Present and past simple passive – grammar chart
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Active sentences vs passive sentences
When A does B, we have two possible ways of talking about it: active or passive. In active sentences A is the subject (before the verb). In passive sentences B is the subject. Check the following examples:
- Somebody cleans the classroom every day. (Active)
- The classroom is cleaned every day. (Passive)
- Somebody cleaned the classroom yesterday. (Active)
- The classroom was cleaned yesterday. (Passive)
As you can see, the object of an active sentence is the subject of a passive sentence. In an active sentence, the subject is the ‘doer’ of the action and the object is the ‘receiver’ of the action. And in a passive sentence, the subject is the receiver of the action, NOT the doer. Compare:
- A) Somebody broke the window.
- B) The window was broken (by someone).
In sentence A, ‘somebody’ is the doer of the breaking, and in sentence B, ‘the window’ is the receiver of the breaking.
When do we use the passive?
The passive is more formal than the active and it is more common in written language. We often use the passive when we don’t know, when it is obvious, or when we don’t want so say who or what is responsible for the action.
- A bank was robbed yesterday. (We don’t know who robbed the bank.)
- The robber was arrested last night. (It’s obvious that the police arrested the robber.)
- I was told that you insulted my brother. (I don’t want to say who told me.)
- Jurassic Park was filmed by Spielberg in 1993. (I’m talking about Jurassic Park and not about Spielberg.)
Passive voice + by
We can use by to say who or what is responsible for the action.
- The painting was bought by a very rich American.
- Penicillin was invented by Alexander Fleming.