We often use the passive:

  • when we prefer not to mention who or what does the action (for example, it’s not known, it’s obvious or we don’t want to say)
  • so that we can start a sentence with the most important or most logical information
  • in more formal or scientific writing.
The passive is:
  • Present simple (am, is, are) or past simple (was, were) + Past participle ( cleaned, invented, injured, done, built, taken, …)

The past participle of regular verbs is -ed (cleaned, damaged, etc). And the past participle of irregular verbs is completely different and you should memorize them.

  • Butter is made from milk.
  • Oranges are imported into Canada. 
  • How often is this room cleaned?
  • I’m never invited to sleepovers.
  • This building was built 50 years ago.
  • These houses were built 200 years ago.
  • When was the electricity invented?
  • We weren’t invited to the sleepover.
  • Nobody was taken to the hospital.

Was/were born

  • I was born in India. (Not I am born)
  • Where were you born? 

Passive + by

  • The telephone was invented by Alexander Bell. (Alexander Bell invented it)
  • I was bitten by a cat a few weeks ago.
  • These paintings were painted by a friend of mine.
  • Somebody is painting the door. (active)
  • The door is being painted. (passive)
  • My car is at the garage. It is being repaired. (=somebody is repairing it)
  • Some new houses are being built opposite the park. (= somebody is building them)

Compare the present continuous and present simple:

  • The office is being cleaned at the moment. (continuous)
  • The office is cleaned every day. (simple)
  • In Canada football matches are often played at the weekend, but no matches are being played next weekend.

Have/has been… (present perfect passive)

  • Somebody has painted the door. (active)
  • the door has been painted. (passive)
  • My key has been stolen. (=somebody has stolen it)
  • My keys have been stolen. (=somebody has stolen them)
  • I’m not going to the party. I haven’t been invited. ( =nobody has invited me)
  • Has this shirt been washed? (= has somebody washed it?)

Compare the present perfect and past simple:

  • The room isn’t dirty anymore. It has been cleaned. (present perfect)
  • The room was cleaned yesterday. (past simple)
  • I can’t find my keys. I think they  have been stolen. (present perfect)
  • My keys were stolen last week. (past simple)


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Mohaddese Beykzadeh

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