Definition: The Passive occurs in most aspects and tenses and changes the emphasis.

Formation: To be + Past Participle

We use the passive form to say what happens to people and things, to say what is done to them.

For example:

  • English is spoken here.
  • The car is being repaired.

We use the passive form when we don't know who did the action.

For example:

  • The car was damaged while it was parked on the street.
  • The shirts were made in Turkey.

We use the passive form when what was done is more important than who did it.

For example:

  • It was approved by Gerry last week.
  • I was informed by the Human Resources Manager only two days ago.

Notes: When rewriting active sentences in passive voice, note the following:

  • The object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence
  • The finite form of the verb is changed (to be + past participle)
  • The subject of the active sentence becomes the object of the passive sentence (or is dropped)

For example:

  • Rita writes a letter.
    => A letter is written by Rita.
  • Rita is writing a letter.
    => A letter is being written by Rita.

Passive tenses and active equivalents
Notice that the tense of the verb to be in the passive voice is the same as the tense of the main verb in the active voice.

Example: to keep




Simple present


is kept

Present continuous

is keeping

is being kept

Simple past


was kept

Past continuous

was keeping

was being kept

Present perfect

have kept

have been kept

Past perfect

had kept

had been kept


will keep

will be kept

Conditional present

would keep

would be kept

Conditional past

would have kept

would have been kept

present infinitive

to keep

to be kept

perfect infinitive

to have kept

to have been kept

present participle/gerund


being kept

perfect participle

having kept

having been kept

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