How To Teach The Passive Voice

Depending on which language your students speak, the passive voice in English can be hard to learn. Sometimes they don’t have a equivalent or if they do, it is not commonly used. In English the passive is used regularly, making it imperative knowledge for any student.

When do we use it?

We use the passive in many situations, but these are the most important;

  • When we want to emphasize the action, not the person who did it.

Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel.

The Sistine Chapel was painted by Michelangelo.

  • When we don’t really know who did the action.

They stole my car.

My car was stolen.

  • When who did the action is not important or obvious.

They passed a new law prohibiting the smoking of cigarettes in public places.

A new law was passed prohibiting the smoking of cigarettes in public places.

  • When the subject is a mouthful

How well the band sang impressed me.

I was impressed by how well the band sang.

Apart from these common uses, remember that students should be encouraged to use it for their essays, as it is a more formal style of writing.

How do I form it?

The passive has a simple formula.

Verb To Be + Past Participle


Verbs with two objects

Sometimes an active sentence can be formed in two different ways, and therefore two passive forms are possible.

Sarah gave the head teacher the note. Sarah gave the note to the head teacher.

The head teacher was given the note by Sarah. The note was given to the head teacher by Sarah.

Causative – Intermediate Level

Sometimes we use an alternative form of the passive to say that something was done for us, or that we were the victim of something. Usually this is for services, or for small businesses. It is not necessary to say who did the action (or the agent) because it’s obvious.

Verbs To Have or To Get + Past Participle

The hairdresser cut my hair.

I had my hair cut.

The mechanic fixed my car.

I had my car fixed.

The Passive With Reporting Verbs – Intermediate Level

Using this structure we can express action while also expressing how somebody feels about it, or other things.

  • It + passive reporting verb + that clause

So instead of Everybody thinks that she is an alcoholic

We would say this It is thought that she is an alcoholic

  • Subject + passive reporting verb + infinitive

Instead of Everybody thinks that she is an alcoholic

We would say this She is thought to be an alcoholic

Any more questions about the passive? Post them on the comment and I’ll add the answers to the post!




2 thoughts on “How To Teach The Passive Voice

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: