Verbs: Other Uses Of The Passive Voice

Verbs: Other Uses Of The Passive Voice

The main reason why the passive voice is used is that the speaker wants to focus on the action or the experience rather than on who or what is performing the action. In this case, the subject and object of the sentence or question are swapped (the object becomes the subject and the subject becomes the object or it is omitted).


1. We can use phrasal verbs in passive voice, but when the object has become the subject of the sentence or question (or has been omitted), obviously the phrasal verb cannot be divided or separated. There are some examples:



2. We can use passive -ing forms.

We usually use passive -ing forms (being + -ing) and Perfect passive -ing forms (having been + -ing):

1) after verbs that are followed by -ing forms (Mary loves being given flowers);

2) as a subject of a sentence (Being proved wrong is never a good experience);

3) as a participle, usually with the meaning of “because” (Being paid weekly, I find all my bills easy to pay).

*We can use these passive -ing forms to refer to the past after certain verbs (e.g. to remember, to regret, etc.)

We remember not being involved/having been involved in some sports competitions at school.

3. We can use passive infinitives.

A passive infinitive is the infinitive of “to be” + past participle.

There are some examples:

There is so much to be done.

This homework is to be finished by me.

The play is going to be screened tomorrow.


There are a few passive infinitive constructions:

1) to be + past participle (We use this form to refer to the present or future)

My sister was hoping to be accepted on a new German course.


2) to have been + past participle (We use this form to refer to the past)

London Eye is the most impressive attraction to have been built in the city.


3) after the verb “to need

Your garage needs to be cleaned as soon as possible.

The house needs to be painted.

However, in certain circumstances, a gerund may follow the verb “to need”. In this case, the gerund carries a passive meaning. Usually the situations involve fixing or improving something.

Your garage needs to be cleaned as soon as possible. = Your garage needs cleaning as soon as possible.

The house needs to be painted. = The house needs painting.

4) in reported speech with “ask for + object”

The senior policeman asked for the suspects to be held in the cells all night.


4. We can use the passive voice with verbs with two objects.

Verbs that have two objects (usually a person and a thing) in the active voice usually have two passive forms because either of the objects can become the new subject. Here are some examples:

Her aunt gave a doll to the little girl. (Active voice)

The doll was given to the little girl (by her aunt).(Passive voice – the focus is on the direct object “the doll”).

The little girl was given a doll (by her aunt) (Passive voice – the focus is on the indirect object “the little girl”).

*We usually add a preposition before the personal object.

A note was handed to the professor Clarke.

A piece of cake was cut for him.



5. There are also verbs that are not used in the passive voice. Here are some examples:

1) verbs describing states (e.g. to be, to belong, to seem, to have (= to own), to pretend etc.)

This book belongs to me. This book is belonged to me.

I have a new car. A new car is had by me.

2) verbs followed by (an object +) to + infinitive (e.g. to refuse, to want etc.)

The manager refused to answer our questions. Our questions were refused to answer by the manager.

I want you to leave immediately. He is wanted to leave immediately.

3) intransitive verbs

The plane has taken off in the morning. The plane has been taken off in the morning.

The guests arrived too early. The guests were arrived too early.

4) have + noun to describe an action (e.g have breakfast/lunch/dinner, have a shower/a bath etc.)

My sister is having a shower now. A shower is being had by my sister now.

We are having breakfast. Breakfast is being had by us.


6. We can sometimes use to get instead of to be in passive forms that describe different actions (e.g. unexpected, accidental, unusual). However, we cannot use to get when we are talking about states. There are some examples:

They got punished by the head teacher for cheating during the exams.

Maria got promoted yesterday because she had worked hard.

These sports cars are owned by my family. These sports cars get owned by our family. (It is a state).


7. When we want to avoid mentioning generalized agents (we, they, people, everybody, one, etc.) with reporting verbs, we can use several passive patterns:


1. It + passive verb + that-clause

Everybody knows that my grandmother likes TV shows.

It is known that my grandmother likes TV shows.

2. Subject + passive verb + to-infinitive

Everybody knows that my grandmother likes TV shows.

My grandmother is known to like TV shows.

There are some examples of reporting verbs used in passive voice to allege, to discover, to know, to say, to assume, to estimate, to observe, to see, to believe, to expect, to presume, to show, to claim, to feel, to prove, to suppose, to consider, to find, to report, to think, to declare, to intend, to reveal, to understand.

8. We can make active sentences with verb + object + infinitive without to with the verbs to make (meaning force or require), to see, to hear and to help:

She helped him prepare for his exams.

John made me tidy his room instead of him.

However, in the passive form we use the infinitive with to:


He was helped to prepare for his exams.

I was made to tidy his room instead of him.

When the verb to let means to allow, it doesn’t have a passive form, that’s why we should use a passive form to allow/to permit or to give permission + infinitive with to:

Our parents let us go to the party. – We were allowed/permitted/given permission to go to the party. We were let to go to the party.