Passives — What, How, When
What are passives?
All English verbs are either active or passive. When a sentence or clause starts with the subject, we use an active verb. For example:
Someone broke the window.
In this sentence, “someone” is the subject, so we use an active verb with it — “broke”.
But when a sentence or clause starts with the object, we use a passive verb.
The window was broken.
This sentence starts with the object (“the window”) so we used a passive verb (“was broken”).
How do we make passives?
Passives are always a combinations of two parts: a “be” verb and a past participle. Don't be confused by the term past participle. A past participle isn't past — that's just its name. We can use a past participle in a past situation, a present situation, a future situation — anything.
1. Some examples of 'be' verbs.
|present simple||is, am, are|
|present continuous||is being|
|past simple||was, were|
|future simple||will be|
|present perfect||has been, have been|
|past perfect||had been|
|modal||can be, could be, might be, should be, etc|
Complete Exercise 1: Passive Times now and then close the window to continue with the lesson.
2. Some examples of past participles.
|Dictionary Form||Past Simple Form||Past Participle|
Complete Exercise 2: Past Participles now and then close the window to continue with the lesson.
3. Some examples of passives.
|Tense||Passive Verb||Example Sentence|
|present simple||are paid||They're paid every week.|
|present continuous||is being built||Their house is being built right now.|
|past simple||was hired||She was hired last week.|
|future simple||will be finished||We'll be finished next week.|
|present perfect||has been done||The work's been done.|
|modal||can be bought||Textbooks can be bought here.|
Complete Exercise 3: Making Passive Sentences now and then close the window to continue with the lesson.
When do we use passives?
Passives have three basic uses: when we want to focus on the object, when we don't know the subject, and when we want to sound more formal.
|When we want to focus on the object.||Cellphones are used all over the world.||We want to focus on cellphones here, not on who uses them.|
|When we don't know the subject.||The window was broken last night.||We don't know who broke the window, so we focus on the window instead.|
|When we want to sound more formal or official.||Students are provided with a textbook.||This sounds more formal and impersonal than 'We will provide students with a textbook.'|