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Using Passive Voice (#1), by Dennis Oliver

  

Using Passive Voice #1:
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In English, verbs may be active or passive. In sentences
with active verbs, the subject performs ("does") the action.
In sentences with passive verbs, the subject receives the
action. (That is, someone or something other than the actual
subject grammatically performs the action.)

Passive verbs always have at least two parts: a form of BE
and a past participle. In the simple present and simple past
tenses, only these two parts are used:


Simple Present


English is used as an international language.

These Hints are written on a Mac.

"Dave's ESL Cafe on the Web" is maintained
by Dave Sperling.


Simple Past


"Dave's ESL Cafe" was started in 1995.

The first Hint of the Day was written about three years ago.

Dave and his wife were married in Thailand.


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Other Forms of the Passive


The form of the passive in tenses other than simple present
and simple past combines the required form for the tenses
with the required form for passive:


Present Progressive
(BE + -ing verb for present progressive, BE + past participle
for passive):


This Hint is being prepared on a Macintosh.

New WWW sites are being created every day.


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Past Progressive
(was / were + -ing verb for present progressive, BE +
past participle
for passive):


Dinner was being served when I entered the cafeteria.

The last tickets were being sold when we arrived at
the box office.


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Present Perfect
(has / have + past participle for present perfect, BE +
past participle for passive):


"Dave's ESL Cafe" has been visited by many people.

Many sections have been added to the original
"Dave's ESL Cafe."


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Present Perfect Progressive*
(has / have + past participle for present perfect, BE + -ing
verb for progressive, BE + past participle for passive):


Questions have been being sent to the ESL Cafe's
Help Center since its first days on the WWW.

His car has been being repaired for more than
a week. When will it be ready?


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Past Perfect
(had + past participle for present perfect, BE + past participle
for passive):


The last tickets had already been sold when we arrived at
the box office.

Attendance had already been taken before I arrived
in class.


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Past Perfect Progressive*
(had + past participle for present perfect, BE + -ing verb
for progressive, BE + past participle for passive):


Those questions had been being discussed before
the president arrived and changed the agenda.

Dishes had been being washed by hand before
the restaurant got a machine to do that job.


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Future Perfect
(will + past participle for present perfect, BE + past participle
for passive):


We're going to be late! Dinner will already have been served
by the time
that we get there!


All of the work will have been finished by late tomorrow.


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Future Perfect Progressive*
(will + past participle for present perfect, BE + -ing verb for
progressive, BE + past participle for passive):


In March, 2002, these Hints will have been being written
for more than four years.


We're going to be late! Dinner will have been being served
long before we arrive at the restaurant!


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Present / Future Modal + Passive
(modal + BE + past participle):


The meeting may be canceled if there are scheduling conflicts

Applications will be accepted until 5:00 PM on Friday.


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Past Modal + Passive
(modal + have + past participle, BE + past participle):


Your question could have been answered by several
different people. Why didn't you ask?

His car might have been stolen or it might have been
towed by th police.


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Present / Future Passive Infinitive
(to + simple verb for infinitive, BE + past participle for passive):


He wants to be elected president.


We expect the work to be completed in about an hour.


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Past Passive Infinitive
(to + have + past participle for past infinitive, BE +
past participle for passive):


He planned to have been elected president by the time
he was 40 years old.

We expected the work to have been completed yesterday,
but it wasn't.

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* Special Note:

Passives for the progressive forms of perfect tenses are not
very common and are actually rather awkward. They should
be used sparingly and carefully.


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Next: more on passive voice

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