PASSIVE VOICEUsing PASSIVE voice is a good way to improve your writing, sound more academic and improve your grammar score.
This article helps you understand what PASSIVE is, why we use it and how you can use it to improve your IELTS writing.
Continue reading for more about PASSIVE and how to use it in the IELTS test...
1. PASSIVE CHANGES THE EMPHASIS OF A SENTENCENormally when we write a sentence the SUBJECT "does" the VERB:
The dog eats the bone. This is an ACTIVE sentence.
- EAT = VERB
- Who eats? THE DOG = SUBJECT "does" the VERB
- What does it eat? THE BONE = OBJECT
However, we use PASSIVE to CHANGE WHAT IS IMPORTANT IN THE SENTENCE :
The bone is eaten by the dog. This is PASSIVE.
- SUBJECT = The bone
- VERB = EAT (is eaten)
- Does the bone eat? No, of course not.
We just CHANGE THE ORDER because THE BONE IS MORE IMPORTANT in the sentence.
What if WE DON'T KNOW WHO "does" the VERB?
We can still use PASSIVE:
The bone is eaten.
- What was eaten? THE BONE
- What happened to THE BONE? It was EATEN.
- Who ate it? WE DON'T KNOW / NOT IMPORTANT
2. MAKING A PASSIVE SENTENCE
To make a PASSIVE sentence or phrase we need to know PAST PARTICIPLES:
In the example, the VERB is EAT, but the PAST PARTICIPLE (PP) is :
Then we add a BE VERB:
SUBJECT + BE + PP
THE BONE IS EATEN.
If we want to say WHO did the VERB we add BY
SUBJECT + BE + PP + BY
THE BONE IS EATEN BY THE DOG.
Here is a useful list of IRREGULAR VERBS including PAST and PAST PARTICIPLE forms. You can also download it as a PDF.
3. PASSIVE IS A VOICE, NOT A TENSE
PASSIVE doesn't change the TIME of the sentence.
ACTIVE : The dog eats the bone.
PASSIVE : The bone is eaten by the dog.
These sentences are both PRESENT TENSE.
We can change the tense of PASSIVES, just like ACTIVE sentences.
We just CHANGE THE BE VERB according to the TIME.
For example :
(ACTIVE) The dog eats the bone.
(PASSIVE) The bone is eaten by the dog.
(A) The dog ate the bone.
(P) The bone was eaten by the dog.
PRESENT CONTINUOUS :
(A) The dog is eating the bone.
(P) The bone is being eaten by the dog.
PAST CONTINUOUS :
(A) The dog was eating the bone.
(P) The bone was being eaten by the dog.
PRESENT PERFECT :
(A) The dog has eaten the bone.
(P) The bone has been eaten by the dog.
PAST PERFECT :
(A) The dog had (already) eaten the bone.
(P) The bone had (already) been eaten by the dog.
WILL FUTURE :
(A) The dog will eat the bone.
(P) The bone will be eaten by the dog.
GOING TO :
(A) The dog is going to eat the bone.
(P) The bone is going to be eaten by the dog.
(A) The dog can eat the bone.
(P) The bone can be eaten by the dog.
4. WHEN SHOULD WE USE PASSIVE?
- When we DON'T KNOW WHO does the action
- When MANY PEOPLE do the action
- When the PEOPLE doing the action ARE NOT IMPORTANT.
5. SPECIFIC EXAMPLES of PASSIVE IN IELTS:Using PASSIVE helps us to change the emphasis and write in a more formal way:
Avoid starting (too many) sentences with :
- Some people
- Many people (PEOPLE is also too general!)
- Lots of people
- Those people
- We / They / You (Pronouns)
- I (unless you are giving a personal opinion: "I think...")
Instead, start with :
- IT (or THIS to refer to the idea in the previous sentence)
- A NOUN or NOUN PHRASE ( "The number of people is predicted to rise.")
- A GERUND (V+ING i.e. "Shopping is enjoyed by many young people nowadays." )
TASK ONE OVERVIEWS :
- Overall, it can be clearly seen that sales rose during the period.
LINE GRAPHS about the FUTURE :
be + expected / predicted / projected to + VERB
- Sales are predicted to increase in the future.
- The amount of pollution is expected to rise during the the next 10 years.
- The proportion of the population aged over 65 is projected to have risen to 25% by 2050. (BY here means "BEFORE/UNTIL" not who does the verb!)
These often show construction or destruction, but not WHO did it.
- The hotel is going to be built near the ocean. (FUTURE)
- The town was destroyed by the volcano.(PAST)
PROCESS DIAGRAMS :
Often show manufacturing processes in organisations.
- The waste is collected by workers every day. (PRESENT- UNCOUNTABLE SUBJECT)
- The products are manufactured in a factory. (PRESENT - COUNTABLE SUBJECT)
- This problem cannot be solved by the government alone.
- It has been proven/proved that the problem was caused by the economic crisis. (There are TWO PP forms for PROVE.)
- It is thought that Mars will be reached by humans within the next 20 years.
- The present was bought for me by my mother when I graduated from senior high school.
- I was given a car for my 18th birthday.
- My house was broken into and my CDs were stolen. The thief was never caught.
- Teaching was considered to be a good career when my parents went to school.
REWRITE the following ACTIVE sentences using PASSIVE VOICE.
Remember to use:
SUBJECT + BE + PP (+BY)
Overall, we can clearly see that the price of fruit increased.
Teachers need to teach many subjects.
My father bought a toy for me.
Some people expect the weather will be colder next week.
Workers use computers to send emails.
SCROLL DOWN for the ANSWERS
- Overall, it can be clearly seen that the price of fruit increased.
- Many subjects need to be taught (by teachers).
- A/The toy was bought for me by my father.
- The weather is expected to be colder next week.
- Computers are used to send emails.