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From active to passive, and back again...


From Typical Errors in English:


active (voice) We use this to describe something or someone (or the doer) that affects or performs the action, which could be in the past, present or future. For example:


They (the doer) produce cars in Italy.

The company (the doer) was planning to make two hundred people redundant.


Contrast this to the passive voice (see below), where the doer is not mentioned:


Wine is made in France (but we do not say who in France made the wine).

There were plans to make two hundred people redundant (but we do not say who made the plans).


passive (voice) These are phrases formed by using be and the past participle (the third form of the verb, i.e. write (first), wrote (second), written (third). So written is the past participle form of write.


We use this term to describe something that is affected by an action, and not by the person or thing that performed it, or we are more interested in the action instead of who/what did the action. Like the active, these actions can also be in the past, present or future. For example:


Wine is made in France (but we do not say who in France made the wine).

The party has been organised (we do not say who organised the party).

As a result, problems were being created (but we do not say who or what was creating these problems).

Six million pounds was stolen last night (We do not know who stole this money).

How are languages learned/learnt? (We do not mention who wants to know this information).


It is possible to make a passive sentence that tells us who or what did the action, and we do this by adding by + the ‘doer’ (also known as the agent):


The party has been organised by the company.

Problems were being created by the new software system.

The passive voice, however, is sometimes discouraged by some writers and newspapers, and even by one particular British politician. For more on that story, click here.



You have a choice on how you would like to do this exercise! (I can be very kind.)


Click below if you want to do the exercise of turning an active sentence into a passive sentence.

OR: Click the other link if you want to turn the passive sentence into an active one.


When you finish, just check your answers by clicking the link below the page.


Have fun!

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