Solved! The passive in English (one simple grammar hack)

Solved! The passive in English (one simple grammar hack)

Posted on Posted in Easy English Grammar

In my 12 years teaching English, I’ve noticed there are some grammar points that can drive learners crazy.

 

But the problem isn’t the grammar. Or the learner.

 

The problem is not looking at it the right way.

 

One of these problems is using the passive in English.

 

 

The Passive in English

Firstly, what’s the passive? Here’s a quick reminder (with cats).

 

In English, we can express an action in two different ways: active and passive.

 

Active:

The cat chased the rat.

 

…and passive:

The cat was chased by the rat.

 

Yes, there are lots of different passive forms. And yes, they all look different. It depends on which tense you’re using.

 

But they’re all really just one rule.

 

That rule is: just add “be.”

Just add "be."

 

The tricky part of the passive is remembering to do that. If you can use “be” in any tense, then you can basically use the passive in any tense.

 

OK. Seems simple, but how does it work in practice?

 

Try the adjective test.

 

What’s an adjective? Click here for some examples.

big
small
happy
sad
young
old
expensive
cheap
quiet
noisy
interesting
boring
green
red
friendly
healthy…

 

You can use adjectives to help you make passive sentences.

 

Here, let me show you how. But first, let’s look at some sentences with adjectives.

 

 

Some sentences with adjectives

 

Greg the giraffe.

Greg the giraffe is tall.present
Greg the giraffe was smaller. past
Greg the giraffe will be old.modal: will
Greg the giraffe can be helpful.
modal: can
Greg the giraffe has been sick.
present perfect
Greg the giraffe is being unhelpful.present continuous

OK — except for the slightly tricky continuous at the end there, this is kind of easy, right? That’s because we just need to use “be.”

 

 

The Passive

Now, to form the passive, just replace the adjectives with verb 3.

 

What’s verb 3? Click here for some examples.

 

verb 1verb 2verb 3
eatateeaten
looklookedlooked
makemademade
dodiddone
drinkdrankdrunk
rideroderidden

 

I’m going to choose the verb “ride” (verb 3 is “ridden”).

 

Greg the giraffe is ridden in a wheelbarrow.

Greg the giraffe is ridden everywhere every day.present
Greg the giraffe was ridden to the pub yesterday. past
Greg the giraffe will be ridden home this afternoon.modal: will
Greg the giraffe can be ridden by Michael.
modal: can
Greg the giraffe has been ridden to the hospital.
present perfect
Greg the giraffe is being ridden to the pool now.present continuous

 

Yes , that’s right. Verb 3 in the passive works just like an adjective.

 

Action plan!

See how easy it is. Try our quick quiz.

 

Click the button to start the quiz.

 

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