The Passive Voice

Using an altered sentence structure, we can express the result of an action. Here, the focus of the sentence is not on the noun doing the action, but on a noun affected by the action (a noun that would otherwise be an object of an active sentence).

What to Expect

Most sentences are spoken or written in ‘Active’ voice; they focus on a subject noun that does the action or has a state. Sometimes it’s better for the focus of a sentence to be a passive noun. An object noun of a sentence in Active voice can take the lead of a corresponding sentence in ‘Passive’ voice, which almost looks like the sentence is backward.

The featured method is taking 4 steps to turn an Active sentence into a Passive one.


Learners should already be familiar with the following:

Parts of Speech, namely nouns and verbs. Nouns are people, places, things, ideas, and activities. Verbs are actions or states.

Subjects are ‘active’ nouns that do the verbs (or have states). Objects are ‘passive’ nouns. Direct Objects, which are featured in this video, are acted upon by the verb.

Forms of To Be, which is used as an auxiliary verb for Passive Voice.

      • ‘am’/’is’/’are’ for present
      • ‘was’/’were’ for past
      • ‘be’ after modals
      • ‘being’ for progressive
      • ‘been’ for perfect

The Passive Participle Form, which Insights refers to as ‘V3’. Regular verbs add ‘-ed’ to the end to create the past participle form. Irregular verbs have ‘-en’ endings or different changes. Students should have learned this form – also called the Perfect Participle form – when they studied Perfect tenses.

Proficiency Level

Students at a B1 level are expected to be familiar with Passive Voice. They’ll likely start learning it at Pre-Intermediate level (or 3rd out of 6).*

*actual starting level varies from one course-book series to the next

The 4 Steps

1. put the passive noun before the verb

2. a) put “by” + the active noun after the verb
b) throw the active noun away

3. add to be before the main verb

4. change the main verb into the past participle form

Bonus Notes

Practice Activity

Backwards on Planet X

In small groups, students brainstorm a list of everyday activities.  Write them as complete Active sentences using ‘people’ as the subject.  Then tell them that they are meeting some friendly aliens from Planet X who do many things backward.  From their list of activities, students should turn a few of them into Passive sentences without switching the subject and the object.  Although the results may seem bizarre to us on Earth, they’re perfectly normal for the aliens.  For example, “On Planet X, people are watched by TV,” or “On Planet X, people are eaten by sandwiches.”

For more fun, encourage students to draw these silly situations.

Teaching Tip

Practice Rearranging Sentences Often

The Passive Voice is all about arranging a sentence differently than you would with Active Voice. A great way to practice this is with whiteboards, or better yet: notecards!


Class Newspaper

When creating headlines, decide if the outcome of an event is more important than what led to it. If so, you’ll probably want to use Passive Voice.

New Inventions

Among other tasks, write down what has been done to make your invention, and after it’s finished, what can be done to it and with it.


Students note key moments or achievements across history within a chosen field and discuss why they are important.


Irregular Verbs by Group


Steps to Passive Voice


Common Passive
Voice Topics


See ‘All Series’ page for guidelines on using slideshows.

Keep on Learning; Keep on Teaching

Passive & Active Adjectives

Another way to focus on the effect of an action is through Passive Adjectives.
Visit Topic Page

Passive Voice: Verb Transformations

The verb transformation (steps 3 and 4) can get more complex with more advanced verb strings.
Visit Topic Page