This slideshow page is to explain and give practice on the passive voice.
On this page: Explanation | Exercise
It is common to use passive structures in academic writing because in many
cases, the agent (the person/people/organisation etc. who do/does the action) of an action is less important
than the action itself. You form the passive by using a form of the auxiliary
be (e.g. am, is, are, was, were, been, be) and the past participle of
a main verb (e.g. written, spoken, listened). Past participles are also
used in present perfect verbs; e.g. I have written an essay, and
are sometimes different from past tense verbs; e.g. I wrote an essay.
- The data were gathered between June and August 2004.
- Many books have been written about space exploration.
- This medicine can be used only on patients who have no allergic
- The greenhouse effect is reported to be the main cause of global
Passive structures are impossible with intransitive verbs (which do not take
objects; e.g. arrive) as there is nothing to become the subject of the passive sentence
(e.g. Wrong: The party was arrived at by me.
Correct: I arrived at the party.).
Stative verbs, which refer to states rather than actions, are also seldom used
in the passive.
- The incident happened back in 1965. [This is correct, and is not
passive voice, as happen is an intransitive verb.]
- The incident was happened back in
1965. [This is wrong.]
- We lacked support from the government. [This is correct, and is not
passive voice, as lack is a stative verb]
- Support was lacked from the
government. [This is wrong.]
Some other stative verbs are: seem, have, suit and resemble.
Choose the correct option from the drop-down boxes, then click the 'Show Answers'