“To let oneself be carried on passively is unthinkable.”Virginia Wolf

This week C1 M/W has been looking at the immense topic of the Passive.  Here is a little support in its use.  A reminder, as always, seeing the structures for yourselves will give you more awareness of how and when it is used. Reading newspaper articles will help you no end in identifying it in various forms.  Reading in general will always be a good friend in language learning.

Things to remember:

  • Only with verbs that have an object (Transitive).  I like to think of an object being transported in a suitcase. The verbs that are greedy and take two objects behave in various ways, which is nicely summarised and exemplified here.
  • If we want to introduce the agent use ‘by’.
  • Phrasal verbs which may be split in the active, cannot be split in the passive. Eg. The spy picked the package up from the locker at the train station = The package was picked up from the locker at the train station.
  • Passive usually pops up in more formal or technical writing.
  • If used in informal speech, we can use ‘get’ instead of ‘be’. We need to be careful with the position of adverbs in this case.  The homework was ‘accidentally’ left behind in the classroom = The homework ‘accidentally’ got left behind in the classroom. (Please note the inverted commas are not only indicating position, but also skepticism at it being accidental!)

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