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GRAMMAR & STRUCTURE
Passives

 
 

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.

 
Active John hit the ball.
Passive The ball was hit by John.

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.

Passives:

  • use the auxiliary verb "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.)

  • usually do not have infinitives as subjects.
    For example: "Maude wanted to see the movie." (active sentence);
    "To see the movie was wanted by Maude." (not possible in passive form)

Related sections
Infinitives
Modals
Participles