Hello, I'd like to order some flowers, please

Florist: Certainly, sir. When would you like them 1) to be delivered (deliver)?

Customer: Can they 2) _____ (deliver) on Monday?

Florist: Oh, I'm sorry, sir. No flowers can 3) _____ (send) on Monday because it's a bank holiday. The shop will be closed.

Customer: Oh, can they 4) _____ (send) on Friday then?

Florist: Certainly, sir. Where should they 5) _____ (take) to?

Customer: 47, Hanson Road, Croydon.

Florist: Okay, and who should they 6) _____ (address) to?


2.6 Turn the following sentences into the Passive:


1. Scientists might discover a cure for cancer. – A cure for cancer might be discovered.

2. Someone should help the old woman across the street.

3. They might have arrested the escaped prisoner.

4. They should have provided more food at the reception. 

5. They ought to warn the public about him. 

6. They should build more bus lanes.

7. They could have written the answers more clearly.


With verbs that take two objects it is more usual to begin the passive sentence with the person:

e.g. They sent a letter to him. – He was sent a letter. (more usual) / A letter was sent to him. (less usual)


2.7 Change the structure:


1. Nothing was sent to me. – I was sent nothing.

2. Papers were brought to us to sign.

3. A clock was given to Henry when he retired.

4. Stories were read to the children.

5. £5,000 is owed to me.

6. A new job has been offered to me.

7. French is taught to us by Mrs Lee.

8. A car has been lent to me for the week.

9. A full explanation was promised to us.

10. A lot of lies were told to me by the secretary.

2.8 Complete the text with expressions below:


had been given, had been told, had never been taught, was given (twice), was offered, was promised, was sent, was shown, wasn't being paid


I'll never forget my first day at that office. I  1) ____ to arrive at 8.30, but when I got there the whole place seemed to be empty. I didn't know what to do, because I 2) ____ no information about the building or where I was going to work, so I just waited around until some of the secretaries began to turn up. Finally I 3) ____ dirty little office on the fifth floor, where I 4) ____ a desk in a corner. Nothing happened for an hour; then I 5) ____ some letters to type on a computer by one of the senior secretaries. This wasn't very successful, because I 6) ____ how to use a computer. (In the letter I 7) ____ when I 8) ____ the job, I 9) ____ computer training, but they'd obviously forgotten about this.) By lunchtime things hadn't got any better, and I decided that I 10) ____ enough to put up with this nonsense, so I walked out and didn't go back.


2.9 Turn the following into the Passive in two ways:

1. They gave him a watch when he retired. – He was given a watch when he retired. A watch was given to him when he retired.

2. They have offered him the job.

He ________________________________

The job ____________________________

3. She will send you a fax.

You _______________________________

A fax ______________________________

4. They are going to show me a new technique.

I ___________________________________

A new technique _____________________

5. Someone gave her a book.

She _______________________________

A book ____________________________

6. They give the students extra lessons.

The students ________________________

Extra lessons ________________________

7. They have shown her the plans for the house.

She ________________________________

The plans for the house ________________

8. They should have sent you a receipt.

You _______________________________

A receipt ___________________________


Passive structures


Note these passive structures. They are mostly rather formal:


The verbs believe, expect, feel, hope, know, report, say, think etc can be used in the following passive patterns:

                                                  People say she is rich.

1. It + passive + that-clause                                It is said that she is rich.

2. Subject (person) + passive + to-infinitive            She is said to be rich.

3. Active object complement → passive subject complement

e.g. The Queen considered him a genius. → He was considered a genius.

e.g. They elected Mrs Robins President. → Mrs Robins was elected President.

e.g. The others call him stupid. → He is called stupid by the others.

e.g. You've made me very happy. → I have been made very happy.

4. Structure with there is: “There is thought I said etc to be ...”

e.g. There are thought to be fewer than twenty people still living in the village.

e.g. There were said to be ghosts in the house, but I never heard anything.


3.1 Make these sentences passive, using one of the above structures:


1. People think the government will fall.

2. We appointed Mr Evans secretary.

3. The villagers called her a witch.

4. People believed that fresh air was bad for sick people.

5. Some people say that there are wolves in the mountains.

6. Police think the man holding the hostages is heavily armed.

7. They say he is in an agitated state.

8. Everybody considered her strange.

9. We expect that the rate of inflation will rise.

10. They say he is somewhere in Germany.


3.2 Write these sentences in another way, beginning as shown. Use the underlined word in your sentence:


1. It is expected that the strike will end soon. – The strike is expected to end soon.

2. It is expected that the weather will be good tomorrow. – The weather is ____.

3. It is believed that the thieves got in through the kitchen window. – The thieves ____.

4. It is reported that many people are homeless after the floods. – Many people ____.

5. It is thought that the prisoner escaped by climbing over a wall. – The prisoner ____.   

6. It is alleged that the man drove through the town at 90 miles an hour. – The man is ____.

7. It is reported that the building has been badly damaged by fire. – The building ____.

8. a) It is said that the company is losing a lot of money. – The company ____.

b) It is believed that the company lost a lot of money last year. – The company ____.

c) It is expected that the company will lose money this year. – The company ____.


3.3 Turn the following into the Passive as in the example:


1. People expect him to win.

He is expected to win. It is expected that he will win.

2. Journalists have reported that the President is ill.

The President _________________________________

It ___________________________________________

3. Everyone knows that the statement was untrue.

The statement _________________________________

It ___________________________________________

4. Many people believe that the climate is changing.

The climate ___________________________________

It ___________________________________________

5. Everyone knows that he has been in prison.

He __________________________________________

It ___________________________________________________

6. Many people say that the new prices are too high.

The new prices ________________________________

It ___________________________________________

7. They claim that this diamond is the largest in the world.
This diamond _________________________________

It _____________________________________________


(be) supposed to

Sometimes (be) supposed to = it is said to:

e.g. Let’s go and see that film. It is supposed to be very good. (= it is said to be very good)

e.g. “Why was he arrested?” “He is supposed to have kicked a policeman.” (= he is aid to have kicked a policeman)


3.4 People say a lot of things about Arthur. Nobody knows for sure whether these things are true or not. Write sentences about Arthur u sing (be) supposed to:


1. Arthur eats spiders. – Arthur is supposed to eat spiders.

2. He has 12 children.                                    

3. He is very rich.      

4. He robbed a bank a long rime ago.                    

5. He writes poetry.                                      


But sometimes (be) supposed to has a different meaning. “Something is supposed to” = it is planned, arranged or expected. Often this is different from what really happens:

e.g. I’d better hurry. It’s nearly 8 o’clock and I’m supposed to be meeting Ann at 8.15. (= I have arranged to meet Ann, I said I would meet her)

e.g. You were supposed to clean the windows. Why didn’t you do it?

“You are not supposed to do something” = it is not allowed or advisable for you to do it:

e.g. You are not supposed to park your car here. It’s private parking only.


3.5 Now you have to use (be) supposed to with its other meaning. In each example what happens is different from what is supposed to happen. Use (be) supposed to + one of these verbs:


arrive , be, block, come, park, phone, start


Some of the sentences are negative (like the first example):


You are not supposed to park here. It's private parking only.

The train was supposed to arrive at 11.30, but it was an hour late.

What are the children doing at home? They __________ at school at this time.

We __________ work at 8.15, but we rarely do anything before 8.30.

This door is a fire exit. You __________ it.

Oh dear! I __________ Ann but I completely forgot.

They arrived very early – at 2 o'clock. They __________ until 3.30.




Sometimes you can use get instead of be in the passive:

e.g. There was a fight at the party but nobody got hurt. (= nobody was hurt)

e.g. I don’t often get invited to parties. (= I’m not often invited)

You can use get to say that something happens to somebody or something, especially if this is unplanned or unexpected:

e.g. Our dog got run over by a car.

You can use get only when things happen or change. For example, You can not use get in these sentences:

e.g. Jil is liked by everybody. (not “gets liked” – this is not a happening)

e.g. He was a mystery man. Nothing was known about him. (not “got known”)

We use get mainly in informal spoken English. You can use be in all situations.

We also use get in the following expressions (which are not passive in meaning): get married, get divorced, get dressed, get changed.


3.6 Complete the sentences using get/got + one of these verbs (in the correct form):


ask, break, damage, hurt, pay, steal, sting, stop, use


1. There was a fight at the party but nobody got hurt.

2. Ted _____ _____ by a bee while he was sitting in the garden.

3. How did that window _____ _____?

4. These tennis courts don't _____ _____ very often. Not many people want to play.

5. I used to have a bicycle but it _____ _____.

6. Last night I _____ _____ by the police as I was driving home.

7. How much did you _____ _____ last month?

8. Please pack these things very carefully. I don't want them to _____ _____.

9. People often want to know what my job is. I often _____ _____ that question.




4.1 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?)


4.2 Rewrite these sentences in the passive. The subject of the active sentence can usually be omitted; you should include it in the passive sentence only if it is necessary:


1. Someone's interviewing Dr Johnson at the moment. – Dr Johnson is being interviewed at the moment.

2. You mustn't use this machine after 5.30 p.m. – This machine mustn’t be used after 5.30 p.m.

3. We had warned him the day before not to go too near the canal. – He ____.

4. They were painting the outside of the ship when the accident happened. – The outside of the ship ____.

5. You must clean this machine every time you use it. – This machine ____.

6. You should keep the flowers in a warm sunny place. – The flowers ____.

7. They're mending your shoes at the moment. – Your shoes ____.

8. Someone will drive your car to Edinburgh on Tuesday. – Your car ____.

9. We don't allow smoking in this restaurant. – Smoking ____.

10. You should pay your bill before you leave the hotel. – Your bill ____.


4.3 Turn from Passive into Active:


1. He was hit by a falling brick. – A falling brick hit him.

2. She was employed by an international company.

3. This essay was written by Sandra.

4. The burglar might have been arrested.

5. He has been sent a parcel.

6. Roger was seen to leave.

7. The kidnappers are known to have left the country.

8. The exhibition will be opened by the mayor.

9. It is hoped that the economy will improve.

4.4 Choose the correct verb form to complete the sentences:


For Love or Money

This programme showed / was shown on American TV for the first time in 2003. In this programme, fifteen women tried / were tried to win the heart of a rich young man. In the first episode, the women learnt / were learnt that there was also a prize of $1 million. The women told / were told to keep the prize a secret from the young man. The man and the women took / were taken to different Californian cities to go out on dates. At the end of each week, one woman left / was left in the show. In the final show, the last woman told / was told she must choose between the man and the money.

4.5 * Rewrite the sentences, putting the underlined verbs into the passive. Make any other changes necessary:


1. They should have given us this information ages ago. – This information should have been given to us ages ago .

2. Do you want someone to wake you up in the morning? – Do you want to be woken up in the morning?

3. I don't like someone telling me what to do.

4. The windows are really dirty: no-one's cleaned them for weeks.

5. After the company made him redundant, he became very depressed.

6. I would like them to have given me the chance to explain my point of view, but they weren't interested.

7. I'm hoping they will choose me for the college football team.

8. People believe that many more people will die of skin cancer over the next ten years.

9. If it hadn't rained so much, we would have finished the job on time.
10. We can't take the car: the people at the garage are repairing it.


4.6 Put the verbs in brackets into the correct passive form (the Infinitive, the Present Simple, the Past Simple):


There is an old castle in Norwich which 1) is believed (believe) to 2) _____ (haunt). It 3) ____ (call) North Castle and it 4) ____ (say) that ghosts can 5) ____ (see) there at night. The castle 6) ____ (build) 400 years ago and 7) ____ (own) by two old ladies who 8) ____ (believe) to be witches. One day, long ago, they both disappeared and they 9) ____ (never/see) again. In 1985 the castle 10) ____ (buy) by a businessman and 11) ____ (convert) into a luxurious hotel. The castle 12) ____ (visit) by quite a few guests every year and special groups 13) ____ (organise) to watch for ghosts. It has been a long time since any ghosts 14) ____ (see), but one night a trick 15) ____ (play) on some visitors by a local couple, who dressed up as the two "witches". They 16) ____ (see) by a guest, who said she 17) ____ (frighten) almost to death. The couple apologised the next day, and 18) ____ (tell) never to visit the castle again, certainly not in the middle of the night dressed up as witches.


4.7 Put the verbs in brackets into the correct passive form (the Past Simple, the Past Perfect, the Past Continuous, the Present Simple, the Future Simple):


Professor Higgins, who 1) was awarded (award) a major science prize last month, 2) _____ (invite) to take part in a conference which 3) _____ (hold) in London last week. He 4) _____ (meet) at the airport by a driver who, unfortunately, 5) _____ (give) the name of the wrong hotel to take the professor to. A large reception 6) _____ (organise) for the professor, and at least 200 eminent scientists 7) _____ (invite) to meet him that evening. The poor professor, however, 8) _____ (leave) at a small hotel in a rather bad area, and when he asked to speak to the Head of the Conference Committee he 9) _____ (tell) to try somewhere else because he 10) _____ (not/hear of) there. Luckily, later that evening, the driver 11) _____ (send) to the hotel where the reception 12) _____ (hold), and when he 13) _____ (ask) what he had done with the professor, everyone realised that a mistake 14) _____ (make). The professor says that if he 15) _____ (ever/send) another invitation to a conference, he hopes it 16) _____ (organise) more efficiently.


4.8 Rewrite the newspaper headlines as complete sentences:


1. RARE BIRD FOUND IN REMOTE COUNTRYSIDE – A rare bird has been found in the remote countryside.







Test yourself: passives

1. 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.

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

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

8. Butter ___________ from milk. (make)

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

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

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

3. Circle the best way to continue:

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

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

14. 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.

15. 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.

4. 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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. 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)


Module 3


“Modal Verbs”


The modals have the same form in all persons. They come before the subject in questions and take “not” after them in negations. They take an infinitive without “to” after them.


Modal verb Simple infinitive Perfect infinitive
CAN He can read Arabic. (ability); He can’t be so rich. (probability); You can/can’t borrow my car. (permission / prohibition); Can I borrow your book? (request) She can’t have stolen the money. (probability in the past)
COULD He could read Arabic when he was four. (ability in the past); She could still be at work. (possibility); Could I borrow your books? (polite request); We could leave if you want. (suggestion) We could have gone to the seaside, but we went to the forest. (possibility in the past)  
MAY He may not remember me. (possibility); You may use the phone. (permission) He may have spoken to Jenny yesterday (possibility in the past)
MIGHT He might want some food. (possibility); Might I speak to Mr. Smith? (formal permission) He might have forgotten. (possibility in the past)
MUST He must be at work. (probability) You mustn’t park here. (prohibition) I must go on a diet. (obligation) He must have been at work. (probability in the past)
SHALL Shall I help you? (offer) Shall we dance? (suggestion)  
SHOULD/ OUGHT TO You should be patient. (advice) You should have tried harder. (criticism)
WILL Will you phone Jane tonight? (friendly request); Accidents will happen. (laws of nature)  
WOULD She would play with dolls. (habit); Would you like me to help you? (offer); Would you mind sending the fax? (polite request)  
NEED I need to repair my car. (necessity) You didn’t need to do the washing up. (absence of necessity) I needn’t have come so early. (unnecessary action which was performed)
HAVE TO I have to earn money. (external necessity); They don’t have to get up early at the weekends. (absence of necessity)  

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