English Level: Intermediate, Advanced
Language Focus: A review of the passive voice in contrast to the active voice
Grammar Worksheet: active-passive-voice-worksheet.docx (scroll down to study the exercises online)
Note: For a detailed explanation of why we use the passive voice, please read this lesson.
Review of the Passive Voice
Only sentences that have the object of a verb can be changed to the passive voice.
Active voice: I invited John.
[subject] + [verb] + [object]
Passive voice: John was invited by me.
In a passive sentence, the object of the verb (in the active sentence) becomes the subject. This is the structure for the passive voice:
John was invited (by me).
[subject] + [BE + Past Participle] (by actor)
The (by actor) part of the sentence is optional.
An active sentence that does not have an object cannot be made into the passive voice.
Active voice: She cried. (The verb has no object, so you cannot make a passive sentence)
Active voice: An accident happened. (Again, no object, so you cannot form a passive sentence)
Intransitive verbs, verbs that never have an object, like be, die, happen, exist, appear can never be made into the passive voice. Only transitive verbs (enjoy, kill, catch, show) can be used in the passive voice. (Hint: They are called transitive because you can transfer an object to them.)
A ghost appeared. (The intransitive verb ‘appear’ has no object.)
Distinguishing between Passive and Active Voice
Guideline 1: If the sentence does not contain BE + Past Participle, then it cannot be a passive sentence.
John was eating a snack. (Not passive – no BE + Past Participle)
Guideline 2: Look at the subject of the sentence and then the verb. Then ask yourself if the subject is the actor of the verb (did John eat?) or was the subject the object of the verb (Did someone eat John?). If the subject is the actor, then it’s an active sentence. If the subject is the object of the verb, then it’s a passive sentence.
Intermediate Exercise #1 – Distinguishing between Active or Passive Voice
- I have never been to Wichita.
- I have never been arrested.
- The tower was built in 1802 by a French Artist.
- Nothing happened.
- No one was injured by the fire.
- The award was given to the top student.
- We decided not to hire anyone.
- The pizza was delicious.
- The pizza was ordered.
- The pizza made me sick.
- I was made sick by the pizza.
Intermediate Exercise #2 – Change Active sentences to Passive (Present Simple and Past Simple)
- I didn’t fix the problem.
The problem wasn’t fixed by me.
- Police protect the town.
The town is protected by the police.
- John’s mother raised him in a small town.
John was raised in a small town by his mother. (note: the ‘by his mother’ phrase can be after the verb or at the end of the sentence)
- Someone painted the building last year.
The building was painted last year (by someone).
- Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928.
Penicillin was discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming.
- Some students study grammar on the Internet.
Grammar is studied on the Internet by some students.
Intermediate Exercise #3 – Add the Appropriate Verb in the Past Simple
Look at the subject and verb to determine if it is an active or passive sentence. Then add the appropriate verb. Use the Past Simple tense for this exercise.
- Many people (buy) tickets for last night’s concert. All the tickets (sell).
- The child (help) by his father. His toys (pick up) and put into a drawer.
- Scientists (discover) a new species of frog.
- The students (not/raise) their hands.
- Last night’s dinner (prepare) by my wife.
- The safety rules (not/follow), so an accident (happen).
- Because the printer (damage), we couldn’t print.
- The house (have) a swimming pool when I lived there.
- I (not/allow) to drink alcohol when I was young.
Advanced Exercise #1 – Distinguishing between Active or Passive Voice
Mark if the sentence is in the active or passive voice. (Remember to look for the BE + Past Participle structure.)
- The company was shut down by the police.
- We had been given the wrong tickets.
- She wishes she had been there.
- He might not have been paying attention.
- He should not have been asked to pay.
- Chemicals can be toxic.
- New regulations will be introduced next spring.
Advanced Exercise #2 – Change Active sentences to Passive (Present Simple and Past Simple)
- Someone had broken the window by 3:00 p.m.
The window had been broken (by someone) by 3:00 p.m.
- A strange man was watching us.
We were being watched by a strange man.
- Tokyo will hold the Olympics in 2020.
The Olympics will be held in* Tokyo in 2020. (*’in’ is more natural here than ‘by’, though ‘by’ is correct also.)
- We are working on the report right now.
The report is being worked on right now (by us).
- My manager has told him to arrive earlier.
He has been told (by my manager) to arrive earlier.
- They could not have made the mistake.
The mistake could not have been made by them.
- I hope they are going to hire me soon.
I hope I am going to be hired by them soon.
Advanced Exercise #3 – All Verb Tenses
Look at the subject and verb to determine if it is an active or passive sentence. Then add the appropriate verb. Be careful with intransitive verbs (verbs that do not have an object – they cannot be used in the passive voice.)
- That car looks like it has never (wash).
- If I were you, I would (contact) a lawyer.
- Have you (inform) yet about the new policy?
- Unfortunately, the budget has (not/approve) yet.
- A smile (appear) on her face.
- We (wait) for 30 minutes. Where is the bus?
- The performance (happen) right now. Let’s go.
- I’ll be happy if our plan (succeed).
- The server (order) to clean up the mess he had made.
- The judge ordered that smoking (prohibit) in restaurants.
- His grandfather (pass away) years ago.
- Janet rode an airplane yesterday for the first time. The airplane, which (operate) by Singapore Airlines, (fly) by an experienced pilot.
- I wouldn’t have complained if the food (not/be) overcooked.
I hope these passive voice exercises have been useful. Find a mistake? Have a question? Leave a comment below.
— Created by Matthew Barton of Englishcurrent.com (copyright)
- Ergative Verbs and the Passive Voice
- The Passive Voice in Newspaper Headlines
- When to Use the Passive Voice
- Irregular Verb Exercises