How to Form the Passive

The passive voice in English is composed of two elements : the appropriate form of the verb ‘to be’ + the past participle of the verb in question:

Subjectverb ‘to be’past participle

The house

was

built …

Example

to clean

Subjectverb ‘to be’past participle

Simple present:

The house

is

cleaned every day.

 
 
 

Present continuous:

The house

is being

cleaned at the moment.

 
 
 

Simple past:

The house

was

cleaned yesterday.

 
 
 

Past continuous:

The house

was being

cleaned last week.

 
 
 

Present perfect:

The house

has been

cleaned since you left.

 
 
 

Past perfect:

The house

had been

cleaned before their arrival.

 
 
 

Future:

The house

will be

cleaned next week.

 
 
 

Future continuous:

The house

will be being

cleaned tomorrow.

 
 
 

Present conditional:

The house

would be

cleaned if they had visitors.

 
 
 

Past conditional:

The house

would have been

cleaned if it had been dirty.

NOTE: ‘to be born’ is a passive form and is most commonly used in the past tense:

  • was born in 1976. When were you born?
  • BUT: Around 100 babies are born in this hospital every week.

Infinitive form: infinitive of ‘to be’ + past participle: (to) be cleaned

This form is used after modal verbs and other verbs normally followed by an infinitive, e.g.

  • You have to be tested on your English grammar
  • John might be promoted next year.
  • She wants to be invited to the party.

Gerund or -ing form: being + past participle: being cleaned

This form is used after prepositions and verbs normally followed by a gerund

Examples

  • Most film stars hate being interviewed.
  • I remember being taught to drive.
  • The children are excited about being taken to the zoo.

NOTE: Sometimes the passive is formed using the verb to get instead of the verb to be:

  • He got arrested for dangerous driving.
  • They’re getting married later this year.
  • I’m not sure how the window got broken.

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