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The passive voice

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

When we express our ideas, we sometimes have a choice between the active voice and the passive voice.

Peter built the house. (Active)

The house was built by Peter. (Passive)

Most of my students are aware of the passive even if they don't realise it! Passive and active voices are probably used in most languages and are certainly used in German, the language that most of my students speak.

In German the passive is formed using the verb werden + past participle whereas in English we form the passive using to be + past participle.

The difficult thing to do in English is to choose the correct form of the auxiliary verb (to be). In order to do this, the following things must be considered:

  • Time - past, present or future

  • Aspect - simple, continuous or perfect

  • Plural or singular noun

  • 3rd person or not

Over time, these choices become easier to make. For now, I'll give you some example sentences to help you make the right choice. Remember that software is an uncountable noun so is followed by a singular verb.

I confirmed that the software had been installed.

The software was installed yesterday,

The software was being installed all day yesterday.

The software is installed by Peter.

The software is being installed now.

The software has been installed.

The software will be installed.

The software will be being installed. (This sentence sounds a bit unusual.)

The software will have been installed by the end of the day.

Do you want to discover more about English? Read our blog posts to find out more. The blog contains posts about grammar, vocabulary and idioms, exam strategies, tips and useful resources.

Join one of our lessons to find out more about the passive and why we might choose to use it. Send an email to


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