Grammar: Using Passive Forms
We use passive forms in English a lot – or should I say passive forms are used a lot in English! What’s more, doing transformations from the active to the passive is a favourite with nearly all exam-writers. So whatever exam you’re doing, you need to know how to form the passive and also when to use it. There’s a full explanation in our Grammar Reference section, but here’s a quick reminder of the grammar.
Transformations: Active to Passive
We’re going to do these practice exercises the old-fashioned way – by writing! So get a pen and paper, or open a new document on your computer. (Answers at the bottom of the page.)
Passive forms: Exercise 1
Change these active sentences into the passive. Take care with the tenses, and omit the agent if it doesn’t give us any useful information. Look at this example:
They took the boy to hospital.
The boy was taken to hospital. (‘by them’ would give us no useful information.)
- Someone drove me home.
- They had eaten all the cakes.
- They grow rice in Andalusia.
- The BBC is going to film me.
- Cervantes wrote Don Quijote.
- I think this season finale will surprise you.
- They were showing Toy Story at the Rialto Cinema last week.
- Next week they’re showing The Godfather at my local cinema.
- You said they would invite me to the party.
- Someone’s stolen my bag!
Passive forms: Exercise 2
Now follow the transformation table in reverse to change these passive sentences into the active. Here’s an example:
- The cat was being chased by the dog.
- Smoking in bars has been banned by the European Union.
- Many buildings were destroyed by the earthquake.
- Dogs are sometimes abandoned by their owners.
- Oranges are grown by many Spanish farmers.
Passive forms: Exercise 3
As we’ve explained in the Grammar Reference, some sentences have two objects and two ways to transform them. It all depends on which object we’re more interested in.
Look at this sentence: They will give John a prize.
John will be given a prize. (We’re more interested in John here.)
A prize will be given to John. (We’re more interested in the prize here.)
Write two passive sentences for each example, and omit the agent if it gives us no useful information.
- They gave John a book.
- Someone has offered John a scholarship.
- The school is going to present John with a trophy.
Passive forms: Exercise 4
Finally, let’s practise question transformations. Some are active to passive, and some are passive to active. Look at these examples:
Did JK Rowling write Harry Potter?
Was Harry Potter written by JK Rowling?
Were the students told about the exam?
Did someone tell the students about the exam?
- Have they discovered a cure for Covid 19 yet?
- Should masks be worn in the street?
- When will they vaccinate me?
- Do they test the vaccine on animals?
- When were the results sent?
You can find further practice of using the passive in Have Something Done.
And check out all the grammar and vocabulary exercises in our Guide to the Posts.
Answers: Exercise 1
- I was driven home.
- The cakes had all been eaten. / All the cakes had been eaten.
- Rice is grown in Andalusia.
- I’m going to be filmed by the BBC.
- Don Quijote was written by Cervantes.
- I think you’ll be surprised by this season finale.
- Toy Story was being shown at the Rialto Cinema last week.
- The Godfather is being shown at my local cinema next week.
- You said I would be invited to the party.
- My bag’s been stolen!
Answers: Exercise 2
- The dog was chasing the cat.
- The European Union has banned smoking in bars.
- The earthquake destroyed many buildings.
- Owners sometimes abandon their dogs.
- Many Spanish farmers grow oranges.
Answers: Exercise 3
- John was given a book. / A book was given to John.
- John has been offered a scholarship. / A scholarship has been offered to John.
- John is going to be presented with a trophy by the school. / A trophy is going to be presented to John by the school.
Answers: Exercise 4
- Has a cure for Covid 19 been discovered yet?
- Should people wear masks in the street?
- When will I be vaccinated?
- Is the vaccine tested on animals?
- When did they send the results?