Why use the passive voice?
In order to get higher marks in the grammar column of your writing task (See IELTS Writing Band Descriptors – 2017), you should try using the passive voice to express your points and ideas.
Why is the passive voice hard to use accurately? This tense is quite hard to use accurately, as it doesn’t exist in lots of languages.
Passive Voice Explanations
Here I will give you explanations of the most used tenses in the passive voice, with phrases you can use, especially in your task 2.
Remember the point of the passive is what you are focusing your attention on in the sentence.
Ask: What is the most important part of the sentence?
Ask: Can that part of the sentence(subject in the passive) do what you are describing by itself (if yes – use the active verb) or does it need a person/ thing to make the action happen? (if yes – use the passive verb)
You can’t make a passive form of the sentence if the active verb is an intransitive verb, which means it doesn’t need an object.
He will arrive at 5.00pm. – The verb form of the passive
To Be + past participle
Present Simple Active:
They grow oranges in Seville (plural) – Subject verb object
In the passive the focus of attention is the object of the active sentence.
In this active sentence the object is oranges.
In the passive sentences the object moves to the beginning of the sentence
Present Simple Active becomes Present Simple Passive
Present Simple Passive:
Oranges are grown in Seville (plural of verb to be)(grown by people)
You use the passive when the main idea (here grow oranges) is done by something or somebody
A useful present simple passive expression for Task 2:
It is thought that/It is believed that
Past Simple Active:
Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet in 1595
Subject verb object(singular)
They built very simple houses in the past(plural)
Past Simple Passive:
Romeo and Juliet was written in 1595 (by somebody so passive is used)(singular of the verb to be)
Very simple houses were built in the past (plural of the verb to be)
A useful past simple passive for Task 2:
In earlier times it was thought/believed that
Present perfect simple Active:
Millions of people have visited
Buckingham Palace has been visited by millions of people
A useful present perfect simple passive for task 2
It has been suggested that …
A useful present perfect simple passive for task 1 (changes in a diagram)
In the second diagram the wooded area has been chopped down and a new school has been built there (these changes have been done by somebody – the passive is needed)
Past perfect simple active:
If you look at the second diagram, you can see that in 2010 a new school had replaced the old factory
For Task 1 (changes in a diagram) a Useful way to use:
Past perfect simple passive:
If you look at the second diagram, you can see that in 2010 the old factory had been replaced by a new school
Future Simple Active:
The local community will take steps to help
Future simple passive:
steps will be taken by the local community
Useful expression for task 2
to be + past participle(a future tense)
An important point to be considered is….
Practise, Practise, Practise
How to improve
You need to do the following exercises to help the rules of the passive and when to use it become fixed in your head and easy to use correctly.
Here are some exercises to consolidate your knowledge.
Correct the following:
A) A huge number of crimes have significantly reduced
B) the crime rate has been dropped remarkably
Change the following into the passive:
1. After the car crash, someone called the emergency services.
2. Pepe waiter serves the main course every day.
3. Everyone had told me about the changeable English climate.
4. My brother has painted the bedroom.
5. You can’t use the internet before 6.00 am.
Change the following into the active:
1. The Christmas Dinner is always cooked by my mother
2. The grass was cut by the gardener yesterday.
3. A point to be considered…
4. If this law had been imposed by the government, criminals might have been caught much more quickly.
5. 68,000 cups of tea will have been drunk in an average Brit’s lifetime.
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