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The passive
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The passive

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  • 1. THE PASSIVEform and use
  • 2. The passive is common in technical andscientific writing, and generally inspoken and written contexts wherethere is less use of personal reference,since the audience may be unknown, orthe speaker wants to remainImpersonal.
  • 3. Passive reporting structuresWith verbs such as believe, think, say, know, which report people’sopinions, a passive construction is often used to give a generalizedopinion or not to mention the person whose words are being reported:1. (present reference):The criminal is thought to be in the London area / It is thoght that the criminal is in the London area.2. (past reference):Sarah is said to have engagged with Tom last week /It is said that Sarah gotengagged with Tom last week.
  • 4. More on structures with impersonal ITWe can use the same pattern with IT when reportingspecific decisions or opinions:It was decided that the meeting had to be cancelled.(But also)The meeting was decided to be cancelled. cancelledWe can use any of these structures with verbs such as agree,assume, argue, demostrate, …
  • 5. Verbs with two objects(active) Somebody gave the police the information.(passive)The police were given the information. information(but also)The information was given TO the police. policeOther verbs which can have two objects are:Ask, offer, pay, show, teach, tellMost often we begin with the personal object. object
  • 6. Verbs make, hear, see, helpIn the active the structure is as follows:Verb+ object+ infinitive without TO:My sister made me cry a lot.However, in the passive we use the infinitivewith TO: TOI was made to cry a lot.
  • 7. Have / Get something doneThis structure typically describes a service performed for us bysomeone else:I’ve just had/got my car repaired.GET is often used in informal English. EnglishThis structure is also used to refer to something, usuallyunpleasant or unexpected, done to the subject withoutpermission:She had her passport stolen at the airport.
  • 8. Final remarks Verbs with no direct objectThere are some verbs (intransitive): arrive, land, …which are never used Certain verbs following this structure:in the passive: verb+ object + TO infinitive (e.g.: want, refuse) Certain verbs describing states, such as have, be, belong, lack, resemble, pretend and seem HAVE + a noun to describe an action: Have breakfast, have dinner, … dinner