Forming the passive: We use a form of be + past participle of the verb. The (indirect) object of the active verb becomes the
subject of the passive verb:
active verb + object
subject + passive verb
They buy their clothes in the sales
Their clothes are bought in the sales.
We don’t usually repeat the same subject and form of be in a sentence:
The cars are taken to the port, [the cars are] loaded onto ships and [they are] sent to their
They import all the clothes from
All the clothes are imported from China.
Did Fabio design her dress?
Was her dress designed by Fabio?
Continuous Somebody’s washing her jeans.
Her jeans are being washed.
They weren’t selling those designs last Those designs weren’t being sold last
We haven’t finished the project yet.
The project hasn’t been finished yet.
People had seen that design before.
That design had been seen before.
They will post the results tomorrow.
The results will be posted tomorrow.
We need to rename the company.
The company needs to be renamed.
I’m not going to finish the report
The report isn’t going to be finished
I hate my superiors shouting at me.
I hate being shouted at.
If we want to say who or what does an action when using a passive verb, we use by + noun. We
usually put this at the end of the clause or sentence:
Katie Holmes’ wedding dress was designed by Giorgio Armani.
Was Microsoft founded by Bill Gates?
! Verbs with no object (intransitive verbs, e.g. arrive, come, grow up, happen, wait) cannot be made
I was grown up in Edinburgh. > I grew up in Edinburgh.
An email has been arrived. > An email has arrived. Born is always passive: I was born in 1990. Where were your parents born?
More than 20 million toys 1 have recalled this year because toxic lead 2 found in their paint. If lead 3
swallows by children, it can cause serious health problems. Toy makers 4 have cancelled orders for
other toys because they 5 contained small magnets that children could choke on. The chief executive
of one leading toy brand said, ‘We realised our standards 6 had ignored and our safety procedures 7
had not followed, so we took action.’ Contracts with many toy suppliers 8 have suspended. Toy
manufacturers say that new inspection procedures 9 are putting in place. ‘We will now be routinely
testing all toys before, during and after painting, and toys with magnets 10 are currently redesigning,’
said a spokesperson for the industry.
1. Have been recalled
2. Was found
3. Is swallowed
4. Have cancelled
6. Had been ignored
7. Had not been followed
8. Have been suspended
9. Are being put
10. Are currently being redesigned
1. Orders/rules, suggestions, advice and opinion:
Must (not) is used for orders and for strong suggestions, advice and opinions.
Have (got) to is similar to must.
Should (not) is used for less strong suggestions, advice and opinions.
Ought is similar to should, but is followed by to.
- You must/have to finish this report before tomorrow.
- People should/ought to do more to help others.
2. Prohibition, necessity:
We use must not in prohibitions (negative orders).
We used do not have to, do not need to (or needn’t) to say that something is unnecessary.
- Students must not leave bicycles in front of the library.
- You needn’t pay now - tomorrow’s OK. (NOT You mustn’t pay now …)
3. Certainty or possibility:
We can use must to say that something seems sure/certain.
The negative of must (to talk about certainty) is can’t (!).
We use may and might (but not usually can) to say that things are possible – perhaps they are true,
or perhaps they will happen.
To say that perhaps things are not true, or will not happen, we use may/might not. Might
sometimes suggests a smaller possibility.
We sometimes use could in the same way as might.
- Anna’s gone to bed. She must be tired. (= ‘I am certain that she is tired.’)
- It can’t be true. (= ‘It’s certainly not true.’) (NOT It mustn’t be true.)
- ‘Who’s that?’ ‘I’m not sure. It may be Celia.’ (NOT It can be Celia.)
- According to the radio, it may rain today. (perhaps a 50% chance) It might even snow.
(perhaps a smaller chance).
- I may/might not get that new job after all.
- The company might/could lose money this year.
! Note the difference between may/might not and can’t:
-The game may/might not finish before ten. (Perhaps it won’t.)
-The game can’t finish before ten – it only started at 9.30. (it’s not possible)