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GRAMMAR & STRUCTURE
Passives

 
 

Definition

A passive is a verb form that describes what happens to people and things, or what is done to people and things. Passive is the opposite of active. Active verbs describe what people or things do.

Example

John
hit
the ball. (Active)

subject

 

object


The ball

was hit

by John. (Passive)

subject

   

Notice that in the active sentence, the object of the verb hit is "the ball." In the passive sentence, "the ball" is the subject of the verb.

Explanation

Passives --

  • use the auxiliary verb "to be" with the past participle.
  • use the expression "by _____" to show who or what does the action.
  • are used in a variety of tenses.
  • can be used with modals.
  • use "it" to introduce a clause as the subject. For example: "It is believed that education is important."
  • cannot be used with intransitive verbs. (Intransitive verbs have no object, e.g., die, arrive, sleep.)

Related Sections

Infinitives
Modals
Participles
Transitive & Intransitive Verbs
Verb "to be"