Grammar-QuizzesVerb PhrasesVerb Groups › Passive

Passive Voice

Summary of Practices


Passives—Diagnostic Quiz

Passive Diagnostic: identify specific points that need review


Quiz 1: beginning – intermediate

Quiz 2: intermediate – advanced

"Patient" as Subj: focus on the person or thing that undergoes the action

Beginning–Intermediate ESL

Baby on a scale

My sister had (bore) a baby.

A baby was born.

The doctor helped the baby.

The baby was helped by the doctor.

*What was happened?


Project as Subj: place focus on the collective work (when the agents are too many to list)

Intermediate–Advanced ESL & Native Speakers

DNA gene coding

The human genome is being mapped by scientists. (too many to mention)

Better cancer treatment is expected by everyone.

This knowledge can be used by anyone.

By-phrases: include identifying, important information

Intermediate ESL

detective with magnifying glass

An emergency call was received by the police late last night. 

An emergency call was received [by someone] late last night.

Passive Verb w/ Indirect Object: focus on the "patient" or the "recipient" of the action taken

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers


Our math teacher assigned us a project.

A project was assigned to us by our math teacher.

We were assigned a project by our math teacher.


We were announced the project.

The project was explained me.

The project was explained to me.

Intransitive Verbs (Never Passive) recognize verbs that do not take objects

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

audience smiling

The audience laughed.

*The audience was laughed.

The baby weighed 7 lbs.

*The baby was weighed 7 lbs.

Nonfinite Clauses—Timing & Voice: express earlier, same or later timing  (active & passive)

Intermediate–Advanced ESL

door unlocked

Jack seems to have left the door unlocked. (earlier)

He should have known better. (earlier)

Jack remembers having left in a hurry. (earlier)

He admits to being preoccupied. (same time)

He was told to lock the door. (same time)

He plans to double-check the door before leaving. (later)

Get-Passives: express circumstance or emotional response to an action or event

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Embarrassed woman

I got hacked!    (someone got into my computer data)

I got upset(participle modifier / adj. –not a true passive) 

I got fooled "Poor me!"

I got my computer restored.   "I did it myself"

I got a technician to restore my computer.   "I made it happen."

Clause Reduction 1: shorten modifying clauses with be verb forms

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

talk show 

 The seat [that was] next to me was empty.

The woman [who is] seated behind me is eating popcorn. 

A talk show [which is] trying to improve its rating may plan a fight. 

Clause Reduction 2: shorten modifying clauses with active verb forms

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers


 The subcommittee [which meets] next week will discuss a new bill.

 The subcommittee meeting next week will discuss a new bill.

Past Participle Clauses: reduce passive sentences to past-participial modifying clauses

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge, [which was] designed by Charles Ellis, ...

The Golden Gate Bridge, designed by Charles Ellis, ...

Present Participle Clauses: reduce active sentences to present-participle modifying clauses

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers


The federal agency, which was locating the prison on Alcatraz,
preferred the isolated location of the island.

The federal agency, which was located in San Francisco,
preferred the isolated location of the island.

Been / Being: contrast the sounds of been and being

Beginning–Intermediate ESL

Doctor spanking baby

We've been quiet.   (present perfect - active)
We're being quiet.   (present progressive - active)

We've been seen by Dr. Allen.   (present perfect - passive)
We 're being seen by Dr. Allen (present progressive - passive)

Passive in Context: identify passive sentences in the context of an article

Intermediate ESL, Native Speaker

microscopic gene image

"Mapping the human genome has been compared with putting a man on the moon, ..."

The medical benefits of genome science, scientists agree, must be used to benefit all people, not only a privileged few.

Participle w/ Preps: express reaction to circumstances or things

Intermediate–Advanced ESL


The children were interested in hearing his story.
The press was excited about the President's speech.

The President is pleased with the response.
The President is pleased with how the people responded.

He is interested in and excited about his new project.

Participle + Prep: pair participle modifiers with prepositions

Intermediate–Advanced ESL

Paparazzi camera flash

Celebrities are concerned ____(at, with, by, about) the activities of the Paparazzi.