Worksheet: The Passive Voice in Newspaper Headlines (Intermediate ESL)

Newspaper Headlines - Active or Passive?

Headlines in newspapers are very short. They usually do not include punctuation, articles, and auxiliary verbs.

Newspaper headlines using the passive voice

Can you understand the headline here? Which of the below sentences is correct form of the headline?

  1.  "Cameron accused as troubled charity fails" (the active voice, where Cameron is the agent doing the verb.)
  2. "Cameron is accused as troubled charity fails" (a passive voice, where Cameron is the object of the verb accused.)

The answer is... #2 -- passive voice! The full sentence, written grammatically (with articles and punctuation) would be the following:

Camera is accused as his/the trouble charity fails.

Headlines are tricky, aren't they? They can also be a great way to study the passive voice.

Task: Some of the headlines below are in the active voice and some are in the passive voice. Rewrite the headlines so that they are grammatically correct. This means inserting articles (a/an/the), punctuation (.,!), and the be verb if the sentence is passive. Good luck!

Note: To review the grammar for the passive voice, please visit our page on the passive voice and when to use it.

(Teachers: You can download the worksheet here to use in class: newspaper-headlines-passive.doc)

Toronto named `most youthful' city in world


Toronto was/has been named 'the most youthful' city in the world.  (Passive)

Taylor Swift wins top prize at American Music Awards


Taylor Swift wins the top prize at the American Music Awards. (Active)

World's Biggest Bookstore sold to developer


 The world's biggest bookstore was/has been sold to a developer. (Passive)

Two baby baboons born at Brooklyn zoo


Two baby baboons were born at the Brooklyn zoo.  (Passive)

Scottish government reveals independence plan


 The Scottish government reveals an/their independence plan (Active)

World's first electric helicopter takes flight in Germany


 The world's first electric helicopter takes flight in Germany.  (Active)

Obama elected president for second term


Obama was/has been elected president for a second term.  (Passive)

Mothers asked nearly 300 questions a day


Mothers are asked nearly 300 questions a day.  (Passive)

2000 workers laid off by Ford motor company last month


2000 workers were laid off by (the) Ford motor company last month.  (Passive)

Please feel free to write comments or questions below about the passive exercise.

- Matthew Barton / Writer at 


English Current recommends Grammarly as a learning tool to reduce English mistakes. If you found this page helpful, consider a donation to our hosting bill to show your support!

57 comments on “Worksheet: The Passive Voice in Newspaper Headlines (Intermediate ESL)

  1. hepsi (Posted on 12-10-2013 at 12:02) Reply

    why cant- toronto has been named the most useful city in the world- be the right answer?

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 12-10-2013 at 15:39) Reply

      You’re right. It can be. Thanks. I changed it.

    2. Anonymous (Posted on 11-19-2021 at 18:44) Reply

      because it is the most intelligent in the world, since it has the most technological advances.

  2. Anonymous (Posted on 1-26-2014 at 11:45) Reply

    It was very nice n it was useful for me at last movement.


  3. roobal (Posted on 2-4-2014 at 11:50) Reply

    Please give a detailed information about its usage.I am till now not able to find when to use active and when to use passive….

  4. Jimmy (Posted on 11-18-2014 at 13:52) Reply

    Boring. I hate it. I could be reading or skating instead of this.

    1. Anonymous (Posted on 9-9-2021 at 07:48) Reply

      Well, then why read it?

  5. logu (Posted on 11-25-2014 at 10:13) Reply

    it is very nice to learn and i learned

  6. Riya (Posted on 2-22-2015 at 13:41) Reply


      1. Anonymous (Posted on 6-2-2019 at 04:53) Reply


  7. Anonymous (Posted on 2-26-2015 at 13:56) Reply




    1. mb Post author (Posted on 2-26-2015 at 20:44) Reply

      Your sentence grammatically fine. However, in the exercise above, you can’t change the words (e.g. you can’t change ‘wins’ to ‘won’). It’s about recognizing whether the newspaper headlines are passive or active voice.

      1. Anonymous (Posted on 3-1-2015 at 07:37) Reply

        oh thanks …
        you have cleared a lot but is my sentence correct if you had to change it into passive

      2. Anonymous (Posted on 3-1-2015 at 07:43) Reply


        1. Anonymous (Posted on 3-1-2015 at 07:44) Reply

          YOU ARE GREAT

      3. Anonymous (Posted on 3-1-2015 at 07:58) Reply

        Is it like only past tense is passive…

        No right so .. how will the 1st one or several one of them be passive.
        How do you decide whether it is active or passive ….

        In conection to this I have read all your other active passive documents
        Can you,please solve my problem.
        I am a student of grade 6…………….

        1. mb Post author (Posted on 3-1-2015 at 10:44) Reply

          The passive can be used in the past, present, or future.
          To decide whether the sentence is active or passive, you need to look at the sentence’s subject. Is it the agent (actor) of the verb? Or is it the object of the verb? If it’s the object, then you’ve got a passive construction. If it’s the agent (or doer) of the verb, then it’s an active sentence.

  8. Anonymous (Posted on 2-26-2015 at 14:00) Reply

    I am the same anonymous person ………
    please help me within 48 hours ………


    ON TUESDAY……………………………………………HELP

  9. anonymous (Posted on 3-23-2015 at 07:44) Reply

    very good questions actually helped me to make out for my exams :tommorrow

  10. guria (Posted on 6-26-2015 at 11:31) Reply

    Why cant we use top prize at American music award is won by taylor swift. Plz clear my doubt

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 6-26-2015 at 12:28) Reply

      You can. But the purpose of the exercise is not to change _all_ the sentences to passive. The purpose is to recognize which sentences are active and which are passive. “Taylor Swift wins top prize” is an active sentence, and it does not contain any errors in the verb.

  11. cyftugujkjl (Posted on 7-22-2015 at 09:46) Reply

    there can be more exercies

  12. jayaritha (Posted on 8-30-2015 at 10:43) Reply

    very useful…… post

  13. shwetangi (Posted on 9-17-2015 at 13:08) Reply

    Freaking amazing….

    Love it …..

  14. Vandana bansal (Posted on 12-26-2015 at 09:28) Reply

    Gr8 ones
    Helped me a lot:)
    W8ng for more

  15. Anonymous (Posted on 1-12-2016 at 09:55) Reply

    This helped me to do my HOME Work thank you

  16. vedant (Posted on 2-4-2016 at 02:53) Reply

    when we use is/was and when we use has been /had been? how we recognise which helping verb should we use?

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 2-4-2016 at 17:38) Reply

      – Use ‘is/are’ to change a sentence in the simple present into the passive voice. E.g. I make money. > Money is made (by me).
      – Use ‘was/were’ to change a sentence in the simple past into the passive voice. E.g. I hired John. > John was hired (by me).
      – Use ‘has/have’ to change a sentence in the present perfect simple into the passive voice. E.g. I have finished my homework > My homework has been finished (by me).
      – Use ‘had’ to change a sentence in the past perfect simple into the passive voice. E.g. I had phoned John. > John had been phoned (by me).

  17. Christine (Posted on 4-6-2016 at 09:42) Reply

    Can you help with this passive sentence, need to understand how to change it to active form.

    The site of the castle was carefully chosen

    e.g. is it:(someone) had to choose the site of the castle carefully?

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 4-6-2016 at 14:39) Reply

      Active: Someone carefully chose the site of the castle.
      (The passive sentence is in past simple without ‘had to’ so the active sentence should be in past simple without ‘had to’)

  18. saroja (Posted on 7-21-2016 at 10:03) Reply

    Thank you very much it helped me in my project

  19. Gduercu (Posted on 11-30-2016 at 06:15) Reply

    It was a gud moment learning this

    1. anomoyescfd (Posted on 1-3-2017 at 16:58) Reply

      good* not gud

  20. Anonymous (Posted on 12-19-2016 at 09:45) Reply

    Make it in large sentence although it’s good and usefull

  21. Zana (Posted on 12-24-2016 at 13:14) Reply

    Hello this is very helpful for me. My presentation is about expanding headlines. Is this worksheet suitable for my presentation to apply in classroom? and which method?

    1. mb (Posted on 12-24-2016 at 13:50) Reply

      If I were you, I would use local headlines in your presentation. That will be more interesting for your audience.

  22. Anonymous (Posted on 1-23-2017 at 10:47) Reply

    Till more passive voice

  23. Anonymous (Posted on 3-8-2017 at 10:19) Reply

    300 questions a day were asked by (the) mothers.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 3-8-2017 at 12:44) Reply

      If it were an active sentence, the headline would be “Mothers ask 300 questions a day” (without the past participle). The past tense is possible, grammatically, however. Culturally, it’s interesting that some students who see the headline think the mothers are the ones asking questions. Typically in North America, we see children as the source of many (unnecessary) questions.

  24. Anonymous (Posted on 11-19-2017 at 10:07) Reply

    hi, very interesting site. I was just wondering… don’t you have different rules for headlines writing? it’s because, as far as I know, writers tend to omit auxiliary verbs when they’re writing for news headlines and, thus, making what you might consider grammatical errors as you’ve demonstrated above.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 11-19-2017 at 15:21) Reply

      That’s right. The headlines in the exercise aren’t examples of mistakes. But they do provide a good opportunity for students to rewrite them so they can get a better understanding of the passive voice.

  25. Mick (Posted on 2-7-2018 at 11:12) Reply

    I was discussing with another teacher the “Baboons are on display”. My students also contested the passive voice here. Grammatically speaking the baboons are the subject and there is no verb that follows the (to be), so this would make the baboons agents in “being” on display. But for all intents and purposes, monkeys or any zoo animals are never agents in anything other than sitting inside cages. They are deprived of agency. So what is the correct conclusion here? Is this a passive voice (but uses grammatical structure reminiscent of active voice) or is it actually considered active voice? Thanks for your input.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 2-8-2018 at 21:46) Reply

      Hello, Mick. You and your students are right. “Baboons are on display” is not the passive voice. Here, the ‘be’ verb is the main verb. Because the ‘be’ verb is a linking verb and not a transitive verb (a verb that can take an object), we cannot use it in the passive voice. In the baboon sentence, ‘on display’ functions as an adjective, just like ‘visible.’ Of course, ‘Baboons are visible’ is not a passive sentence. It’s Subejct + Verb + Complement. The sentence is neither active nor passive. I will update the answer above. Thank you for pointing it out.

  26. MS (Posted on 1-20-2019 at 08:38) Reply

    My teacher gave me a project based on VOICE…….but I couldn’t find this helpful to do it.

  27. Fitzwilliam (Posted on 8-19-2019 at 10:41) Reply

    Sir, what would be the passive of

    1. MB (Posted on 8-19-2019 at 13:20) Reply

      That headline, written in full, would be “An eight-year-old boy [has been kidnapped/was kidnapped].”

  28. Anonymus (Posted on 10-17-2019 at 11:30) Reply

    Thanks! It helped me a lot in my exams.

  29. Melina (Posted on 3-27-2020 at 13:34) Reply

    Hello. Thanks for the posts, they are very helpful and I really like them!
    I would like to ask how can I know the correct verb tense. For example:
    Cameron accused as troubled charity fails
    Cameron was accused … (It is the correct answer) But,
    Why can’t I put the sentence on the present?
    Cameron is accused…?

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 3-27-2020 at 20:44) Reply

      Hello. Technically, that sentence could be either past tense or present tense, as you point out. But because the final verb is ‘fails’, that suggests we’re talking about something in the present tense, so the most natural verb to use would be ‘is accused’.

  30. Szilvia from Hungary (Posted on 1-12-2021 at 11:08) Reply

    Very useful! Thanks so much :-). It helped me a lot to refresh the passive voice.

  31. Nayra (Posted on 10-5-2021 at 18:37) Reply

    Nice exercise, it was helpful! Thanks

  32. Hadjour Taous (Posted on 5-21-2022 at 10:40) Reply

    Homework (passive and active voice)

  33. Haddad mohamed hichem g06 (Posted on 5-21-2022 at 19:56) Reply

    This site has a problem .

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 5-21-2022 at 21:23) Reply

      What is it?

  34. Hfutdoutstuoutxougxgd (Posted on 9-26-2022 at 18:26) Reply

    Very nice good i am happy this is full of knowledge thamku for that

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *