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Learn English > English lessons and exercises > English test #105599: Difficulties of the Passive Form
Difficulties of the Passive Form
To you, the Passive Voice isn't a great difficulty to deal with. Most of you think they master it quite well ... and they master most of it ! The action is endured by the Subject : 'The cat is eating the mouse'=> 'the mouse is being eaten (by the cat)! Easy, isn't it ? In that case, why are even very experienced 'Learners' making mistakes when using the Passive?' ...
I couldn't make up my mind to dissect the whole Passive Voice again for you, for fear I might bore you ... Besides, this site is teeming with excellent lessons on the Passive, and mostly, you know them ! Yet, endlessly, I can see mistakes in your exercises or essays and they really make me suffer ... So little should be corrected ... Therefore, I have decided to study here the points that are clearly 'pains' for you ( and us, teachers ...), and only them !
1) The most important thing you have to remember, when it comes to turning an Active Voice into a Passive one, ( a rare occurrence, since we know that you never think in your own language, but only in English, and therefore already in the Passive ... ) is to keep the tense and form of the original sentence ( You are not doing Reported Speech, and tenses don't change !); the auxiliary of the Passive Voice is BE and it must be given the tense and form of the original Active sentence.
ex : Nobody has invited you to tea tomorrow => You haven't been invited to tea tomorrow.
* The Active Form was negative in the present perfect ; the two elements will be kept in the passive form.
ex : In the cartoon, will the cat finally catch the mouse ? => In the cartoon, will the mouse finally be caught (by the cat)?
* The Active Form was an interrogative in the future, the Passive Form will keep them.
2) As you know, some English verbs, are always accompanied by an adverb particle or a preposition that changes their meanings. In the Passive Voice, this adverb or preposition must not be left out (never 'forgotten' !) and must never be separated from its verb. A sentence which 'forgets' the adverb or preposition is wrong !
ex 1 : A car ran over our dog, but he is finally out of the woods.=> Our dog was run over, but is finally out of the woods.
ex 2 : They sent for a doctor because Paula had fainted => A doctor was sent for because Paula had fainted.
ex 3 : We'll look after you well. =>You will be well looked after. (Note the position of the adverb of manner. [well])
3) Some verbs have two 'object' complements ( or'predicates': a direct object (complement) and an indirect or 'personal' (complement).
ex : They gave my sister a ticket to the amusement Park.
* Sister = Complement 2 ; a ticket = C1 = Direct Objet Complement (Predicate). The tense and the form are kept but it's Complement 2 (the personal complement) which becomes the Subject of the Passive sentence.
These verbs are limited in number : to give, to offer, to send , to show, to teach, to tell...
Yet, the temptation is very strong, for French people (and perhaps for others) to choose the Predicate (C1) as the Subject ; Anglo-saxons will hardly ever do it, I should certainly say 'will never do it' (unless they need or want to stresss the new subject !)
4) In the Passive Voice, the following verbs to believe, to consider, to say, to think and to suppose must be built with an infinitive clause :
ex : People believe he is a spy => He is believed to be a spy.
ex : They said he is a good candidate => He was said to be a good candidate.
ex : People consider he was a good President. => He is considered to have been a good President.
5) A particular structure : to make someboby do something changes constructions in the passive : to make someboby do something has to become to be made TO do something.
ex : The teacher made us work very hard before the exam => We were made TO work very hard before the exam.
6) For all those of you who insist on thinking either in French or in their own languages and for those of you who want to become translators , 90% of the passive sentences spoken or written are replacing the indefinite pronoun or reflexives in other languages. Sentences using 'on' in French, 'man' in German, reflexive verbs in Slavonic languages, and perhaps another equivalent in your languages, are most of the time expressed by a Passive Voice in English. In French, the Passive may be replaced by different pronouns, giving the sentence a slightly different meaning.
ex : You/We/They/One/will advise him to spend one year in England.=> He'll be advised to spend a year in England.
Finally I will say that the agent with 'by' is unnatural in English.
BEWARE ! Besides the difficulties of the exercise, you'll have to be very careful to give the contracted forms as soon as they are possible.
If you respect this requirement, and are careful, you will have no mistakes and a perfect test ! This is my wish to you !
Don't write any agent: by the guide, by the manager, etc.
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