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The Past Tense (Passive Voice)

1. Review: the past tense

The past is a time before now.
Events in the past use the past tense.

To make the past tense:

  • subject + verb in past tense

Past tense verbs come in two forms:

1. ‘ed’ past tense
2. irregular past tense

verb‘ed’ past tenseexample
talktalkedI talked to my brother yesterday.
looklookedHe looked at the picture.
wantwantedThey wanted to go to the cinema but it was closed.
needneededErnest needed a new hat.
visitvisitedIan and Iain visited their mother in the hospital.
kisskissedRupa kissed Nicky.
killkilledRupa killed Nicky.
cookcookedFrances cooked a delicious meal for her friends.
verbirregular past tenseExample
am / is / arewas / wereI was happy, but Kelly was angry.
havehadWe had a party last night.
dodidHarper did her homework on the bus.
gowentShe went to the Great Wall of China last month.
eatateI know you ate my sandwich.
buyboughtHe bought a new pair of shoes.
wakewokeShe woke up at 5am. It was terrible.
meetmetI met the boss to ask for a pay rise. He said no.

2. The passive voice

The passive voice changes ‘x did something to y’ into ‘y has something done to it (by x)’.

It is made by:

  • object + be + perfect participle (+ by subject)

*Perfect participle (p.p.) = gone, done, seen, eaten etc.

‘Be’ changes depending on the tense you want to use (present, past, future, perfect, etc.).

3. The past tense (passive voice)

The past tense (passive) uses the structure:

  • object + be (past) + perfect participle (+by subject)
ObjectBe (past)P.p.By subjectExample sentence
The cowswerefedby WilliamThe cows were fed by William this morning.
Maxwasdumpedby his girlfriendMax was dumped by his girlfriend.
Dev and AnitaweretakenDev and Anita were taken to the police station for questioning last night.
Julio’s catwasscaredJulio’s cat was scared by the doorbell, so ran away.

4. Converting a past tense into its passive voice

To change a past tense into its passive voice:

1. swap the subject and object
2. change the past tense verb into ‘be (past) + p.p.’

Past tensePast tense (passive)
The two boys played a game of chess yesterday.A game of chess was played by the two boys yesterday.
Sue cooked dinner last night.Dinner was cooked by Sue last night.
We bought the green car this morning.The green car was bought this morning by us.
Jilly drank the vodka and gin.The vodka and gin were drunk by Jilly.
Seth gave the toy train to Mickey.The toy train was given to Mickey by Seth.
A fire destroyed the library in 1922.The library was destroyed by a fire in 1922.

5. Exercises

1. Change these sentences into the passive voice:
(i) They cut the tree down last winter.
(ii) Newton discovered the theory of gravity.
(iii) The fall broke every bone in his arm.

2. Change these sentences out of the passive voice:
(i) The scar was left here by a snake bite.
(ii) The street was flooded by the rain.
(iii) She was raised by her grandparents in the north-west of Canada.

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