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ESL Lesson: Passive Voice


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Hi. This PPT is intended for students and teachers of ESL. It teaches the passive voice in a simple way. It's an all-inclusive lesson so you can teach it right out of the box! If you like it, check out my other websites: and

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ESL Lesson: Passive Voice

  1. 1. A more formal style of writing for IELTS students PASSIVE VOICE
  2. 2. In English, voice refers to the relationship between subject and verb. There are two voices: WHAT IS VOICE? Active Passive Subject does the verb Verb is done to the subject
  3. 3. In this type of sentence, the subject of the verb is acting, therefore it is active. For example: The cat ate the mouse. ACTIVE VOICE subject verb object
  4. 4. In each example below, the subject is doing the verb.  The poacher shot the tiger.  The poacher (subject) is doing the shooting.  The printer ate my paper.  The printer (subject) is doing the eating.  Sara will give a speech to the class.  Sara (subject) will do the giving. ACTIVE VOICE
  5. 5. The active voice is reversed in this type of sentence. The subject now receives the verb passively. For example: The mouse was eaten by the cat. PASSIVE VOICE subject verb
  6. 6. In each example below, the subject is receiving the action of the verb.  The tiger was shot by the poacher.  My paper was eaten by the printer.  A speech will be given to the class by Sara. PASSIVE VOICE
  7. 7. The active voice is far more common than the passive because:  It is more direct  It is easier to understand (ie less awkward)  It is more concise  It clearly indicates the relationship between the different parts of the sentence. It is therefore better for conveying simple, straightforward actions and ideas. CHOOSING A VOICE
  8. 8. For example: I watered the plants yesterday. (This is clear and simple.) The plants were watered by me yesterday. (This sounds strange and convoluted) CHOOSING A VOICE
  9. 9. The passive voice is used mainly in these two situations: 1. When you do not know, or do not want to say, who performed an action. 2. When it is more important to focus on the recipient of the action. CHOOSING A VOICE
  10. 10. The man was arrested last night. - We do not need to say “by the police” because it is obvious. A woman was murdered. - By whom? We don’t know. Shoplifters will be prosecuted. - Again, we clearly know who would perform this action; there is no need to say. PASSIVE VOICE
  11. 11. On the Road was written by Jack Kerouac. Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road. These have the same meaning, but in the first the emphasis is on On the Road, while in the second the emphasis is on its author, Jack Kerouac. PASSIVE VOICE
  12. 12. Making the passive voice requires the verb to be plus the past participle of the verb. Active: Susan made these cakes. Passive: These cakes were made by Susan. FORMING THE PASSIVE
  13. 13. In order to form the passive, you must be very familiar with the various forms of “to be”. FORMING THE PASSIVE • Am • Is • Are • Was • Were • Be • Being • Been
  14. 14. Let’s look at an example of how we use “to be” with the verb “written”: FORMING THE PASSIVE is written had been written was written is going to be written is being written will be written has been written can be written was being written should be written
  15. 15. You can only use the passive with transitive verbs (those which take objects). You cannot use with intransitive verbs (those which can’t take objects”) She cleaned the apartment. The apartment had been cleaned. She arrived at the apartment. The apartment had been arrived at. FORMING THE PASSIVE
  16. 16. TENSES
  17. 17. If it is important, the do-er of the verb can be included following the word “by”. The poem was written by Allen Ginsberg. You can easily rewrite a passive sentence into an active one. Just remove “by” and put the do-er at the beginning of the sentence! (Don’t forget to change the verb tense, though.) Allen Ginsberg wrote the poem. FORMING THE PASSIVE
  18. 18. Examples:  Passive: The tea was made by a kindly old lady.  Active: A kindly old lady made the tea.  Passive: Those holes are made by rats.  Active: Rats made those holes. FORMING THE PASSIVE
  19. 19. Let’s do a little practice TEST
  20. 20. Change the sentences below to the active voice. 1. Hundreds of photos are taken by tourists each year. 2. My lunch was taken by someone this morning. 3. This coat was left here by a student. 4. Rice is grown by farmers all across Asia. 5. The painting was stolen by thieves last year and they are being hunted by police. PRACTICE
  21. 21. 1. Tourists take hundreds of photos each year. 2. Someone took my lunch this morning. 3. A student left this coat here. 4. Farmers all across Asia grow rice. (or Farmers grow rice all across Asia) 5. Thieves stole the painting last year and the police are hunting them. ANSWERS
  22. 22. I hope you found this lesson useful. I have plenty of FREE resources for studying IELTS: Also see my teaching website: and my personal travel site: THANKS FOR LEARNING!