Hey there, this is Tacher Ola Podcast episode 28: Passive Voice: What You Need To Know

My name’s Ola and I am an online English teacher.

This podcast is for you if you’re an English learner who wants to speak English with more confidence and get rid of speaking barriers. You’ll boost your vocabulary, brush up your grammar, improve your pronunciation,  see how to have a tense-free conversation with another english-speaking human beings! Go to my website for full transcripts and worksheets to each episode. Happy learning!

Hello everyone, welcome back. Thank you for tuning in! Today we’re talking grammar. Passive voice. There’s this common question many students ask: Do they really use it? Well, I hope after this episode you won’t hesitate anymore.

Passive voice is so powerful. It allows you to choose where to draw your listeners’ attention. It allows you to control the information you’re about to share, it’s like a tool for manipulation I’d say.

Here’s what it’s gonna look like. First I’ll give you a simple example to make sure you know what the passive voice is, then I’ll tell you the difference between a passive verb and an active verb. Following that we’ll move on to forming your own passive sentences in two simple steps. Then I’ll give you a list of four situations in which you definitely want to use the passive. That will be the answer to your question: Do they really use it? Then I’ll tell you about three big differences between Polish passive voice and English passive voice and please pay attention to this part because I believe that’s the source of all confusion for us, Polish speakers when it comes down to, when it comes to passive voice. And finally, at the end of this episode you’ll have a chance to repeat after me sentences in passive voice, questions, negations, all of them , different kind, so please stay with me until the end and please repeat out loud no shame. This is the only way to  make you speak fluently. Speaking out loud. Even if it’s just repeating. Now it’s just repeating but maybe later, maybe later today,  or maybe tomorrow, or in a  week, or in a month month you’ll start speaking more than just repeating sentences  after someone. So, let’s do it. Shall we?

He painted this wall last month.

This sentence you’ve just heard was active. I mean, the verb ‘painted’ was active. Now let’s change it into passive just to make sure you know what the passive voice is and what I’m talking about today. So the same sentence with the passive verb is:

This wall was painted last month.

In the first sentence, we have the subject and the subject did something: ‘He painted the wall’. In passive, there’s the subject too but it’s different. It didn’t do anything. Something was done to it: This wall was painted. We can add the information about the doer, about something or somebody that did the action. And to achieve that we add the word ‘by’ and say who or what did something: This wall was painted by him. Another example:

The crowd was greeted by the Pope.

Two days ag I watched the film ‘Two Popes’ so the examples might correspond to that film.

How to form the passive voice? Let’s move on to this one How to form the passive voice. You need to take two steps. The first is to replace the active construction by the corresponding construction of the verb ‘to be’ and add the past participle ( the verb 3, let’s call it the verb three) of the active verb.

To be done.

She was seen.

They are known.

I’ve been noticed.

The second step is to make the object of the active clause the subject of the passive clause. For example:

They welcomed him. active

He was welcomed. passive

He cleaned the office. active

The office was cleaned. passive

In most passive clauses the agent, the doer is omitted. If you need to add it use the word ‘by’ as I said previously. For example:

He was welcomed by the audience.

The office was cleaned by him.

I believe these pauses I give you after the sentences are too short to repeat the sentence but do not worry because at the end of the show, of this episode I prepared for you a huge list of loads of sentences so then you’ll have the chance to listen and repeat. So just listen do not focus on repeating now. Just listen . You’ll have the chance later.

Sometimes you can replace the auxiliary verb ‘to be’ by the verb ‘get’. Fr example:

I got injured.

Somebody got hurt.

Nobody got offered the job.

I got offered a job.

‘Get’ is mainly used in informal, spoken English. Use it in the passive voice only when there’s some action, something happens.

When do we use the passive in English? Let’s have a look. So I’ll give you the four situations in which you can use the passive. Sometimes you have to do it, sometimes you have such an option. 

1)First of all, when the active form requires an indefinite or vague pronoun or noun as subject. Then use the passive voice, because we don’t need a sentence with empty words like: somebody, something, people. These are good examples of such vague nouns, vague pronouns. Like:

Somebody has carried out the experiment.

Who cares about that ‘somebody’? Doesn’t it sound better here:

The experiment has been carried out.

The streets were blocked.

I mean, you know. Something blocked the road or something blocked the streets, but who cares ‘something’? Well, if you don’t really know what was it, what’s the point of saying it? It’s obvious something blocked the road. Let’s just say:

The streets were blocked.

It’s believed that the prices will continue to rise.

Who believes in this? Well, the people. Alright? The people. So, we don’t need that word, we just omit it using the passive. It’s believed that…

2)When you want to make something sound more formal, more official, more impersonal when you just want to omit the agent for many reasons, for example you don’t want to mention the person responsible or something, or you want to make the impression that nobody is really responsible for the decision because it’s a harsh decision. For example:

The shops will be closed on Sundays.

I don’t wanna say who made this decision, I don’t want to point fingers, but yeah, the thing is that the shops  are closed. And it doesn’t matter who made this decision.

All personal belongings must be left in the cloakroom.

This information has to be very formal so that’s why passive voice.

3)The third situation is when we don’t want to change the subject. Look at the example:

John walked into the office, he was immediately asked to leave. He was shattered.

Let me repeat it. Focus please on the object.

John walked into the office, he was immediately asked to leave. He was shattered.

So your attention is automatically stuck to John. He is everywhere. John walked, he was shocked, he was asked to leave, he was shattered. If I didn’t use the passive voice here I would have to change the subject, so draw your attention away from John, and I don’t want that. So, I would have to add the word ‘they’ or I don’t know ‘the people’, or maybe ‘the board’ but I didn’t want that , I wanted to keep your attention focused on John. And it’s a perfect segue o number 4:

4)Number four, and please remember this, I want you to open your mind. Lots of students (and I was among them too) think there’s one way of saying something. One correct, propper way of stating something. But guess what, it’s not like that. You can always choose from a variety of grammar points of view, not to mention vocabulary. If you are more interested in this object, if you don’t want to mention the agent just use the passive. Sometimes the passive and the active may be used and it’s up to you what do you choose. The choice is yours. For example:

The gang put fire to the bank. active

The bank was put on fire by the gang. passive

Well, the choice is yours really, the difference is tiny. It’s just your decision where do you want to draw my attention. To the gang or to the bank. Let’s move on.


In Polish, we form passive sentences as well and we do it the same way. Why is it so confusing then? It shouldn’t, right? Since it’s the same? Well, it is confusing and if you do not feel completely confident using it I’m with you. I know why, and I’ll try to make it clearer for you. I won’t go into mundane grammatical details, I won’t use phrases like an accusative object, direct object, indirect object, transitive verb, the dative object and so forth it’s completely unnecessary. It won’t help you to overcome your language barrier by no means. Nevertheless, understanding and using passive with confidence definitely will. So let’s move on and let’s have a look at these three main differences.

1)Some Polish active sentences have two objects, for example

My sister gave me a present.

My sister gave me a present.

So here we have two objects: me, and a present. The consequence of that is we can make two passive sentences:

I was given a present by my sister.


The present was given to me by my sister.

And it doesn’t occur in Polish, you can’t do these things.

So, most common is to use the first option, I was given a present.

Let’s try to translate those two passive sentences into Polish:

I was given a present. Ja zostałam dana prezent.

The present was given to me. Prezent został mi dany.

The first sentence, Ja zostałam dana present is ungrammatical. This is when we come to the core of your problems with passive voice.  In general the passive is much more common in English. In Polish the use of the passive is much more restricted. A sentence such as ‘I was given a present’ cannot exist. What do we do in Polish, we use different constructions, like:

Dano mi prezent.


Dostałam prezent.

I don’t have to reveal who did it, who is the agent and still I avid the passive.

2)What about phrasal verbs and any  other verbs followed by a preposition? Well, you keep the preposition after the verb. For instance:

She looks after her granny. Active

Her granny is looked after. Passive

In Polish, we don’t have it. For example:

The employees talked about the results. Active

The results results were talked about. Passive.

Talked about. We keep this preposition.

Well, can we translate the passive sentence into Polish, heck no, but let’s try:

Wyniki były rozmawiane o.

3)There’s a group of verbs you can’t use in passive in Polish but you most definitely can do it in English. If you don’t know about that you don’t use it and you also might flinch when you hear it, you’re confused because you can’t translate it. So let’s learn the list, let’s have a look at the example:

Ja jestem oczekiwana znać wszystkie odpowiedzi.

Ridiculous, but in English perfectly fine:

I’m expected to know all the answers.

It’s not just ‘expect’. It also applies to:

Say: She’s said to win the race.

Believe: We’re believed to finish the house in May.

Rumour: It was rumoured that they went on holiday together.

Report: The number of unemployed is reported to be higher.

And many more, for example: claim, consider.

In Polish we just have you know, more options I would say.  More means of drawing attention away from the agent, for example:

Mówi się, że ona wygra wyścig.

Now, finally, I want you to make it practical. The more sentences you’re able to understand, retain and repeat after me out loud, the better. If you’re still unconvinced and need more reasons why you definitely should start speaking to yourself go to episode 9.  Teacherola.com/9. Don’t end up here, repeating these sentences. This is perfect, this is great exercise, but don’t stop just here. After this episodeplease download the worksheet and do your homework. It’s a quick check, two exercises, answer key and you’re done.

Are you ready, ok, let’s do it:

The office is cleaned twice a week.

Was ‘Oliver Twist’ written by Charles Dickens?

The car is being renovated now.

I was born in Reno.

Where were you born?

The police were given the clues.

The bed was being made when I entered my hotel room.

This can’t be explained.

A new block of flats is going to be built in my neighbourhood.

Something should be done.

I want to be left alone.

It hasn’t been delivered yet.

Yes, they have already been posted.

I want to be told the truth.

Champagne is made in France.

It couldn’t have been stolen.

Have you ever been introduced to the Queen?

I haven’t been invited to.

She is said to be a demanding teacher.

It’s said that there’s no chance of them coming back together.

It’s supposed to be a secret.

The emails will be sent.

Helen was sent some flowers.

Billy was given a new bicycle.

Who was America discovered by?


Go to teacherola.com/28, scroll all the way down, right to the worksheet. Download it, open tomorrow and check yourself. There’s the answer key included in that pdf. The transcript is also there, just like the worksheet it’s always free for you my dear friend.  Teacherola.com/28.

If you know someone who needs to know more about the passive voice, let them know, share it, please.

You’re warmly invited to come back next Wednesday to episode 29, which is going to help you sound more natural. One pronunciation tip you’ll love.

Finally, I have a request. Please make your own passive voice sentence with the verb ‘believe’ and leave it in the comments at teacherola.com/28. I’m looking forward to your ideas! Write your own passive voice sentence with the verb ‘believe’.

And now, have a great week, till next Wednesday, happy learning, bye!