Exercise 1   

Which answer is best, A or B?

a   Do these computers come from Japan or Taiwan?

     A   People make them in Taiwan.

     B   They’re made in Taiwan.

b   So, what happened when the dog saw the bone?

     A   It was eaten by the dog.

     B   The dog ate it.

c   How often is the restaurant kitchen cleaned?

     A   People clean it every day.

     B   It’s cleaned every day.

d   What happened to the burglar?

     A   He was arrested a few minutes later.

     B   The police arrested him a few minutes later.

e   What do doctors do?

     A   They help people who are sick.

     B   People who are sick are helped by them.

Exercise 2   

Find the incorrect sentences.

a   The money was stole from the bank.

b   My house is being painted at the moment.

c   l like it when people agree with me.

d   The candidates are being interviewed.

e   My friend Tom is having a nice house.

f   You know, you are resembled by someone famous.

g   Spanish spoken in Latin America.

h   A lovely swim in the sea was had by us.

i   These glasses are made in Denmark.

j   Did your family agree with you?

Exercise 3   

Write passive sentences.

a   Someone sells tickets at the box office.


b   People built the pyramids over 4,500 years ago.


c   Someone is mending my bike.


d   A printer printed the document in three seconds.


e   Someone’s interviewing the President.


Exercise 4

Rewrite the notices as active sentences. Start each sentence with We.

a   Secretary wanted      

b   Keys cut while you wait

c   Photos developed in one hour!

d   No refunds given

e   CHEF needed for busy restaurant

Exercise 5

Find and correct any sentences that are wrong.

a   Made in China.

b   I’m not fitted by these trousers. They’re too big.

c   The fox was knocked down by a car.

d   The tanks are filled and then the engine is started.

e   Stop arguing. I’m agreed with you!


Read the note to find out why.


a   B    -> B              d   A    -> C

b   B    -> D              e   A    -> D

c   B     -> B


a   stole      stolen                           -> A

b   correct                                        -> B

c   correct                                         -> E

d   correct                                         -> B

e   is having         has                       -> E

f   are resembled by      resemble     -> E

g   spoken      is spoken                   -> A

h   A … was had by us.       We had … a       -> E

i   correct                                           -> B

j   correct                                           -> E


a   Tickets are sold at the box office.

b   The pyramids were built over 4,500 years ago.

c   My bike is being mended.

d   The document was printed in three seconds.

e   The President is being interviewed.


a   We want a secretary.

b   We cut keys while you wait.

c   We develop photos in one hour.

d   We don’t give refunds.

e   We need a chef for a busy restaurant.


a   correct

b   I’m not fitted by these trousers.

     These trousers don’t fit me.

c   correct

d   correct



Make the passive with the correct tense of the verb be + past participle.


Use the passive when you don’t know who does the action, or you aren’t interested in who does it, or it isn’t important who does it.


Use the passive when it’s obvious who does the action.


Always use the active form unless there’s a very good reason to use the passive.


Don’t use the passive with certain verbs, e.g. agree with, have, resemble.


Active or passive?

Some people think the passive in English is difficult. It isn’t really. You just need to understand why and when to use it instead of the active. There are four main reasons for using the passive, and these are explained below. It’s also important to know when not to use the passive. There are two main reasons for you to remember.

–   You make the passive with the correct tense of the verb be + past participle.

     Spanish is spoken in many Latin American countries. (present simple passive)

     My house is being painted. (present continuous passive)

    The robber was arrested. (past simple passive)

–  The object of an active sentence becomes the subject of a passive sentence.

    People give money to charity. (object: money)

    Money is given to charity. (subject: money) 

When to use the passive

1   When you don’t know who does the action.

     My car was stolen last night. (I don’t know who stole it.)

2   When you aren’t interested in who does the action.

     I love this poem. It was written about a hundred years ago.

    (I’m interested in the poem, not the poet.)

3   When it isn’t important who does the action.

     All our computers are checked before they leave the factory.

     (It isn’t important who checks them.)

4   When it’s obvious who does the action.

     The prisoner is being taken to the jail.

     (It’s obvious that the police are taking him to jail.) 

When not to use the passive

1   You don’t use the passive when the active is more direct and easier to understand. If you’re in doubt, ask yourself why you’re using the passive instead of the active. If you can’t think of a good reason, don’t use it.

      I’m reading a great book.   NOT   A great book is being read by me.

2   Intransitive verbs can’t be passive because they don’t take an object, e.g. arrive, die, sit, sleep. Also, you don’t use the passive with these verbs: agree with, belong, fit, have, resemble and suit.

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