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Passive Verbs

The verb tense chart on the Verb Tenses page, lists the ‘active’ forms of the verbs.

Q. What do we mean by “active”?

A. The subject ‘does’ the action.

For example:        The young boy ate a chocolate chip cookie.

The boy is the subject of the sentence and the cookie is the object. The boy does the action to the cookie, so we use an active verb.

However, when the subject receives the action we use the passive form.

For example:        The cookie was eaten by a young boy.

In this example, the subject is the cookie, and it receives the action of being eaten, so we use the passive form of the verb.

The passive form uses the verb 'to be' plus the past participle (the 3rd form of the verb - e.g. spoken, eaten, etc)

What would our verb tense chart look like if we were using passive verbs? See below.

Passive Verbs: Text
Passive Verbs: Image

You’ll notice that passive verbs can be used in nearly all the verb tenses we use active verbs.

Exercise: Put each of the sentences below into the passive form (the answers are below).

  1. The lightning struck the golfer on the knee. 

The golfer __________________________________________________________.

    2. Look! The angry dog is chasing the postman down the street.

The postman ________________________________________________________.

    3. The Central Bank has raised interest rates for the third consecutive month.

Interest rates ________________________________________________________.

    4. The excited crowd cheered on the two boxers.

The two boxers ______________________________________________________.

    5. The company’s most experienced pilot was flying the airplane when it crashed.

The airplane _______________________________________________________________. 

    6. Farmers all over Brazil have sown soya beans.

Soya beans ________________________________________________________________.

    7. People all over the world will watch the World Cup this summer.

The World Cup _____________________________________________________________.

    8. Some thieves broke in to our building and stole my car.

My car ____________________________________________________________________.

    9. It is possible to take the GMAT as many times as necessary to obtain the score you need.

The GMAT _________________________________________________________________.

 10. A famous Italian collector recently bought the Picasso that was on auction at Sothebys.

The Picasso ________________________________________________________________.

The passive form of the verb is also used in other situations, such as in modifiers (see page 62). However, in these situations, the auxiliary verb to be is not used.


               Designed by Jørn Utzon in 1957, Sydney Opera House was finally completed in 1973.

               The footballer known as Pelé was actually christened Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

In the examples above, the sentences have passive verbs (with the verb to be) and also the passive form of the verb as part of the modifiers. We’ll explore modifiers in a later section.



  1. The golfer was struck on the knee by lightning.

  2. Look! The postman is being chased down the street by an angry dog.

  3. Interest rates have been raised by the Central Bank for the third consecutive month.

  4. The two boxers were cheered on by the excited crowd.

  5. The airplane was being flown by the company’s most experienced pilot when it crashed. 

  6. Soya beans have been sown by farmers all over Brazil.

  7. The World Cup will be watched by people all over the world this summer

  8. My car was stolen by some thieves who broke into our building.

  9. The GMAT may be taken as many times as necessary to obtain the score needed.

  10. The Picasso on auction at Sothebys was bought by a famous Italian collector.

Passive Verbs: Text
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